These might be the softest biscuits I’ve ever had.
I’ve had sweet potato biscuits on the brain for months now. I don’t want to even admit how many sweet potatoes I bought last month alone with biscuits in mind. But one by one, we ate the potatoes as I continued to procrastinate researching and experimenting with biscuit recipes. I began to think I’d never get around to making them.
But they came to mind again this week after I agreed to go sugar-free with three other women I know through blogging and twitter. We’ve supported each other all week via tweets, while visions of honey sweetened sweet potato biscuits danced in my head. Our only rule was: No sugar except honey, Stevia, coconut / palm sugar, or coconut nectar.
If you’re thinking, “that’s not so bad”, trust me, it’s not as easy as it might sound. Sugar proliferates our food environment and it’s hard to get away from. Sometimes it hides in the most innocuous places, and checking every label has slowed down my grocery shopping.
I must say I bought Stevia for the first time this week to replace Splenda in my tea, and love it. But there were so many Stevia options on the shelf, I wasn’t sure which one to go for. So this will be another area of research for me.
Mostly, I’m using honey when I need something sweet; like in my plain, non-fat yogurt in the mornings. And in these biscuits.
Otherwise it’s been bananas, strawberries, oranges, and apples when I need
a hit something sweet.
A word about these biscuits: I looked at a lot of biscuit recipes, and ultimately modeled mine from one of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s in her The Bread Bible cookbook. I made a few changes though, in case you’re familiar with her version. Not that Ms. Beranbaum hasn’t already figured it all out, but I reduced the butter by half, and replaced it with coconut oil since coconut and sweet potato flavors go so beautifully together. In fact, since I keep reading that coconut oil is much better for you, next time I might reduce the butter even further. I also replaced the cake flour with brown rice flour, swapped in honey for the sugar, and mixed in a raw egg instead of the hard-boiled ones the original recipe calls for.
Oh, and I added cardamom powder because I like it. Feel free to eliminate if you don’t.
The coconut oil, sweet potatoes, egg, and honey all contribute to a very moist biscuit. The combination of both yeast and baking powder is absolutely critical to making these moist biscuits lighter and pillow-y soft. If you’re looking for a flakey biscuit (I like those too), this isn’t the biscuit you want to make. But if you’re looking for a melt-in-your mouth soft biscuit, this is it.
If you use the brown rice flour with the all-purpose standard (wheat) flour as I have, you can knead it a bit more to get it smooth without worrying about developing too much gluten for the biscuits. Some gluten development is fine though, since we’re not going for a flakey biscuit.
Only knead this dough when it’s cold, fresh from the refrigerator, as it’s a sticky dough.
My favorite place to put dough to rise is in the microwave oven. I first heat up a small cup of water, move it to a back corner of the microwave, and slide in the dough ensconced in a covered bowl. I then close the microwave door and wait for the yeast magic to start to work. The cup of hot water produces a warm environment, and the microwave oven protects the dough from drafts.
Sweet Potato Biscuits with Honey and Coconut Oil
Makes 15 – 20, depending on size
Cook Time: 15 – 20 minutes
- 6.5 ounces (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
- 2.3 ounces (2/3 cup) brown rice flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (Rapid-Rise)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 medium-small sweet potato (big enough to yield 1/3 cup mashed potato)
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup buttermilk (I used 2% fat buttermilk)
- 2 tablespoon honey (orange-flavored would be wonderful)
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
NOTE: As a time saver, I like to start these biscuits in the bowl of a food processor. If you don’t have one, make sure you mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly with a whisk. It’s important to make sure the baking powder and yeast are evenly distributed into the flour. Use either a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers to rub the butter and coconut oil into the flour.
Place the flours, baking powder, instant yeast, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse them a few times to evenly distribute the baking powder and yeast through the flours.
Slice the butter into 1/2 tablespoon slabs and add to the bowl, along with the coconut oil. Pulse a few times until the butter is broken into pea-sized pieces. The best way to check this is by dipping a fork into the flour mixture a few times.
Bake the sweet potato until soft (I use the microwave). Spoon out 1/3 cup of sweet potato. Place in a fine strainer and push it through using the back of a spoon. Sweet potato is thick and can be lumpy, and this straining will give you a beautiful smooth result. It should also by cool enough now to add the wet ingredients.
Add the egg, buttermilk, and honey. Stir thoroughly using a whisk. Add the cardamom and whisk a few more times. If your cardamom is older, you might want to add a little more. You should have a nice smooth batter to add to the flour mixture.
Form a well in the middle of the flour with your hand, and pour half of the batter into it. Using a spatula, combine the mixture by folding the flour into the batter. Add the remaining batter and continue to mix into the flour mixture.
As soon as the flour and batter are fully integrated, it’s time for the first rise. The dough is very sticky, so don’t knead it yet. Cover the bowl with plastic and allow the dough to rise until it’s almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours). My favorite place to put dough for a rising is the microwave. I place a hot cut of water in the microwave with it so that it’s nice and warm and safe from drafts.
Lightly oil a clean bowl and move the dough to it. the process of doing this will punch it down. Cover the dough with plastic, fitting the plastic wrap loosely around the mound of dough, and slide the bowl into the refrigerator. I leave it there overnight, but if you’re in a rush, leave it in the refrigerator for at least four hours.
Lightly flour a work space and lay the dough on it. Knead it a few times (10 – 20 times at the most) to get a smooth dough, adding a little flour as needed.
Place the dough on a piece of parchment or wax paper and roll it out into a square or rectangular shape, about 3/4″ thick.
Line a baking sheet with a fresh piece of parchment paper. Slice the dough into large squares, approximately 3″ square. Cut each square diagonally in half to form two triangles per square. Place them on the parchment lined baking sheet, 1″ apart from each other. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise for an hour. They should be 1″ to 1 1/4″ inch high.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. I always have a baking stone in my oven, but it’s not critical. The benefit of a baking stone is that it can evenly heat the baking sheet and reduce problems with uneven heat. If you’re using one, place it on the center rack, or one rack down from the center.
Bake for 10 minutes and increase the heat to 400 degrees F. Bake another 5 – 10 minutes. The surfaces should be a little more than lightly browned. If you have a temperature probe, the internal temperature of the biscuits should reach 200 degrees F.
Allow to cool slightly and serve warm.
I find I don’t need any extra honey and butter on them, but you can serve these on the side when you bring them to the table.