It’s always nice to whip up a simple, homemade dressing for a salad, and this one is really special. A little sweet from the berries with the nice summery hit of mint. And it’s a great way to use up some berries lingering in the fridge. I love it on a salad of fresh butter lettuce tossed with slice strawberries, salty feta or goat cheese and crunchy pecans. It also goes well with spinach, and is a nice dressing for a fruit salad too.
Strawberry Mint Vinaigrette
8 ounces hulled strawberries
1 small shallot, peeled and quartered
6 – 7 fresh mint leaves
¼ cup honey
¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup vegetable oil
Place everything but the oil in the carafe of a blender and blend until completely smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a nice, emulsified dressing. Store the vinaigrette in a jar with a tight-fitting lid for up to three days in the fridge. Shake well before using
Makes about 2 cups
The strawberries are here, but with the exceedingly strange weather we’ve been having this year, I am a little worried it is going to be an abbreviated season. So I have been making the most of what I have. I keep a big colander of berries in the fridge and snack on them throughout the day, I’ve put up jars of jam and I have been baking up a storm. I love this too-brief interlude when I have strawberries every day, before I say goodbye to fresh ones until next season.
I love strawberries and chocolate and have been working on a way to combine the two in a fun and simple brownie. So I added some berries to my basic brownie recipe and covered it in a sweet, creamy strawberry frosting. And darned if doesn’t taste like the fancy chocolate covered berries famous around here. I added a little drizzle of melted chocolate to pretty them up. Dip some berries in the extra melted chocolate for a nice decorative touch.
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Brownies
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup finely diced strawberries
For the Frosting:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar
¼ cup mashed strawberries
For the Drizzle:
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 by 8 inch pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat or in a large bowl in the microwave. Don’t let the butter boil or foam, just melt it. Leave to cool slightly.
Stir the sugar and vanilla into the butter, then add the eggs and stir until well combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and stir until completely combined. Fold in the strawberries, distributing them evenly.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the frosting:
Beat the butter until creamy in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Slowly beat in the sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the mashed berries alternately with the sugar until the frosting is creamy, smooth and spreadable. Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the top of the brownies. Chill the frosted brownies until the frosting is firm.
For the Drizzle:
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small microwave bowl. Microwave at high power for one minute, then stir until smooth. If needed, zap in 15 minute intervals, stirring after each burst, until melted and smooth. Use a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the chilled frosting.
Makes 16 brownies
*Dice the berries into small pieces and place in a measuring jug. Mash with a fork until juicy and the pieces are small. Beating in the mixer will bash them up a bit more.
Leaf through the pages of any old Southern community cookbook, and you are likely to come across a version of this cake. And it might not draw your eye, being so plain and simple. I am sure I flipped past many times before I actually stopped to read one. But once I get intrigued, I search these recipes out and combine, refine and test them until I have an updated version with more accurate instructions. And I am glad I didn’t let this one languish, because it is now a go to summer cake. It is immensely simple to make – no heavy equipment needed. And its simplicity makes it the perfect vehicle for all manner of summer toppings. Any sliced fresh fruit or berry, maybe sugared to produce a little syrup. Add a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream and you’ve got a fresh, homemade beauty of a dessert.
I planned this post to highlight the cake, and how useful it is. But I wanted to try something a little more interesting than just fruit so I stumbled around in the kitchen until I came up with the sauce. I know it is tooting my own horn, but it is a stunner. Rich, sticky caramel sauce with this amazing background note of strawberry and the added bonus of chunks of fresh berries. It is magnificent with the cake, but try it over ice cream, or, as I admit to doing, simply with a spoon.
Hot Milk Cake and Strawberry Caramel Sauce
I use a plain tube pan, often called a coffee cake pan, but a fluted or fancy one works just fine. You could also make it in a 9 by 13 inch pan.
Hot Milk Cake
1 cup whole milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 10-cup tube pan thoroughly.
Combine the milk and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium just until the butter is melted and the milk is hot. While the milk is heating, beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour in the hot milk and stir until completely combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and firm and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. The cake will keep, well wrapped, for several days.
Strawberry Caramel Sauce
1 cup of diced strawberries
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons
¾ cup heavy cream
Place the diced strawberries in a bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons sugar. Leave to sit for several hours until the strawberries have released quite a bit of juice.
Pour the juice off the berries into a measuring jug and add enough water to make 1/3 cup of liquid. Stir the liquid and 1 ½ cups sugar together in a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Up the heat to high and boil the mixture until it turns a lovely caramel brown, the color of sweet tea, about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch it like a hawk because it goes from caramel to burnt quickly at the end. Stand back a bit and pour in the cream. It will roil and bubble furiously and seize up a little. Just stir it until it all smooths out and combines, then turn the burner off and stir until it settles down. Let it cool for about 3 minutes, then stir in the diced strawberries. Cool to room temperature.
The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for up to three days. Delicious warm or cold.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
Fennel is a new addition to my local farmers market. That’s the great thing about the rise of these local markets. Customers ask, farmers grow. Last year, it was a few experimental bulbs, this year it’s big bins of them. When I saw them last year, I was quick to pick up as many as I could and start experimenting. I love adding fennel to the vegetables that start a soup or casserole or sauce – a bit in with the carrots, celery and onion. It adds an interesting undernote. But I had never really ventured into featuring fennel as a main ingredient until I found it tender and fresh and fragrant on the farmstand.
I have had a roasted fennel gratin at a restaurant that was basically wedges of fennel tossed in olive oil with a shower of breadcrumbs. Not interesting enough for me. The recipes I looked at were mostly similar and the ones with cream sauce seemed to have a lot of cream sauce – the fennel would be swimming. So I fiddled around for what I was imagining. When I have the freshest fennel, I want to highlight its unique flavor, so I ignored recipes that had additions of mustard, onion, garlic and shallot. I want the bracing flavor of fennel to really shine. A touch of the acid tang of white wine complements the fennel and a slight dusting with salty Parmesan rounds it out. Cooking mellows the fennel, rendering it sweeter but still with that special flavor.
This dish is lovely. I’ve eaten it on its own with a chunk of bread, but it pairs so well with a grilled steak or a delicate piece of fish. The smell of sliced fresh fennel is spectacular.
Creamy Fennel Gratin
I prefer the Parmesan and breadcrumbs to be very fine, like a light dust on top of the gratin. I grate day-old bread on a fine grater.
6 cups thinly sliced fennel (see note)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon flour
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons chopped fennel frond (the feathery leaves)
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh, finely grated bread crumbs
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8 by 8 inch baking dish
Cut the thick stalks and fronds form the fennel bulbs and remove the tough end and any tough, blemished outer leaves. Slice the fennel bulb thinly using a mandolin or the food processor, about 1/8 inch thick.
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to hold the sliced fennel. Whisk in the flour until you have a smooth, pale paste. Pour in the wine and heavy cream (measure them together in the same jug) and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in one Tablespoon of the chopped fennel frond and cook until the sauce is thick and coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the sliced fennel and a few generous pinches of salt and stir to coat. Scrape the fennel into the prepared baking dish and spread it out into an even layer.
Mix the breadcrumbs, parmesan and remaining chopped fennel fron together. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the gratin. Bake the gratin for 30 – 40 minutes until a knife slides easily into a piece of the fennel. Serve hot.
Serves 4 – 6
Note: I created this recipe to make the most of fresh, young tender fennel. I use about 6 bulbs that are pale green and about 4 inches across. If you use the mature, white fennel common at grocery stores, you will probably need about 3 bulbs. The young fennel can be sliced right through, but the larger white bulbs need to be halved and the triangular hard core cut out. The large bulbs may need a longer cooking time as well.
The first spring weekend of farmers market season is exciting. I am ready for all that fresh produce with a new treat arriving each week and little surprises on every visit. I know that I am closer to juicy strawberries, my first tomato in months, bright, sweet corn and so many things. I know it is all about to start. But in reality, that first Saturday is a little sparse. The greens lingering from winter, a few spring flowers, but not the spectacular array soon to come. S on the first market day this year, I came away mostly with baked goods and a restock on pastured meat. Not a huge haul, but still a fun trip.
As I unpacked my oilcloth market bag at home, I took stock of my purchases and realized I had leeks, bacon, eggs and goat cheese. Flamiche! In the fridge I had some local milk and cream, and with a quickly made piecrust, I was ready for a very elegant, locally sourced spring lunch.
This quiche-like tart is a traditional Belgian dish, with the old-world flavors of smoky bacon, salty goat cheese and jammy leeks. When I buy leeks fresh from the farmer, there are sometimes a few very thin pencil leeks in the bunch. I like to press them into the top of the filling before baking, because it is such a lovely presentation. You can slice right through them or pull them off before serving. I like the look of my square tart pan, but round is beautiful too.
Belgian Leek, Goat Cheese and Bacon Tart
If you buy your leeks from a farmers market and they are thinner than grocery store varieties, you will need more.
1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
2 large leeks or 3 medium (4 cups sliced), white and pale green parts only
¼ cup butter
½ cup water
8 strips of bacon
5 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Fit the prepared crust into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Slice the white and pale green part of the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice each half into thin half circles. Place the leeks in a large bowl of cold water and swirl around with your hands, shuffling to separate the layers of leek. Leave for a few minutes to let any dirt settle to the bottom of a bowl. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Scoop the leeks out of the water and shake to drain somewhat (do not pour the leeks and water into a strainer, the dirt will just fall back on the leeks) then add to the melted butter. Stir to coat and then stir in the ½ cup water. Cook for a few minutes, until the leeks begin to reduce in bulk, then cover, lower the heat to low and cook for 20- 25 minutes until the leeks are soft and semi-translucent. Stir occasionally during cooking and add a drop or two more water as needed. Do not let the leeks brown. When the leeks are soft and pale, uncover and cook a few minutes more until any liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool. (The leeks can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered, until ready to use).
While the leeks are cooling, cook the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the cooled leeks evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart crust, smoothing the top. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle over the top of the leeks. Chop the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle in the tart. In a small bowl or 4 cup measuring jug, whisk together the milk, cream, whole egg, yolk and pepper. Pour this custard over the filling in the tart. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.
This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.
Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet
For the Black-eyed Peas
4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices
Half of a small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas
3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained
Salt to taste
For the Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Black-eyed Peas:
Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods. I buy whole squashes at the last farmers markets, and when I see pre-cut pieces in the store, I buy those up too. I make pasta sauces and quick soups, I roast and mash. Get creative and go simple. I generally find myself with a surfeit of squash as I tend to get a little over-excited when they are in season. As I write this, I see there are three large squashes on my counter, and I know there is some leftover soup in the refrigerator.
Though butternut has its own unique flavor, I frequently use it interchangeably with pumpkin and even sweet potato, so I wondered how it would work in a pie, would it just be the same as standard pumpkin or sweet potato, or would there be a difference? And a little bit to my surprise, there is a quite a difference. Butternut squash is earthier, sweet, but with a rougher edge. I worked with my basic recipe and added woodsy, warm spices that really highlight the unique flavor of the butternut, particularly aromatic clove. This pie turns out a beautiful dark umber color, rich from the spices and squash. A dollop of whipped cream, flavored but not overly sweetened with grassy sorghum is a perfect accompaniment. Serve this at Thanksgiving, or any autumn meal. I promise, your guests will be surprised and intrigued – and pleased.
Butternut Squash Pie with Sorghum Whipped Cream
For the Pie:
Pastry for one 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready-to-roll
1 ½ pound butternut squash
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
For the Sorghum Whipped Cream:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon sorghum
For the Pie:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place a piece of foil on the rack of the oven (to catch drips) and place the butternut squash on top. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is completely soft when you squeeze it (wearing an oven mitt of course). Remove the squash from the oven, and holding it with a folded tea towel, cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard, then scrape the flesh into a wire mesh strainer set over a bowl. Make sure there is no skin attached. Using a spatula, press the flesh through the strainer completely. There are no solids left behind. This will give you a smooth purée perfect for pie. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the edges as necessary. Line the crust with waxed paper and fill with beans or pie weights and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes until partially cooked. Remove the paper and weights and set aside to cool.
Beat the eggs and sugar together with a whisk. Add the cooled squash purée, the heavy cream, the bourbon and the spices. Beat until everything is thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape the filling into the pie shell and bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until the center is set with just a little wobble to it. Shield the edges of the pie crust to prevent overbrowning about halfway through the cooking. Cool the pie completely, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.
Serve chilled with a dollop of Sorghum whipped cream.
For the Whipped Cream:
Pour the sorghum and the cream into a small bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat the cream to stiff peaks form. Serve immediately.
Makes ½ cup
Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers. I cook a turkey bigger than my family could ever eat on the day, I make huge amounts of dressing, I even cram some in a loaf pan to bake so it can be sliced to fit on a sandwich. My shopping lists include good bread, cheese and condiments for next day sandwiches. I’ve made Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam and Rosemary Pear Butter months ahead to spread on those sandwiches. After the fun of a formal meal, it’s nice to gather the next day (usually at someone else’s house, lucky me) very casually, in jeans and comfy sweaters, to enjoy our own sandwich creations.
If the leftovers are a big part of your tradition, or if you have guests around the house through the weekend, add this salad to your plans. As long as you are buying (and peeling) all those sweet potatoes for the big meal, it’s worth the little extra effort to have this stashed in the fridge. It is an absolute dream next to a turkey sandwich, better than a bag of chips, and looks like you really went that extra mile. Earthy sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart cranberries and rich maple syrup create a symphony of fall flavor. If your fridge is full to bursting, you can store this in a ziptop bag in a crisper drawer to take up less room.
A word about process. Don’t be tempted to do that TV chef-y thing and put the potato cubes directly on the baking sheet, casually drizzle over oil and roast. When you do that, there is inevitably too much oil, and the potatoes steam rather than roast, so they don’t get those nice, crisp edges, but are mushy and soft. Lightly toss the potatoes with a small amount of oil in a bowl, rubbing around with your hands to get a little coating on each cube, then lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a baking sheet (I line mine with non-stick foil for easy cleaning), leaving any extra oil behind. I do this with all my roasted vegetables,
Autumn Sweet Potato Salad
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ cup maple syrup (grade B amber)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 – 4 fresh sage leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Ground black pepper
4 green onions, white and some dark green parts, finely chopped
2/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch pieces. You want them to be bite-sized and roughly the same size so they roast evenly. Toss the potato cubes with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Use your hands to make sure every potato cube has just a slick of oil on it. Lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, until a knife easily slides into a potato piece. You want them to be cooked through but not mushy. They should still hold their shape and have a little bite. Cool the potatoes to room temperature.
Put the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil until you have a creamy, emulsified dressing.
When the potatoes are cool, gently toss them with the chopped green onions, pecans and cranberries. Pour over the dressing and toss until all the potatoes are coated. It’s fine if you prefer not to use all the dressing, but reserve the remainder in case you want to add some later.
Refrigerate the potato salad, tightly covered, for several hours or up to a few days.
Sweet potatoes are a foregone conclusion on the Southern Thanksgiving table. I would never consider serving mashed white potatoes at the big meal. For most of my life, I only had sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, though a pie may have snuck in at some other time during the year. I have now discovered the joy of sweet potatoes, though, and eat them year-round in all sorts of ways, sweet and savory. But on Thanksgiving, there is just no question.
I grew up with the marshmallow topped version, which never really did much for me. I think that may be the reason I never explored sweet potatoes much further. When it came my turn to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast though, I worked out a dish of Sweet Potatoes with Cider, Maple and Orange that has been the standard on our table for many years. But every once in a while, change is good. There is however, a strange feeling that comes up. I’ve made that same sweet potato dish for a decade at least, and everyone always tells me how much they enjoy it. And when I presented this new version, it got raves. “Best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.” I love it when the family enjoys what you cook and take great pleasure that I have done right by them. But then there is that niggling sense in the back of your mind…”What was so bad about the ones I’ve been cooking you for all these years….”
Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel
Yes, these potatoes are rich. I don’t want to hear it. It’s Thanksgiving, live a little!
For the Sweet Potatoes:
8 medium sweet potatoes
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup bourbon
¼ cup cane syrup or sorghum
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup cream
For the Streusel:
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the Sweet Potatoes:
Peel the potatoes and slice them ¼” thick ( a mandoline or food processor makes quick work of this). Melt the butter with the brown sugar, bourbon, cane syrup and salt in a large skillet that will hold the potatoes, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the potato slices and stir to coat. Layer one half of the potato slices in a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Pour over half of the syrup from the skillet. Layer the remaining potatoes in the dish and pour over the rest of the syrup.
The potatoes can be cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight at this point. When ready to bake, remove form the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
For the Streusel:
In a food processor, process the sugars, the cinnamon, salt and flour for about 1 minute. Add butter; pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Refrigerate the topping, covered, in a medium bowl until ready to use. It can be made up to a day ahead.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°. Pour the ½ cup cream over the potatoes, drizzling it into all the nooks and crannies. Spread the streusel evenly over the top of the potatoes. Bake the casserole for one hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can slide a knife easily through the center, the sides are bubbling and the streusel is golden brown. You can cover the dish loosely with foil if you feel the top is getting too brown too early.
Serves 8 – 12, depending on how much food is on the table!
I do give thanks for biscuits. And I love a little biscuit bite in the Thanksgiving bread basket, particularly when they are made seasonal with the addition of sweet potato. These angel biscuits use yeast to get an extra rise, which is helpful when you add the dense potato purée. Make sure you potato is cooked through and soft to create the smoothest purée.
I like these biscuits in their purest form, but you could add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon if you want to, or even some very finely chopped fresh sage. They are delicious with plain butter, but a little honey or sorghum stirred into that butter takes them up a level. And they make a great breakfast treat or party snack, stuffed with a sliver of ham or leftover turkey and a cranberry sauce. Feel free to cut them as nice big biscuits or little bite-size babies.
Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits
1 large sweet potato, about 12 ounces (to yield 1 cup purée)
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast
5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lilly)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk
¼ cup melted butter
Prick the sweet potato all over with a skewer or a thin knife. Microwave the potato on high for 12 to 15 minutes until it is very soft when squeezed. Alternately, you can bake the potato in the oven for about an hour. Holding the potato with a folded tea towel, cut it in half and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork to a smooth purée. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Stir the sugar and warm water (about 105°) together in a small measuring jug. Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until it is foamy.
Stir the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend the butter and flour on low speed until the butter is the size of small BBs. You want some butter blended in, but the visible small pieces of butter help make the biscuits fluffy.
Stir 1 cup of the buttermilk into the potato purée, mixing vigorously to create a smooth liquid. Add this to the flour and butter, add the yeast mixture, and beat on medium speed, just until everything comes together. If the mixture is dry, add a little of the extra buttermilk until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to pull everything together. Pat the dough out to a circle about an inch thick. Dip a cutter into flour and press it into the dough and pull up (don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t rise). Place the cut biscuits in the prepared cake pans, fitting them in tight with the sides touching. Pat any scraps together and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. If you want to brown the top of the biscuits, turn the broiler on, and watch carefully until they start to brown. You can brush the hot cooked biscuits with a little extra melted butter if you like.
If you’d like to make these biscuits ahead, you can refrigerate the unrolled dough tightly covered for up to 2 days, then proceed with the recipe. To make them further ahead, roll and cut your biscuits, place them on a baking tray and freeze for an hour or so until solid. Transfer to a ziptop bag with all the air squeezed out. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time as needed. If you don’t serve these fresh from the oven or have leftovers, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven.
Makes 12 2-inch biscuits