Sweet Potato Biscuits: Family History, Love on a Plate

I don’t know where to start when I’m talking about Sweet Potato Biscuits.  There are so many aspects to these warm, soft, little pillows of butter-oozing love:

  • Cracked Ice Vintage Formica Table
    My grandmother’s kitchen dinette was one of these circa 1952 Cracked Ice Formica and Chrome models. There was never a bad bite served on it.

    I can’t remember the first time I had them, but it must have been at my grandmother Harvell’s formica table in her kitchen in Sweetwater, Texas.  It was the place to be in the early morning when we would visit her for Thanksgiving.  The  Sweet Potato Biscuits would come out of the oven in batch after batch, and all of us grandchildren held out our plates, eager for more.  What a taste memory.

  • Following Mema’s example, my immediate family has had these biscuits for breakfast on holidays forever.  My dad was the one who made them at the home where I grew up at the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.  He learned from his mom (“Mema”), and he always used Bisquick for the biscuit dough.  I don’t apologize for this.  The recipe is perfect with Bisquick, and there is no reason to make it any other way.
  • Don’t, don’t, don’t be fooled into trying a fancy recipe or mix for these biscuits. You don’t need Southern Living, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart or the Food Network for Sweet Potato Biscuits.  No, no, no!  They all know food and know how to cook, but there is absolutely no reason to tart up Sweet Potato Biscuits or add extra ingredients like Crisco or brown sugar.  Trust me.  This is a home truth.
  • All of my cousins feel the same way about Sweet Potato Biscuits.  Their parents, my dad’s siblings, also made them on special occasions while they were growing up, which spelled out FOOD IS LOVE every time they were served.  We made these biscuits at a Harvell family reunion in 2012 and I think 18 people ate about 100 biscuits.  Food was indeed love and we shared our memories of Mema’s kitchen and chrome table and the incredible feelings of safety and warmth and comfort when you were ensconced there.
  • People who come into our family, through marriage or friendship, become Sweet Potato Biscuit converts.  Without fail.  Even if they hate sweet potatoes.
  • People who loathe sweet potatoes like these biscuits.  They are transcendant.
  • The biscuits are more about textures than flavor.  They are moist and chewy, and absolutely MUST be heavily laden with butter when served.  My mom used to say that it wasn’t right to eat Sweet Potato Biscuits without butter dripping down your chin.
  • They are durable.  These biscuits can be reheated and served again with no impact to their quality.
  • You can’t eat just one.  Or two.  Sitting down with Sweet Potato Biscuits is a commitment to getting really, really full.
  • There was never a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits that anyone in the family ever followed.  I asked my dad for years how to make them and he could never tell me; he could only show me.  There’s a cute little article at the end of this post written by my aunt that summarizes the conversation she had with her mom (my grandmother) about the biscuits…you’ll see how vague her instructions are.  My dad channeled my grandmother by telling me to add the mashed sweet potatoes to the biscuit dough “’til it looks right”. What does that mean???
  • You can make these biscuits ahead of time and par-bake them, removing them from the oven when they are 80% done.  Just set the oven to 400 when you are ready to serve them and bake until they are lightly browned.
  • I made the biscuits with my dad about ten times over the years, and have finally documented the amounts.  Woohoo!  Now I can post the recipe.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

This recipe makes about 30 biscuits.  You’ll probably want to double it.  They are relatively flat and even children can eat 5 or 6.

Ingredients

  • Two medium/large sweet potatoes
  • One recipe of Bisquick biscuit dough (or any other favorite biscuit mix), which is 2 1/4 cups of biscuit mix and 2/3 cup of milk
  • Flour for dusting

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 400.  Pierce sweet potatoes several times with a knife and place on a baking dish lined with foil.  Bake for about 45 minutes until they are soft when tested.  Cool, then peel and mash by hand with a fork or a pastry blender. It should not be a super-smooth consistency; there should still be some chunks. This step can be done ahead of time by a day or two.

When you’re ready to bake the biscuits, preheat the over to 400 again.  Prepare the biscuit dough, following the recipe on the package.  Measure out 2 cups of the mashed sweet potatoes, and fold it gently into the biscuit dough.

Spread flour over a large cutting board and then place the dough on the board.  Flour your hands and pat the dough out to about 3/8 inch thick.  Use a round cookie cutter from 1 1/1 inch to 2 inches in diameter to cut the biscuits from the dough and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned.

Serve hot with twice as much butter as you think your guests will need.

Note:  It’s the cook’s prerogative to test as many biscuits as necessary to ensure that they are the highest quality.  They must be tested immediately upon removal from the oven, with butter, of course.

IMG_3507
This batch of dough was made by my dad and me at a family reunion, and “it looks right”.  There wasn’t a good spoon for mixing it, so we used a spatula.  Any port in a storm…
IMG_3509.jpg
We didn’t have a cookie cutter when we made the Sweet Potato Biscuits at the family reunion (we rented a mountain cabin and used their kitchen).  But an emptied tin can worked just fine.
IMG_1623
They are very humble, but Sweet Potato Biscuits could probably bring about world peace; they are that good.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Sweet Potato Biscuits, in all their buttery glory.  Yum

Below is my aunt’s high school project, an interview with her mom about Sweet Potato Biscuits.

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 10.06.37 PM
I’m not sure when Mema evolved to using Bisquick, but I’m sure glad I don’t have to try to follow this recipe!

 

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