Sweet Potato Biscuits
Readers, I have a confession to make. Perhaps, for those who have been following for a while this will come as little surprise. Perhaps a few of you have even caught my sidelong glances and batting eyelashes. But, in case you missed this fact, it’s time for me to be upfront with you – I have a love affair with the sweet potato. Sometimes I think to myself that if there was a powerful sweet potato lobby, akin to the Milk or Pork groups, I would probably be a paid sweet potato advocate by now. But, alas, these humble roots have no PR strategy, no sponsorship budget, and not a single lobbyist in Washington.
It all started when I was working for a farmer in North Carolina. He loved sweet potatoes so much he moved his entire farming operation, after decades of operation, from upstate New York to North Carolina – just to be in a more ideal climate to grow them. And grow them we did. We grew over 20 varieties of sweet potatoes and come fall, harvested many tons of them. Purple skinned white fleshed ones, white skinned white fleshed ones, white skin orange fleshed ones, purple skinned purple fleshed ones, brown skinned orange fleshed ones, orange skinned yellow fleshed ones. The list went on. All beautiful, all distinct, all a pain in the ass to get out of the ground without breaking their delicate skins.
And it was during this period in my life that I really grew to love the sweet potato – dare I say as much as the farmer I was working for. After the harvest each day we’d take a few potatoes that had broken coming out of the ground and cook them up while listening to mbira music. We wiggled about – half to the music, half out of the pure joy of sampling the potatoes – and loudly exclaimed our passion. To this day, whenever I cook sweet potatoes I recall that scene and do a little wiggle as I sneak a few pieces before adding them to whatever recipe I’m making. Like today’s: savory-sweet, fluffy biscuits, infused with vibrant color from the sweet potato mash that helps form their base.
Sweet Potato Biscuits (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Makes ten biscuits
We don’t own biscuit cutters so instead of buying some, we just used a narrow opening ball jar (see photo above) and that did the trick wonderfully – just be sure to coat in a bit of flour before cutting out your biscuits to prevent them from sticking inside the jar!
1 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and shaping
¾ cups white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons frozen butter, cut into small pieces, plus 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1/3 cup buttermilk plus a few tablespoons
First, cut your peeled sweet potato into 2-inch chunks. In a medium pot, cover the potato with room temperature water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the potato is quite tender, about 15-20 minutes. When finished cooking, drain and then puree in food processor or blender with a splash of buttermilk. Allow to chill in the refrigerator or freezer if you want to speed up the process. (You can make the puree up to several days prior to making the biscuits)
When you’re ready to make your biscuits, preheat the oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Generously butter a round cake pan or cast iron skillet.
When your sweet potato is cold, stir in your remaining buttermilk until smooth and set aside. Next, whisk together your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With a pastry blender, two knives, or a food processor, cut your butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with some pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. Quickly add your sweet potato puree to the flour mixture and stir until just combined, being careful not to over mix the dough.
Place your dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead very gently until it comes together but is still slightly lumpy, five or six times. Then, shape the dough into a 1 inch thick disk. With a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits as close together as possible. Gather together the scraps, and repeat to cut out more biscuits (do not reuse scraps more than once).
Place your biscuits in your prepared skillet or pan (don’t crowd them together, use another pan if necessary) and brush them generously with melted butter. Bake until golden, rotating once, 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool just a minute before placing on a wire rack to cool further.