Monday, January 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Aren't these biscuits just beautiful?  They were so tender we could barely split them to butter them.

When I began cooking years ago, Mama and Granny used bread 'bowls' to make their biscuits.  Mama's was an old tin bowl (I'd give my eye teeth to have it but she's still using it) and Granny used a wooden dough board (I have one of those above my cabinets).  They kept flour in these bowls and when they wanted to make biscuits they eyeballed it and added more flour if they thought it necessary.  Then they made a well in the middle of the flour and put in shortening or lard, and then buttermilk and they squished the shortening between their fingers until it flecked the buttermilk. 

When they judged the shortening and buttermilk was properly mixed they began to gently scoop a little flour from the sides of the well into the wet mixture, turning the bowl as they worked until they had formed a dough.  When the dough had the right feel to it, they'd pinch off a golf ball sized bit of dough and gently pat it in floured hands until they'd formed a perfectly smooth little biscuit.  Into the pan it went and they began to form the next one.  It was an awesome process to watch, truly it was.

It was also not easy to master... My first biscuits looked like horned toads.  They were absolutely inedible.  I tried several times and my family teased me unmercifully about my ugly rocks.

Then one day I discovered a recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens book for Biscuits Supreme.  Perfect biscuits were mine at last.  Not my mother's, nor Granny's, method of biscuit making but they were light and fluffy and delicious.  My family was in awe.  My biscuits were requested day after day.  It is that same recipe I use to this day.

Years and years ago I found a recipe to use up leftover Sweet Potatoes in that old fashioned cookbook I love so much, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.  I loved that I had another way to use up sweet potatoes. 

This recipe is a combination of the two recipes.  The biscuits are tender, have a lovely golden orange color and a slightly earthy taste.  I think I'd like to try this recipe sometime as a cinnamon roll.  I can just imagine the flavors would combine very nicely.  Tonight I didn't mash my sweet potatoes as the recipe says to do.  Instead I dumped in whole peeled baked sweet potatoes and there were some larger flecks of sweet potato through out the dough.  The biscuits were definitely golden, but I've used other varieties of sweet potatoes and the biscuits were more pumpkin orange in color, so note the color can vary.

Penny's Sweet Potato Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsps baking powder
2 tbsps sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sweet potato
1 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients together.  Add shortening to the dry ingredients.  Cut in until resembles coarse crumbs ( I've been using my electric mixer for this step.  It works beautifully). 

Mix mashed sweet potato and milk.  Add to the shortening/flour mixture.  Blend until a soft dough forms.  Turn out onto surface with an additional 1/2 cup flour spread on it.  Knead dough at least ten times.  Add a little more flour if necessary.  Dough should be smooth and feel similar to the meaty portions of your palm in tenderness.

Pat dough to 3/4 inch thickness.  I prefer a more or less circular shape and then I cut circles (using an 8 ounce tomato sauce can that I've removed top and bottom from) but you could form into rectangle and cut into squares if you wish. 

Place in ungreased baking pan.  I used a 13 X 9 pan which gave softer sides.  For crusty sides use a cookie sheet instead and allow space between the biscuits.

Bake at 425F for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

My recipe made 15 nice sized biscuits tonight.   

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