A Virginia Thanksgiving & Sweet Potato Biscuits

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, full of good (gluten-free) food, no contamination, and time with family and friends.  David and I had a great time on the Eastern Shore with both of our families.  There were many highlights from our vacation on the Shore, and I loved getting to be in the kitchen with my family.  David cooked an incredible turkey on the grill that was unbelievable.  Alden made her famous pulled pork barbecue in the Dutch Oven for David’s birthday as well as the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. My mother-in-law, Elaine, brought her famous baked butternut squash for our Thanksgiving feast.  Mom treated us to delicious bacon, eggs and grits in the morning and made her skillet cornbread to go with chicken chili on Saturday night.  No one went hungry!

Over the vacation, I made some old favorites and experimented with new creations in the kitchen.  At the last minute I was inspired by Molly Wizenberg’s article, “Biscuits with a side of Nostalgia” in the December Bon Appetit.  In Wizenberg’s article she talks about her parents’ roots in Maryland and Virginia and how she grew up eating many ‘Virginia & Maryland foods,’ even though she grew up in Oklahoma.  Being away from Virginia this year, I became nostalgic myself as I read, thinking about all of the foods that come to mind when I think of Virginia.

The article included a recipe for sweet potato biscuits with Smithfield ham, which are quite possibly one of my favorite things, especially when I’m on the Eastern Shore.  I had not yet created a gluten-free sweet potato biscuit so I thought I’d give it a try for Thanksgiving.  We already had plenty of food so if the baking went horribly wrong, I knew no one would miss them.  Also, my brother, Rob, loves bread, doughnuts, rolls, cake and all things gluten.  (I know he lives in fear that he will someday be diagnosed with celiac.)  Rob’s such a good sport about limiting his gluten intake at holiday meals so I wanted to create a biscuit that would help him not miss the gluten so much.

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I used Wizenburg’s recipe as my outline for the recipe, but of course substituted different flour.  The biscuits were delicious.  All were consumed at Thanksgiving dinner except two, which I ate on the ride to the airport yesterday.  We ended up not putting Smithfield ham on these biscuits since we were already eating so much food.  These biscuits were definitely a worthwhile addition to any holiday meal or a great finger food at a holiday party.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ pound red-skinned sweet potato, peeled, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ¾ cup white rice flour*
  • ¼ cup soy flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 8 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup chilled buttermilk

*If you want to make the gluten-version of these biscuits, just use 1 3/4 cups flour and omit the xanthan gum

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Cook sweet potatoes in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain, cool and mash.

Position oven rack in lower third of oven.  Preheat to 425.  Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch cake plan with 1 ½ inch sides.  (I didn’t have this so I just used a cookie sheet.)

Whisk flour and rest of dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add cubed butter to flour mixture.  Toss to coat and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

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Whisk ¾ cup mashed sweet potatoes and buttermilk into a separate bowl.  Add to flour mixture and toss with fork.

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Gather mixture in bowl, kneading until dough comes together.  Turn dough out onto floured work surface (I used rice flour for this) and pat dough until it’s about 1-inch thick.  Using 1 ½ inch round biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits, flouring cutter each time.  (I had to use a shot glass because we didn’t have any biscuit cutters.  It would have been better to have the actual cutter but this was a solid substitute.)

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Gather scraps, cut out additional biscuits.  The recipe says not to do this more than once but I did it twice, and all of my biscuits turned out fine.

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Arrange biscuits side by side in prepared cake pan.  Brush with melted butter.  Bake until puffed and golden on top, about 22 minutes.  (Mine only took 18 minutes but I think they were a little on the small side.  Keep an eye on yours as they cook.)  Turn biscuits out and gently pull them apart.

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I made these earlier in the day and just reheated them before dinner.  If you want to serve as ham biscuits, use Dijon mustard and Smithfield ham.  Honey is also delicious with the ham and mustard combination.  These sweet potato biscuits were a huge hit at Thanksgiving dinner, even with Rob.  The entire weekend was perfect and great to be with our families.

After 5 days of delicious Thanksgiving food, birthday meals, and leftovers, tonight I’ll be enjoying my Kung Pao Chicken from Dinner A’ Fare.  Even those of us that love to cook, need a little break from the kitchen.  On Saturday night, as we were serving up the chicken chili and cornbread, my dad said, “I’m all cooked out.”  Yes, my dad said that.  I must agree though;  I’m “all cooked out.”  Well, at least for a couple of days.

  1. David says:

    Two things:

    1) It should be clear to your readers that this blog features the best looking chef in any town.

    2) The sweet potato biscuits were outstanding. I’m generally not a huge sweet potato biscuit fan (I get plenty of sweet potatoes in my diet and don’t need them in bread form, too); however, these were delicious. Way to go!

  2. Taylor says:

    The sweet potato biscuits look delicious, but what I love most about this post is the shout-out to Smithfield ham. Makes me homesick! No one in Boston has ever heard of Smithfield ham. Thanks for keeping the recipes coming, Betsy.

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