Have you ever heard of sweet potato biscuits? I had not, but when one of my cooking class students asked me to make a gluten free version of the recipe for her, I was intrigued.
Have you ever heard of sweet potato biscuits? I had not, but when one of my cooking class students asked me to make a gluten free version of the recipe for her, I was intrigued. I know what a biscuit is, but how would adding sweet potato change the basic recipe? Would you be able to taste the sweet potato? Would it make the biscuit orange? Is it a simple addition, or would the recipe change in a more fundamental way?
Biscuits are a form of pastry, and as such the three main ingredients are flour, fat, and liquid. The type of each ingredient that you use and the techniques that you use to mix them together greatly affect the outcome. When you add sweet potato into the mix, every major ingredient and technique is affected and I quickly saw that I would need to allow for that in my recipe and instructions.
Let’s look at flour first. I compared the amount of flour in the sweet potato biscuit recipes to the amount of flour that I use to make regular biscuits. As I suspected the sweet potato biscuits use less flour. The starch substance of the potato itself takes the place of some of the flour so I ended up using approximately 3/4 c. less flour than I ordinarily would. The only remaining question that I have is whether I should adjust the relative amounts of the various flours in this recipe to account for the starchiness of the potatoes. But that is a small tweak and one that I’ll probably only test because I’m curious.
The difference in the liquids was even more dramatic. Mashed sweet potatoes are very wet and the reference recipes tended to use 2/3 cups of water when I would normally use 2 cups. Because gluten free flours absorb water differently, I could only use the reference recipes as a guideline. I left the water amount blank when I wrote the recipe and then measured how much water I needed in order to incorporate all of the flour. I ended up using 2/3 of the amount of liquid that I use in my classic gluten free biscuit recipe.
The final key ingredient in a biscuit is the fat. You have two options with biscuits: you can work the fat in so that so that most of the fat is in crumb-sized pieces and the larger portions are pea-sized or you can leave the fat in large chunks. The crumb and pea sized bits of fat give you a “tender” biscuit; the larger chunks give you a “flaky” biscuit.
In either case, you want the fat to stay in its solid form until it goes into the oven. This is generally not something that I have to pay much attention to. My butter is always frozen, so it’s always cold enough to stay solid. But…..when you add the sweet potato in you can quickly mess things up.
Recipe testing happens in the normal course of our life, so one Sunday morning I decided that it was the morning for testing the sweet potato biscuit recipe. I was not thinking ahead and didn’t leave any time in my morning to chill the mashed sweet potatoes. In fact, it wasn’t until I was draining them that I realized that hot sweet potatoes would melt the butter in the dough, which would mean no flaky layers. The recipes that I used as reference had mentioned that the sweet potatoes should be chilled, but somehow I’d just mentally skipped over that part. I assume that the same might happen to you, so in the moment I made a mental note to mention it in a way that would stick with you. Hopefully, I’ve been successful!
The sweet potato biscuits were a huge hit with my children and husband. The color of the biscuits is slightly darker than my usual recipe, and there are lovely orange flecks throughout since I mashed the potatoes rather than pureeing them. We toasted the leftover biscuits the next morning and served them with strawberry jam during our morning tea time and they were just as lovely. These biscuits are definitely going on my holiday baking lists, or for whenever I have leftover sweet potatoes. They would be lovely with sliced ham and Jezebel sauce and if you used a small biscuit cutter, they would be an appropriate size for an hors d’oeuvres platter.
Now that I know that sweet potato biscuits exist I’m wondering if there are other special kinds of biscuits that I’d like to make. What is your favorite kinds of biscuit? Let me know in the comments.
175 g brown rice flour
250 g corn starch *
75 g sorghum flour
25 g baking powder
12 g salt
6 g xanthan gum
150 g butter, frozen and thinly sliced*
350 g sweet potatoes, cooked, mashed & chilled
300 g water
50 g maple syrup
50 g egg (1 large chicken egg)
* I’ve written the recipe as I tested it. Tapioca starch and arrowroot starch are generally acceptable substitutes for corn starch. Lard or shortening would be good substitutes for the butter; coconut oil is not a favored substitute for this recipe due to its melting point.