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Sweet Potato and Rosemary Focaccia Pizza

July 11, 2010

You just read the title of this post.  I bet I know what you’re thinking about me.  It’s probably something along the lines of, “what is she thinking?  It’s summer for crying out loud.  Why is she not only making something that requires the work of a hot stove and oven but also screams Thanksgiving when it’s July!”  Well I have two very good answers for you.

1. We had a load of sweet potatoes in the house and needed to use them.

2. So although this recipe is admittedly quite Autumnal with the sweet potatoes and walnuts, sometimes a person must succumb to their desires and cook up their favorite foods. If I were to make a list of all of my favorite food categories, this recipe would be in multiple ones.  For example, it fits into the orange food category and orange colored foods are my favorite of colored foods i.e. sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, apricots, peaches, etc…  They have lovely beta carotene and are kinda savory/sweet and scrumptious. This dish also fits in the category of fall foods, which are my favorite of the seasonal foods.  Among things like apples, cinnamon, cranberries, and other delights, this category also consists of about half of the orange foods I listed including, you guessed it, sweet potatoes.  So to any purists who only eat food that is in season, have fun waiting for fall.  I don’t care though, I’m going to eat my sweet potatoes and hey, maybe making fall dishes will convince the weather Gods to bring in a cold front.  Who knows?

But anyway, this is a slight rendition of a recipe by Martha Stewart that I found on her website.  I really do like that lady.  Yes, she can be a little pompous but she knows how to cook and its quite possible that she’s done everything that anyone could ever do with food.   So anyway, be prepared; you will find that Martha will be a focal inspiration throughout my cooking.

This was my first time making focaccia though and it was a very pleasing experience.  For starters, it was the first time I got to use our food processor to make dough.  Secondly, focaccia dough is the coolest stuff in the entire world.  I thought I was going to be struggling to pull this dough into a rectangle but it was delightfully stretchy and puffy.  I completely did not expect it when I pressed down and a million tiny little bubbles popped as the dough gushed through my fingers like silly putty mixed with sponges.  I could have squished that stuff around forever…but I didn’t cause it literally took like 5 seconds to make the tiny ball the size of the sheet pan.

The end result was very delightful and actually turned out to be more Summery, light, and refreshing than expected.  The focaccia was thin and crusty like pizza crust but much more tender with its millions of air pockets holding the toppings up like little pillows.  The Parmesan got nice and crispy on the edges making for a delicious crust.  And every now and them I would get a PERFECT bite that culminated the toasty nuttiness of the walnuts and cheese with the earthiness of the rosemary, and the candied and soft sweet potatoes, all on that crispy crust.  Yum! But overall this is very unique spin on pizza and a definite for making again (plus it looked pretty cool too and made for delicious breakfast the next day).

Rosemary and Sweet Potato Focaccia Pizza

For the focaccia

1 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast

1 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp sugar

½ cup plus 2 Tbs. warm water, about 110 degrees

1 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. olive oil plus fore for the bol, pan, and plastic wrap

1 ½ cup plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

salt

¾ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts

2 tsp. finely chopped  fresh rosemary

24 caramelized sweet potato rounds

For the caramelized sweet potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups water

2 Tbs. brown sugar

salt

Start by preparing the focaccia dough.  Stir together the yeast, sugar and the water in a bowl and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes until it gets foamy.  Then, pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a food processor (fitted with a dough blade) along with 1 tsp. salt, the olive oil, and flour.  Pulse the food processor until a dough ball forms inside and keep pulsing a few more times to knead the dough a bit.  Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball and then place it into an oiled bowl.  Roll the dough around the bowl to coat it with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free area for about 20 minutes until the dough doubles in size.  After the 20 minutes preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Take out the dough and place it on a well-oiled baking sheet.  Press the dough into a rectangle flipping it around to make sure both sides are covered in oil.  Stretch out the dough to your preferred thickness (thin for either a crispy crust and thicker fro a breadier crust).  Cover the dough with a oiled piece of plastic wrap and return the dough to the warm, draft-free place for another 30 minutes.

While the dough rises make the caramelized sweet potatoes.  Wash and peel the potatoes and then cut into about ¼ inch rounds.  You will have more than you need for the pizza but that’s okay.  The leftover potatoes are a tasty snack.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet on a medium heat.  Add the potatoes and cook them, turning them occasionally to make sure both sides of all the  potatoes get a little color.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic and keep tossing the potatoes around for about another minute.  Add the water and let it simmer until the potatoes are tender but, still slightly firm and holding their shape.  Drain almost all the excess water and return the skillet to the stove.  Sprinkle the potatoes with the brown sugar and salt and continue turn them in the pan until the potatoes are caramelized, about ten minutes.  Cook longer if you would like them to be tenderer.

Now prepare the pizza.  Remove the plastic from the focaccia dough and lightly dimple the surface with your fingers.  Sprinkle on the cheese, walnuts, and rosemary, and arrange the sweet potato rounds in an even layer, pushing them down slightly.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the pizza in the oven.  Cook for 5 minutes. Rotate the pan and cook for 15 more minutes.  Rotate the pan once more and cook for 5 more minutes until the edges and bottom are crispy and golden.  Drizzle with oil if desired and it cool about five minutes before serving.

-Katie

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