In Season: Sweet Potatoes, Fall Through Late Winter

Chances are that the delicately sweet, deep coral tuber you have been eating all these years is actually a sweet potato. It’s just that in this country, we use the name sweet potato and yam interchangeably. But these two vegetables are actually entirely different plants. The sweet potato is native to America, while the true yam descends from Africa and Asia.

Got it? Good.

Either way you call it, I happen to love the sweet potato, but not in its traditional guise—coated in crusty marshmallows. For me, that’s a bit too cloying. This root vegetable has enough honeyed starch all on its own—the marshmallows can step aside. I usually saute or roast them, as I would a traditional potato. But today, I decided to do some baking with them.

The sweet potato biscuit is a common baked good in many Southern kitchens, but it doesn’t make its way up North very often. Using mashed sweet potatoes, the biscuits have a pleasing orange tint and a subtle sweetness. Different than a traditional biscuit, what the sweet potato biscuit lacks in levity it more than makes up for in substance. These biscuits are lovely with butter and jam in the morning, or they make a homey, starchy side for the breadbasket at dinner.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
¾ cup mashed, cooked sweet potato (approximately 1 large potato)
¼ cup buttermilk*

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt with a whisk. Cut in shortening, and with your hands, work through the flour mixture until shortening is in pea-sized pieces. Mix in the sweet potato, and the milk. Do not over mix; blend until dough just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Roll or pat dough out to a half-inch thickness. With a biscuit cutter, cut out 8 circles. Place on a greased, or parchment-line baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

* If you don’t have buttermilk, use slightly less than ¼ cup of regular milk, mixed with a bit of vinegar. This will thicken the milk and makes a good substitution.

Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog, nosheteria.com.
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