Monday, November 18, 2013

Everything but the turkey: Sweet potato biscuits

Thanksgiving is just over one week away.  Can you believe it?  No offense to Santa, but the lists made in the next few days are the most important of the year -- the grocery lists!

"Turkey" is probably the top-most entry on that list, but what comes after that?  What delicious foods will keep the turkey company on your plate?  Side dishes seem to vary from one family to the next.  Some recipes are steeped in tradition, having a reserved spot on the buffet for generations and generations.  Other tables look different every year, thanks to inventive new recipes and appetites for change.

I have a tiny (or monstrous) confession: side dishes are my favorite part of the Thanksgiving spread!  Of course, I enjoy and devour my fair share of turkey (Team White Meat!), but my heart belongs to the supporting cast.

Thanksgiving Day dinner (or lunch) is the one meal out of the year when a plethora of side dishes are at my fingertips.  Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, corn pudding, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and stuffing... my eyes widen and heart swells just thinking about all of it!

It's my love of side dishes and yours, too, that have inspired the theme for this week's recipes: Everything but the turkey!  You say the turkey's taken care of, but you need some inspiration for what else to feed your guests?  Don't worry, I've got your back.  I'll be featuring three new recipes that I know you'll love and will hopefully consider including in your feast.

First up are these fluffier-than-clouds sweet potato biscuits.

For as long as I can remember, my family has joked that my Aunt Sue and I only have eyes for the bread basket and don't even notice the giant roasted bird at the center of the table.  Give us the rolls (and some butter) and nobody gets hurt :)

But rolls can be a bit boring and seem to be an afterthought when it comes to planning the meal.  Buy a package of pre-made biscuits from the store, warm 'em up, and pass 'em around the table.  They're buttered and eaten and quickly forgotten.  Why not give the bread basket a little more thought and a few extra minutes of effort to turn out some of the fluffiest and most flavorful biscuits your guests have ever tasted?

These sweet potato biscuits could not be easier to make.  In fact, this would be a great activity to get the less experienced cooks and kids involved in preparation if your hands are tied with the business of the bird.

I can't decide what I love most about these biscuits.  The buttery smell that perfumes the kitchen as they're cooking is intoxicating!  And the gorgeous flecks of bright orange sweet potato throughout the dough practically make them little pieces of (edible) art.

But, if I were forced to pick, I'd say it's the light and flaky texture of the biscuits that makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The fluffiest homemade biscuits I've ever encountered!  Forget the tough and dry hockey pucks that may have haunted your bread basket in previous years.  These sweet potato biscuits are the stuff of dreams!

Bread basket lovers take notice, for these are going to knock your socks off :)

Four years ago: Classic yellow cupcakes

Sweet Potato Biscuits
(adapted slightly from Paula Deen's recipe)
-makes 9 biscuits

Nonstick cooking spray
3/4 cup cooked mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet potato and 1/3 cup milk; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the sweet potato mixture and fold gently to combine.  Add remaining milk 1 Tablespoon at a time, until all of the flour is moistened.  (The amount of milk may vary depending on the moisture of the sweet potato.)

Lightly dust a work surface and your hands with flour.  Turn out the dough onto surface and knead 2 or 3 times until dough comes together.  Pat out the dough into a 1/2-inch thick round.  Using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into biscuits.  Combine and re-roll dough scraps and cut out more biscuits until all of the dough is used.

Arrange biscuits on greased baking sheet.  Lightly brush tops of biscuits with milk.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make-ahead tip: Prepare biscuits up through cutting.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop into freezer for one hour.  When biscuit dough rounds are frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to bake, follow aforementioned instructions, adding 5 minutes to baking time.

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