Sunday, December 04, 2011
Eat: Sweet Potato Biscuits (or more accurately, cookies)
A delicious failure. That is how I would classify my attempt at sweet potato biscuits. Allow me to explain. After last week’s Thanksgiving festivities, I found myself with three lonely sweet potatoes. While searching for and weighing the options for said potatoes, I had a culinary flashback (complete with wiggly lines across the television screen in my head). Years ago, my mother-in-law tried a Paula Dean mix for sweet potato biscuits that were very, very good—I mean good enough that years later I am sitting here thinking about how good they were. It was only natural to assume that making similar biscuits from scratch could only be better. I was wrong. After laboring over the dough for a good while and waiting patiently for my creation to bake, I excitedly approached the oven with mitted hands. Yet disappointment fell upon me as I opened the oven door and my gaze beheld collapsed discs of orange dough. My should-have-been-fluffy biscuits turned out as flat as cookies. In fact, had I served them to anyone other than Matthew, I would have said they were cookies just to avoid the embarrassment. However, I must admit that my labor was not a complete waste as they still tasted like biscuits and were indeed sweet and yummy.
My research concluded that just about every recipe for sweet potato biscuits is basically the same. I decided to combine two recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Before you start smirking in that know-it-all way, that is not why this dish failed. I simply added a combination of spices I liked from the former to the latter, so I in no way altered the cooking science involved. I honestly don’t know what happened! I used the right proportions of ingredients, avoided too much hands-on contact with the dough (so as to not overheat it), and even chilled the little guys prior to baking.
The experience did not break my heart but I couldn’t help but think that had I just bought good ole Paula’s boxed mix I would have saved myself lots of time and mess. Plus my biscuits would have looked more like hockey pucks than pancakes! Here is the lowdown, if you would like to give it a try yourself. Perhaps you will fare better.
TIME: 45 minutes
YIELDS: Approximately 20 small biscuits
SOUNDTRACK: Local Christmas radio station
3 small sweet potatoes (1 lb)
2 ½ - 3 cups of all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
½ - 1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of ginger
1/8 teaspoon of cloves
8 tablespoons of chilled butter
1/4 cup milk
To prepare the sweet potatoes…
Quick & Dirty Method: prick the potato(es) a few times with a fork (to avoid a starchy explosion in your microwave) and wrap in a moist papertowel. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Check for tenderness and microwave additional minutes as needed. Mine needed a total of 10 minutes.
Domestic Goddess Method: prick the potato(es) a few times with a fork (to avoid a starchy explosion in your oven) and bake at 350°F for approximately 1 hour.
Once you have finished your chosen method, allow the potatoes to cool before handling them. Remove the skins and mash the potatoes to a fine puree. You can use a sieve, ricer, food processor, or just a handy fork coupled with strong wrists. You will have somewhere around 1 ¾ cup of puree.
To make the biscuits…
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it to the dry mix using a pastry cutter or a knife or your fingers. Do this until it resembles a coarse meal.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the sweet potato puree with milk. Add this to the flour blend and mix the dough just enough to stir it all together. If the dough has a sticky texture, add more flour as needed.
3. Place the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times. Do not over handle the dough. Flatten it out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut biscuits with a cookie cutter or small glass.
Note: You can make the biscuits as large or small as you like. I made mine small (2 inches) and the baking instructions below are for such a size. Be mindful of adjusting your baking time.
4. Place the on parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or slightly brown.
These are best when served fresh and warm. The great thing about small biscuits is that you don’t feel quite as guilty eating several at a time!