This month, lucky children all over Oklahoma are off to the pumpkin patch where they’ll pick the best of this year’s harvest with one end in mind: the mighty jack o’ lantern. A few industrious kids might go so far as to smash the filling to make pies, but most of the pumpkins will simply end up shriveled on the threshold by the month’s end – their once-ghoulish grins sagging.
Worst-case scenario, the pumpkin will actually get pushed off the steps into the flowerbed where it will, in the spring, create a wild pumpkin vine, something I know all too well about from personal experience.
To be honest, I’d like to avoid this whole situation but the reality is my daughter, now 3, is finally getting to the age when she can scoop with real enthusiasm. My plan is to put my pumpkin to good use with a bright, sunny breakfast treat from Malawi, in southern Africa, called Mbatata. These beautiful, sunrise-colored biscuits are traditionally made with sweet potato, although pumpkin strikes me as the perfect seasonal variation.
Malawi is affectionately called the Heart of Africa because of the warmth and friendliness of her people. Similarly, these biscuits have been the happy heart of my breakfast table since I first tried them last winter. When served straight from the oven, split and spread with softened pats of butter, this is about as moist and tender as biscuits get.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that sweet potatoes and pumpkins are healthy. It’s just a win-win when you put them in biscuit form.
4 tbsp. salted butter
1/3 c. milk
3/4 c. baked, mashed sweet potato or pumpkin
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking pan. Roast the sweet potatoes or pumpkin until soft; be sure to slit sweet potatoes with a knife so they don’t burst. This can take up to an hour. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees. While the sweet potatoes or pumpkin are still very hot, add 3/4 cup to a bowl with the cubed butter. Allow the heat of the sweet potatoes or pumpkin to melt the butter; if you’re making this with cold, leftover sweet potatoes or pumpkin, melt the butter before combining the two ingredients. Add the milk, pinch of ginger and salt. Stir in the flour and baking powder. The salmon-colored dough will be very moist.
On a heavily floured board, with heavily floured hands, press the dough flat, about one inch thick. Dip a cookie cutter into flour to keep the biscuit dough from sticking, then cut biscuits out of the rolled out dough. Lay the biscuits on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden, just like the glimmer of the perfect sunrise. Enjoy with a softened pat of butter. Makes roughly eight biscuits.
Recipe adapted from World Cookbook for Students.