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The Asian and African Roots of Molasses

Buttermilk biscuits, this and other recipes below


Here's the second installment in my series on molasses and Atlantic food ways. So what is molasses made out of anyway? there are two ways to make molasses: one uses the sweet sorghum plant and the other uses sugarcane. Sweet sorghum is a sticky grass indigenous to Africa. Like sugarcane, The Portuguese most likely introduced sweet sorghum to the New World during the Atlantic slave trade. The sugarcane plant is indigenous to Asia. The Portuguese first introduced its large-scale cultivation from Asia to the island of São Tomé off the coast of Africa in the fifteenth century using enslaved African laborers. Travel accounts tell us that before their arrival in the Americas, West Africans women merchants traded, sold, and made sweets from sorghum and sugarcane. Today you can find sorghum molasses, which is sweeter than regular molasses, in some stores. Try my buttermilk biscuit recipe below then cut a hot biscuit in half, butter it, and pour some sorghum on it. I can’t think of anything better with a cup of tea, coffee, or juice in the morning.

Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups spelt flour 1/8 teaspoon baking soda to up the flour rise/ or use 2 cups self-rising flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup sugar
4 tablespoon vegetable shortening
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream/half and half works too
1 cup buttermilk, or until dough is like cottage cheese
1 cup whole-wheat flour for shaping the wet dough into biscuits
2 tablespoons melted butter to brush over the baked biscuits

Method
Preheat the oven to 425; spray cook sheet or cast iron skillet with non-stick spray; combine dry ingredients except for the 1 cup flour for shaping the dough; stir in buttermilk and cream and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Flour your hands and softly shape your biscuits. If you’re rushing, use an ice-cream scooper. Place the biscuits tightly against each other on wax paper so they will rise up instead of out. Sprinkle with flour then place then on the sprayed surface for baking. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with the melted butter and serve (makes about 10 biscuits).


Molasses and Atlantic Foodways Series: http://www.foodasalens.com/search?q=molasses+recipes

Molasses and Social Standing in Colonial America

Molasses and Atlantic World Foodways Series