Sweet potatoes are kinda awesome. Until recently, I had no idea that they contain more nutritional value than any other vegetable. Who knew? So why not sneak them into something like bread to make it even more delicious! Since this bread is fairly sweet, it goes really well with rosemary. I also think that olives could be a great addition to add a little contrasting flavor…but here is how I made this batch and it was damn tasty if I do say so myself! This was basically a focaccia pizza so I would consider it a meal, but you could definitely slice it up into smaller portions for an appetizer.
Since I’ve been kickin’ it to Tom Waits a lot recently, I highly recommend that you do too. I love the albums Rain Dogs and Real Gone. Dude gets dIIIRty! I love it! Plus, there are a few songs on there that I can practice my swing dance moves too. Have I mentioned I like to dance around while I cook? Cause I do. Definitely makes food taste better.
1 cup of boiled sweet potatoes, riced or mashed
1 package of active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp maple syrup
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sea salt
few pinches of black pepper
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
Caramelized Onions (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup fennel, thinly sliced *
1/2 cup red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
6-8 artichoke hearts, halved
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large red onion
Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
*note: if you buy fennel that still has stalks and fennel fronds on it, save some of the fronds to chop and sprinkle on the focaccia. Any unused fennel can also be saved and used to make vegetable broth.
First off, you’ll want to boil the sweet potatoes. One medium potato should yield about 1 cup of mashed or riced potato. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the potato and cut into 2-inch chunks. Try to make sure that all the pieces are as close in size as possible to ensure even cooking. Boil until tender, about 10 minutes or so. Strain out the water and mash ‘em up! I chose to use a ricer, but mainly just because I actually have one and wanted to photograph it. I’m sure good old fashion mashing works just fine.
Now you’ll want to proof your yeast. By adding active dry yeast to some warm water and some sort of sugar, you’ll be able to determine if it is viable. The yeast feeds on sugar and this starts the fermentation process. In a small bowl, combine one package yeast with 1/2 cup hot water (somewhere around 110 degrees) and 1/2 tsp maple syrup. Allow this to sit for about 10 minutes. During this time the mixture should begin to foam and rise. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to buy new yeast.
In the bowl of a standing mixture with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, 1 tbsp sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Stir to combine. With the machine on low, add in the proofed yeast, 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil, sweet potatoes and about 1 cup of hot water. Continue mixing until all of the ingredients are well combined. I actually do most of the kneading process using the mixer because I have tendonitis, but you could (and probably should) knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for a good 5 minutes or more.
Brush a large clean bowl with a bit of olive oil and place the ball of dough inside. Cover with a clean cloth and place the dough someplace warm so that it can rise until it has doubled in size. This should take about an hour.
While the dough is rising, you can chop up the veggies and caramelize your onions.
1 large red onion, sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and cook until they start to turn brown. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally to make sure they aren’t burning. Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil either one large rimmed baking sheet or 2 smaller ones. It’s great if you can use the kind that come up about 1-inch on the sides. It helps to roll the dough out a bit so that its easier to press evenly into the pan/sheet. Press your finger tips down into the dough (all over) to create dimples, then drizzle a bit of olive oil on top. Bake for about 10 minutes without any toppings on it. Remove from the oven, add on the caramelized onions, fennel, peppers, artichoke hearts, pine nuts and fennel fronds.
Bake again for about 15 minutes, or until the bread looks golden in color. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a bit of coarse sea salt and allow it to cool slightly before serving.