As a Southerner, I've eaten a lot of biscuits in my life. Whether homemade or frozen or from-the-can, I don't usually discriminate. Unfortunately the ones I make from scratch never seem to live up to my expectations of the perfect biscuit. But what is the perfect biscuit you ask?
The Cracker Barrel biscuit of course! Yes, I admit that my perfect biscuit comes from a restaurant chain that dots the highways throughout the southern states. The same chain that still sells RC Cola's and Moonpies and lets you play checkers by the fireplace while waiting for your table. Their rocking chairs are pretty swell, too. 'Cause you know we southerners love a little front porch sitting.
But back to the biscuits. They are always perfectly light and fluffy, almost cloud-like in consistency and never dense. Slathered with butter and strawberry jam? It's like they were sent straight from the heavens. I've ruined many a dinner by eating too many of the tempting morsels before my food arrives.
So you can imagine that all my from-scratch biscuits just never really compare. I mean, how can I compete with a little old grandmother who cranks out fresh biscuits all day (at least that's what I imagine. Someone's granny must sit back there and makes those biscuits, keeping years of biscuit-making secrets close to her chest.)
All that has changed, however. Enter the incredible sweet potato biscuit. Sweet potatoes are hands down my favorite vegetable, whether roasted and drizzled with brown sugar or whipped into a casserole and topped with marshmallows. Remind me to thank the thrifty housewife who thought to add them to biscuits.
These will be my go-to biscuits from here on out. They are melt-in-your-mouth tender, and let's not forget their gorgeous orange hue. Almost like little Easter eggs! To top it all off, I slathered them in creamy maple butter to bring out their natural sweetness. Move over, Cracker Barrel. There's a new biscuit in town...
For the biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potato (approximately 1 large potato)
1/2 cup buttermilk, plus additional as needed
For the maple butter
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375°
In a large bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender (or your fingers if you don't have one) cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is a mix of pea-size balls and small crumbs.
In a separate bowl, mix together the mashed sweet potato and buttermilk until well-combined. Fold into the flour mixture, adding more (up to 4 tablespoons) buttermilk if necessary. The dough should form a nice ball, and be just a bit on the sticky side, as opposed to crumbly and dry. Chill the dough for thirty minutes, if desired, although you can bake them off immediately if you would like. I happen to like the way the biscuits look when the dough has chilled (a bit more crackly on top), but the flavor is not affected by this step.
Pat out the dough onto a lightly floured surface to about a 1-inch thickness (do not roll out the dough with a rolling pin). Cut out rounds using a well floured biscuit cutter. Gather the remaining scraps and repeat until all the dough is used. Place the biscuits on a large sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes (or bake in batches).
For the maple butter, mix the room temperature butter and maple syrup until completely combined and smooth. Serve with warm biscuits or refrigerate until needed.
Note: the cooked biscuits will freeze beautifully and can be pulled out at a moments notice. Just bake at 375° until heated through.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)