The Lebanese, we love our kinfolk. Our kinfolk may be descended from the old country, they may be cousins who are cousins by blood or by affection, they may be neighbors who know when you’re home and when you’re not.
Or they may be you and me, who love everything about gathering over good food, prepared with good will. We are kin, the best of.
Maybe our deep love of kin drew me to first the Kinfolk magazine (that reads more like a book. No ads) and now to the Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings cookbook by Nathan Williams (Artisan 2013). The small gatherings part is special. It tells us that we don’t have to do backflips and send out engraved invitations, or even invite everyone on our hit lists, to come together with our people. Granted, the Lebanese have never been known for their small gatherings, which is why I find a lesson or two in this cookbook. There’s a place for our crazy big-ness, but keeping it small and simple can also mean keeping it more often, more do-able, and sometimes, more…better.
I can’t take my eyes or hands off of the Kinfolk cookbook either, which is filled with vignettes about creative people living full, deep lives all over the world. Just a snippet of each one, a taste, and a photo or two, and a recipe or two. It’s all so cool it makes you want to up and be more like them. Or realize that maybe you are a little bit like them, and that’s darn good.
My pick from Kinfolk Table for our holiday tables is a recipe for sweet potato biscuits. The dough is heaven in the hand, as light and airy as the gently sweetened biscuits. Something about putting your own bread, roll or biscuit in the oven for Thanksgiving gets the baker and everyone else in the room (lots of them, or just a few) feeling excited, and happy to be together.
Sweet Potato Biscuits from Kinfolk Table
This recipe is adapted from Kinfolk Table, and comes from Austin and Ashlyn Sailsbury, newlyweds (a writer and a teacher) who up and moved to Copenhagen where they live amid lots of candles and many of their favorite southern recipes from home. To make a buttermilk substitute, squeeze a teaspoon of lemon into milk (whole or 2%) and let it sit for 10 minutes. The sweet potato puree can be made a day ahead. Makes about 12 biscuits.
1 big sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup chilled buttermilk
In a small saucepan, cover the sweet potato pieces by an inch with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, then simmer for 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender.
Drain, mash, and cool the sweet potato to room temperature (to speed this up, spread the potato on a plate and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes).
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, or a food processor, whisk for a minute or pulse five times the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter or pulse it in just until it resembles small peas.
Mix the buttermilk with the sweet potato puree in a small bowl and add it to the flour-butter mixture, stirring or pulsing just until combined and still very shaggy.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, gently kneading together just enough to make a cohesive dough. Roll the dough out to about an 8-inch circle 1 1/2 inches thick. Flour a 2 1/2-inch round cutter and stamp out the biscuits very close together. Arrange them about 1 inch apart on the prepared sheet pan.
Bake the biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden. Serve warm with softened butter.