Fun fact: Did you know North Carolina is the largest sweet potato producer in the United States? Yup, the sweet potatoes in your Thanksgiving dish might be from the Great North State :)
My junior year of college I studied abroad in the Netherlands. I was there for the fall semester and really noticed the differences in food and culture around the times we associate with the holidays. The Dutch obviously don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so they are already decked out for Christmas by the beginning of November. During my time there I would often go to the local grocery stores to pick up the items I couldn’t get at the market. One November day I was looking around the produce section, trying to decipher a few of the vegetables I didn’t recognize, when I saw a few individually wrapped sweet potatoes. Having not seen sweet potatoes for months I grabbed them and examined the wrapping. “Grown in North Carolina,” was on a big sticker on each sweet potato. The stickers and the sweet potatoes immediately made me think of the memories I have tied to sweet potatoes – all Thanksgiving related. Sweet potatoes are my favorite Thanksgiving dish and I always welcome ways to extend their goodness.
We always have leftovers from every dish after Thanksgiving dinner. Like many Americans, we stick them all in the fridge and pull them out for lunch the next day for some leftover sandwiches. We usually use plain ‘ol sandwich bread, but what if we could incorporate the thanksgiving flavors in a wonderfully fluffy biscuit for a delicious turkey, cranberry, sweet potato combination all the way around? We can, we can! Enter sweet potato biscuits.
I’m so excited about these sweet potato biscuits. They are the perfect vehicle for that leftover Thanksgiving sandwich you will inevitably make and so much better than sandwich bread. You can make them ahead of time when you are already mashing potatoes to use for your casserole, freeze the dough and pull them out right before lunch the next day for piping hot, fresh biscuits and no day-of trouble. If you don’t want to wait until the day after (I can’t say I blame you), you can make them as a roll alternative for your big meal on Thanksgiving.
They are just slightly sweet, and the optional course sugar topping adds an extra crunch to the otherwise pillow-soft biscuits. Eat them on their own with a pat of butter, or top with turkey, cranberry sauce and some cheese leftover from your appetizer plate for the perfect leftover meal. Melty brie or a sharp white cheddar would both be delicious.
If you don’t already have cooked sweet potatoes, plan far enough in advance to be able to cook the sweet potatoes and let them cool (this could take a few hours). I haven’t tried making them with leftover sweet potato casserole instead of plain sweet potato puree but if you do it, try decreasing the sugar in this recipe. Let me know how it works!
Happy Thanksgiving prep!
Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 pound sweet potatoes (about 1-2 medium sweet potatoes)
1/3 cup milk (or buttermilk)
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar (you can omit or use 1 tablespoon for less sweet biscuits)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small bits
Optional to top
2 tablespoons milk
Did you remember to leave a few hours for the sweet potatoes to cook? Great, let’s go! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a few sweet potatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast about 40-45 minutes, or until soft. Let them cool completely (you can put them in the fridge to speed up this process) and peel them. In a small bowl, mash the sweet potatoes until your puree is smooth. Measure out ¾ cup of sweet potato puree and set it aside. You will have some leftover puree – add it to your sweet potato casserole or eat up!
If your oven is off, preheat it to 400 degrees F again. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Mix the ¾ cup of reserved sweet potato puree with the milk (or buttermilk). Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the well-chopped, cold butter and cut it into the flour mixture with a knife. Work it into the flour until the flour-butter mixture resembles a coarse meal. You want small bits of butter to be visible – those will make your biscuits flaky. If the butter has warmed up, chill the mixture for a few minutes until it is cold again.
Add the sweet potato-milk mixture to the flour-butter mixture and stir the dough until you have large, soft dough clumps. Carefully mix the dough with your hands to incorporate all of the flour. Do this in as few movements as possible so the dough doesn’t warm up from your hands or get overmixed (which will create tough, not fluffy biscuits).
Prepare a floured surface and pat the biscuit dough into a 1-inch thick round (the shape does not have to be perfect). Use a floured round cookie cutter (mine was about 1 ½ inches in diameter, which gave us snack-sized biscuits but you can alter the size depending on how big you want the biscuits) and cut the dough. The less you twist the cutter the more rise your biscuit will have. Place the biscuit dough on your prepared pan. If you are making the optional egg wash, mix the egg and milk together and brush the tops of each biscuit with the wash before baking. Sprinkle with course sugar for an extra crunch and a look that will impress your guests. Bake for 12-15 minutes (longer if your cookie cutter was much bigger), or until golden. You should be able to press the tops and feel that they are hard and aren’t pressing into the middle of the biscuit.
These are best the same day they are made but if you need to serve them on a later date, you can freeze the cut biscuit dough and cook the same instructions from frozen. You can also wait for the cooked biscuits to cool completely, put them in a plastic zippered bag and freeze them until you want to serve them. Heat them up in a 300 degree F oven for a few minutes, until they are warm enough.
Slightly adapted from here.