Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sweet Potato Coconut Drop Biscuits

We had a lot of fun making some cookies today. Daina had the great idea of organizing a cookie party, which focused around baking and decorating some delicious cut-outs. On the side, we decided to wing it with some sweet potato coconut drop biscuits, adapted from a recipe Daina had on hand.

I almost never bake by myself. It's not worth it (or often, not possible) to bake a single-person-sized batch of anything, and most baked goods get exponentially worse as they age (a loaf of crusty bread, right out of the oven, tastes even better than it smells. Give me a bowl of garlic-rosemary olive oil for dipping and I'll call you on the way to Heaven. And don't talk to me about warm Tollhouse cookies. Nothing should be that delicious). But baking in groups is wonderful. Many hands make light work, everyone gets a few warm cookies, and no one leaves with an aching stomach.

If I were to sit down and come up with a sweet potato coconut cookie, this might not be the exact recipe I'd land on. I'm posting this recipe because a.) I will never post an untested recipe on this site, b.) they were delicious,  c.) they are quite a bit healthier and lighter than the cookies I might have baked and d.) these cookies were one of those "what do we have lying around? OK let's use that!" recipes - it's one of my favorite ways to cook, and is worth preserving for posterity.

That being said, here are a few changes you might try:

For more coconut flavor: (and a much heavier cookie) you could try experimenting with coconut oil (1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil?) and/or mash the sweet potatoes with 1/3 cup of coconut milk.

Instead of slivered almonds: you could use toasted, chopped pecans (or walnuts) and maple chips (I don't love maple chips, because they are artificially flavored. Born and raised in New Hampshire (the home of the world's best maple syrup - don't listen to those shifty Vermonters), I get a bit feisty when it comes to real maple syrup). In lieu of the chips, you could try mixing in chunks of maple candy and see what happens. The candy would melt quite a bit more than chips, possibly leaving holes in the cookies, I'm not sure. I couldn't find any recipes using maple candy chunks online, so let me know if you ever try it out (I'll let you know if I try it, too!). Make sure to stir in the candy at the end, after the batter is mixed, otherwise it will break up and you're just adding maple sugar (not that there's anything wrong with that).

That being said, here's the recipe, exactly as we made it.

Sweet Potato Coconut Drop Biscuits:

1 1/4 cup mashed sweet potatoes, we used 2 medium potatoes
1/4 cup almond milk (milk would also work)
1 1/4 cup Bisquick (or the Bisquick substitute we used, see below NOTE: if using Bisquick substitute, add an additional 2 tblsp butter (or oil))
2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup raw sugar (white sugar would also work fine)

1.) Preheat oven to 350.

2.) Mash the potato flesh with the milk. We used microwave-ready sweet potatoes, but you could bake them as well (which results in more evenly baked flesh, we had some hard, undercooked chunks, but that wasn't an issue since we only needed 1 1/4 cups). Prick the potatoes all over with a paring knife (or the tip of a larger knife) and roast on baking sheets at 450 for 35-45 minutes. Make sure to put the potatoes on a baking sheet! They ooze out dark, caramelized sugars, which are easy enough to clean off sheets, but a real pain to get off the bottom of your oven.

3.) Toast the nuts by placing them in a single layer in a frying pan and cooking over medium high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant (if you are using slivered almonds, you won't be able to put them in a single layer, and therefore should shake more frequently, this is one reason to use chopped nuts instead). Remove any burned nuts as they will add quite a bit of bitterness to the dough. Note: this is a technique everyone should master. There are very few recipes which include nuts that won't be improved by toasting them first.

4.) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth. The dough should be sticky, but not too sticky. If you tap it gently with your finger, no dough should stick, but if you press down more heavily you should get a nice coating of orange cookie dough.

5.) Using two tablespoons, form drop biscuits by scooping a spoonful of dough, then scraping it onto a greased baking pan with the second spoon (note, if you're having a lot of trouble getting the dough off the second spoon, it's probably too wet, and needs more flour). The cookies should be about 1 inch apart, as they will expand while baking.

6.) Top each cookie with a sprinkling of raw sugar, and bake in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely browned, and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of a cookie. Feel free to taste-test for done-ness.

7.) Cool slightly, enjoy warm and with friends.

Bisquick substitute, makes  about 2 cups:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1.) Combine all ingredients.

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