butternut squash and leek drop biscuits

for me, one of the best things about fall is the sudden and almost overwhelming availability of butternut squash. i'll take it roasted with some brown sugar and butter, in a curry-spiked soup, thrown in a gratin, or just mashed into a dreamy whipped pile of yum. so, when considering what to cook for my first foray into the world of blogging, all i knew was that it would be butternutty. i also thought it might be nice to begin with something that i have a history with, one of the first things i can remember cooking, something i'm still perfecting: biscuits. oh, and just to challenge myself, i wanted it to be something i'd never even heard of. these ideas led to just one option, butternut squash biscuits, which, wonderfully, turned out to be delicious.
with such an unassuming exterior it's difficult to imagine the richly saturated orange hue of the sturdy flesh inside, and it can even be a challenge to reach those innards.  i like to begin by chopping the sucker in half, right where the longer head of the squash meets the bulbous base. i then cut off the very top and bottom, and continue cutting in that way, again and again, until i have about 5-7 round pieces of squash, each about 1-inch thick. this makes it much easier to cut the peel from each individual round, and to remove the seeds, saving the precious flesh from over-zealous peeling. once you've peeled and seeded, you cube. you roast, you mash, you blend, you drop, you bake. you swoon.
it really is a fairly simple recipe, and the final product is completely worth the effort. when i decided to make these biscuits, i had to consider exactly how i would make them, as i mentioned before they are not something i've ever had before or even heard of. but sweet potato biscuits are something i know a thing or two about, and i figured i could adapt a known recipe with the butternut squash. i also happen to love leeks and thought they'd make a lovely addition, with a little brown sugar and butter roasting along with them. and the secret ingredient, the one you can't quite put your finger on but really makes these special, is something i threw in after tasting the dough and deciding it needed something: cumin.
to preserve the incredibly moist nature of these biscuits, i gave up on a drier, more pliable dough that could be cut into neat rounds, and went with the easy drop biscuit technique. they may not be beauty queens, but they've got what counts, deliciousness. the next time i make them, i'll line my baking sheet in parchment paper rather than buttering it as the bottoms became a little brown, other than that though, they are perfect. enjoy with a savory chicken stew or sweeten them with some brown sugar butter. or just gobble them up right out of the oven, it's hard not to.

Butternut Squash and 
Leek Drop Biscuits

Yields: 12 Biscuits

1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3-4 leeks, cleaned well, stalks and roots removed, sliced into 1/2-inch rings
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 °F. Toss squash and leeks with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and olive oil or butter in a foil-lined baking dish. Roast until very soft, 30-35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then mash with a fork, potato masher, meat pounder, or implement of choice, until squash is a smooth-ish consistency and leeks are mixed in well. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cumin together in a large bowl. Add cubed butter to flour mixture; toss to coat and blend with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in about 3/4 cup mashed squash-leek mixture and the buttermilk to the flour mixture; knead lightly just until dough comes together. Add a bit more flour if dough is very sticky, though some stickiness is inevitable. Using a large spoon or 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop dough and drop in 12 domes (about the size of half a tennis ball) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush gently with melted butter. Bake in the middle of the oven until puffed and golden on top and tester inserted into center biscuit comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly, then dive in!