This time of year the markets are overflowing with different varieties of sweet potatoes: large, orange-sherbet colored, sea lion shaped sweet potatoes, palm-sized pale yellows and the deeply orange garnets.
Instead of covering them with gooey marshmallows as a Thanksgiving side dish my family usually prepares an elaborate sweet potato souffle with an orange sauce, dotted with buttered roasted pecans.
This is a bit too rich for every day, so I get my fill of roasting them and eating them split and mashed with butter and sea salt, and as crunchy oven-baked fries or simmered into softness in a zippy Thai red coconut curry.
My absolute favorite way of using up the bounty of sweet potatoes is to make them into savory and sweet biscuits. They are like soft little pillows of love and comfort, crunchy on top and moist and fluffy inside.
This week I received about 8 tiny little sweet potatoes with the palest yellow flesh, and last night I got the craving for my sweet potato biscuits, so I popped into the kitchen and started my preparations.
I preheated my convection oven and started a pot with a steamer insert on the stove. About four of the baby sweet potatoes were scrubbed and peeled and cut into small chunks and steamed until very tender, about 15 minutes. I let them cool and then pureed them in my minichop.
Meanwhile in a mixing bowl I dumped in the flour, brown sugar, leavenings, salt and stirred them up, and then added cold butter that I had diced up. I also measured out some milk and added some lemon juice for a quickie faux-buttermilk.
The “buttermilk” and the sweet potato puree were mixed together and poured into the butter and flour and were quickly mixed into a soft dough.
I patted out the dough with my hands and used my ancient biscuit cutter to punch out about 12 pretty pale yellow biscuits. They went into a well oiled cake tin and were baked for about 25 minutes.
I actually got really caught up in watching the Monday International Mysteries on tv – Inspector Morse this week – and let them go just a minute longer than they should have so the tops were deeply browned this time. I keep forgetting that convection ovens cook faster than regular oven. These biscuits brown a lot more than regular biscuits due to the sugar content in the mixture plus the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes. It is also what makes them so delicious!
The timer dinged and I pulled a few hot biscuits out of the plan, split them open and buttered and slathered the halves with dollops of the last of my Potrero Hill honey, and I ate them, slightly singeing my fingers and tongue as I nibbled away watching the whodunnit.
The murderer was caught, the biscuits were delicious and a hot cup of tea finished off my impromptu snack before bedtime.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks – enough to make 3/4 cup puree
1 3/4 cups flour
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 T unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup buttermilk*
In a small pot with 2″ of water in the bottom, add a steamer insert and then the sweet potato cubes. Bring the water to a boil and steam the sweet potatoes until they are very tender when stabbed with a fork. Mash until smooth or puree in a food processor. Let cool before using. (Sometimes I fudge this step a little by just spreading them out on a plate until they stop steaming and then puree and add them to the buttermilk while still a bit warm.)
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder and mix well. Add the diced butter and combine and mix until the butter is mixed into the flour about the size of small peas.
In a measuring cup mix together the buttermilk and the sweet potato puree until smooth and pour into the flour/butter mixture, and mix until a soft dough is formed. Knead gently in the mixing bowl for a minute or two, then pat the dough out onto a floured cutting mat or cutting board, the dough should be about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter or use a knife and cut them into squares.
Arrange in a buttered or oiled round cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.
*If you don’t have any buttermilk in your fridge, you can make “faux buttermilk” by adding 1 T of lemon juice or plain vinegar to regular or skim milk. Stir the milk and let it sit for at least 5 minutes and it will thicken up pretty well to approximate buttermilk.