Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits: (In)sanity restored

I underbaked my brownies on Wednesday night.

I don't know how it happened. I baked them the usual amount of time that I always do -- precisely 28 minutes -- at the same temperature I always do -- precisely 350 degrees -- and made sure to test them with a toothpick like a good little obsessive baker. Yet when I took them out of the fridge to cut them the next morning, they were unmistakingly gooey. I cringed as I surveyed the way the wet chocolate interior clung to my knife like butter.

"This is not good," I thought, as I hurriedly placed the parchment-lined brownies back into my 8 x 8 pan to take to work with me that day.

It was the first time I had made anything for my new coworkers, and I'd wanted the brownies to be perfect, wanted my colleagues to shudder and declare with ecstatic glee, "Diana, you are a baking goddess! Ina has nothing on you!" I wasn't supposed to spend half the brownie-inducing occasion apologizing and explaining, "I baked them the same amount of time that I always do!"

While my coworkers were polite and ate them without complaint, insisting that they like their brownies a bit gooey, I didn't believe them. I don't like my brownies gooey at all. I look at a sticky brownie and I think "Salmonella." I've even gone so far as to throw out a batch that a friend gifted upon me because they looked, in my eyes, like square bastions of disease.

It bothered me the rest of the day, and the subsequent day when my good friend in the office enthused, "Oh when they're cold, the gooeyiness makes them taste like fudge!"

Brownies are not meant to be like fudge. Fudge is supposed to be like fudge.

So I did what any normal (read: not normal) person would do to correct the situation. I woke up this morning and, while the sun was barely peaking out from behind the clouds, I made biscuits. Not just any kind of biscuit, of course -- sweet potato biscuits that, lacking any sort of egg, couldn't possibly transmit foodbourne illness.

"Biscuits will save me," I thought, as I lightly kneaded the dough to eradicate my feelings of self-doubt, disgust and shame that I, the queen of Clorox bleach and all things sanitary, could underbake brownies.

Nevermind that I had to purchase an entire container of buttermilk just for the 1/3 cup I needed for the recipe. Nevermind that I didn't even really want or need a buttery sweet potato biscuit dredged in honey after indulging in a donut crawl yesterday. Nevermind that my coworkers are already planning to bring plenty of baked goods for our potluck brunch at work tomorrow. I was going to redeem myself -- even if I had to throw out the entire carton of buttermilk and half my sanity to do it.

The biscuits are a bit denser than the average, non-sweet potato biscuit, but the interior is still pleasantly pliant -- a proper contrast to the craggly, crusty edges. I inhaled the one I "tested" for lunch today, greedily smearing honey over it, barely pausing to assess whether it would engender the desired reactions from my coworkers. Something along the lines of...

"Baking goddess."

"Just like Ina."

"The queen of all things sanitary."

They're quite simply, a good biscuit. Uncontroversial, unassuming, but perfectly pleasurable on a fall day when the only care you have in the world is whether your coworkers think you are trying to poison them.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Lightly adapted from Molly Wizenberg via Bon Appetit

Makes 8-10 biscuits

1 3/4-lb sweet potato
1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar, lightly packed
1 stick unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for glazing
1/3 cup buttermilk

Do ahead: Peel sweet potato and cut into manageable 1-inch hunks. Steam or boil until soft. Remove from steamer (or drain from pot), and puree until perfectly smooth. Cool completely in the fridge.

Combine sweet potato and buttermilk together in a medium bowl. Whisk together until well incorporated.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and then use a pastry blender or your fingers to carefully knead the butter into the flour mixture. When the dough has reached a somewhat crumbly texture and the butter pieces are about pea-sized, add the sweet potato and buttermilk. Use a fork to stir together until just combined.

Bring the dough together in a large clump and, using your hands, knead into a 1-inch thick patty. Place on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper with extra over-hang to wrap the dough up. Cover it completely with the paper than place in the fridge to chill for approximately 30 - 60 minutes. The key to flakey biscuits, pie crusts, scones, etc. is keeping the butter as cold as possible before baking.

While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove dough from the fridge. Using a 2-inch diameter-ed glass or biscuit cutter, cut circles out of the dough and place on a lined or greased cookie shoot. Bring the scrapes together to make additional biscuits. Melt the two additional tablespoons of butter and use a light hand to glaze the tops and sides with a pastry brush. You'll likely have a little butter left over.

Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, turning the sheet once, or until lightly browned on the top and golden brown on the bottom. Cool on a rack or eat immediately, smeared with honey or the seasonally appropriate apple butter.

Biscuits are meant to be eaten within a day or so, but do freeze well as long as they are sealed tight. You know, to keep out any unwanted freezer burn. Or any germs that may somehow exist in the frigid temperature of your freezer.


Darin said...

Good save! These look like pretty good things for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Bianca said...

What a funny post. I'm guilty of liking fudge brownies (hides) THese biscuits are a good save. Will try these out next month. I don't bake much but biscuits are the one thing that aren't so intimidating to bake.

Emily said...

I'm a fudgie brownie person. :)

These biscuits are beautiful and sound so good!

Esi said...

I under bake brownies on purpose...but that's just me

Diana said...

Darin - Definitely! Highly recommend smearing them with apple butter too... if you have a little time to not just grab and go!

Bianca - Haha, I know there are a lot of you out there! I feel like I'm an anomaly because I don't like them!

Emily - Aaah you too! I think I'm the one who needs to duck and hide with my weirdo cake-like brownie preferences!

Esi - Sigh. Okay. I give up.

Monet said...

I've wanted to make these...and I'm so glad you did. You've inspired me to try this weekend. And I always do this when a recipe doesn't work out. I've got to produce something tasty! Thank you for sharing another of your delicious treats. I'm drooling. I hope you are having a lovely day full of laughter and love. Many blessings from Austin, my friend.

myrtle said...

WoW! looks absolutely delicious.
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Mariz Denver said...

Thanks for the recipe, it really brought back wonderful memories of my mom making these for us…along with a nice piece of ham of course. I am wondering if replacing the shortening/lard with butter will significantly change how the biscuits come together?

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