The answer to the question "Can you cook a yam? Nope- not probably. Say what? Nope? Why not you ask? Well, for one thing, true yams do not grow in the United States. Say what? True yams only grow in Africa. Say what? That's right dear blog readers! Those brown-skinned, orange, oddly-misshapen blobs in the bulk bins are actually Sweet Potatoes! Say what? Yep. Sweet Potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes are tubers but let's just keep that between us ok? If our daughters think they're eating "tubers" they will never eat Sweet Potatoes again! Tubers sound like something really icky you throw things at in the garden after you sprayed it with water while screaming at the top of your lungs to your husband, "Get something sharp!" They sound like something that gets run over with the car, TWICE, in horror movies only to get back up again. The (soon to be consumed) victims screaming helplessly from behind the closed windows and looking at each other as if to ask, "Why didn't we bring something sharp?!"
Since American Sweet Potatoes are grown in North Carolina, it seems fitting to talk about Sweet Potato Biscuits. Sweet Potato Biscuits are like biscuits -only better. I make mine with a touch of cinnamon and buttermilk instead of milk. (In fact, I like ALL biscuits made with buttermilk.) How to make them is pretty simple too. Just add 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato to your favorite biscuit recipe and reduce the milk to 1/4 cup per 1 1/2 cups of flour. A combination of whole wheat and all purpose is nice and you could also try spelt flour. Spelt is one of my favorites. The gluten (YES, spelt has gluten) is more water soluble so it is a bit more delicate to work with but that's what makes using it in biscuits so perfect. Biscuits should not be handled too much or they become hard. In the case of biscuits, hard is bad. Soft is good.
Another tip for making soft, flaky biscuits is to mix and cut the shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse meal and THEN cut the butter into the flour. It is important to cut the two fats in separately. Butter will steam when it hits the heat, shortening will not. Shortening is lower in moisture then butter and will help to give distinct layers to the biscuits. Since butter has more moisture content, it will help to "push" those layers apart. Get it?
Lastly, have all your ingredients for making the biscuits the same temperature, COLD. COLD shortening. COLD butter, COLD buttermilk. Clearly I want to drive the point home how important it is to have your ingredients be COLD. Like making pastry, you want the COLD fat to be coated with flour before liquid comes in contact with it. The COLD fat is "cut" into the dough to make flaky layers. The less you handle the dough the better because less handling will help maintain the integrity of the flaky layers. The same principles apply to pastry dough making but that is for another blog.
So dear readers, I hope you give Sweet Potato Biscuits a try. Substitute them the next time you make shortcake, perhaps slice up a juicy pear instead of using berries. Add a big dollop of whipped cream and I swear, NO ONE will care if they're eating a "tuber!" Cut a Sweet Potato Biscuit in half and spread it with maple butter or peanut butter or almond butter or honey. Top the biscuits with pumpkin seeds before baking for a little crunch. Let your imagination guide you and have fun! At least you're not eating yams.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor