Although it wasn’t always so clear, it’s obvious to me now what my last meal on earth would be, if I got to select and enjoy it under some set of undesirable circumstances. Potatoes. Dough. Done.
Potatoes are an equally necessary indulgence to me, which probably has a lot to do with my midwest roots. These, too, I’ll consume in nearly any form: gratin, baked, mashed, chips (yesssss!!!!), french fries. I was always the kid at the Thanksgiving table filling half her plate with mashed potatoes and gravy, or counting the days on the elementary school lunch calendar until mashed potatoes with turkey gravy appeared in all its sodium-laden goodness.
So imagine my delight when Pizza Lucé, a must visit, veg-friendly Minnesota pizza joint, became my first introduction to POTATO PIZZA. I think it was in college, but if not, then surely during my late nights in the office during tax season, back in my accounting days (PS, happy almost tax day!). Specifically, PL does a baked potato pizza, in which slightly smashed, buttery spuds are spread onto a decently thick pizza crust in lieu of marinara sauce, topped with cheddar, tomatoes, thick cut bacon, and roasted broccoli, and baked off to bubbly perfection. My east coast husband would disagree, but I find that creation to be my ideal food, ever. And if it was my last meal on earth, I have to say I would NOT pick off the bacon. No sir.
I won’t completely discredit the east coast potato pizza scene, though, because a new favorite, Coalhouse, right down the road in Stamford, took my potato pizza adventures to a more sophisticated, widely appealing place. When I took the first few bites of their rosemary/Gruyere/potato combo (the “Born Under a Bad Sign”), with the Yukon golds sliced ever so thin and drizzled lightly with olive oil, I thought that exact version had to appear on the blog.
Somehow, though, in my wandering food brain, Coalhouse’s cozy, winter-perfect potato pizza morphed into this slightly fresher, slightly sassier Mediterranean sweet potato pizza. It’s not at all shy on flavor, but it’s perfectly balanced. The sweetness of the potatoes won’t overwhelm you, because there are briny olives, just-tender red onion, nutty Gruyere cheese, and the requisite garnish of salty parmesan and fresh ground pepper. All that piled onto one of the very few thin crust pizzas I will be caught sinking my teeth into. My ultimate crust will always be doughy, thick, Chicago-style, but this homemade spelt crust somehow passes muster, and with flying colors. Maybe because it’s so easy to throw together on short notice, or because it stays just a little chewy even when rolled paper thin, or because it’s hardly adapted from Green Kitchen Stories, and I think it’s impossible for them to produce a bad recipe.
Hopefully you’ll say the same about me after taking this pizza for a test run.
One note on the order of the toppings: please don’t mess with it! I tested a couple different orders, and here’s why this one works. Basically, everything steams under the potatoes. The onions tenderize and the cheese melts beautifully. The potatoes, being par-cooked, don’t need to worry much about cooking through, so they hang out on top and get a little color and crisp around the edges. Everyone wins. Especially you.
- 1 C warm (105 degrees F) water
- 2 t instant dry yeast
- 2 t kosher or sea salt
- 2½ C spelt flour, plus more as needed
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 large sweet potato
- ¼ C basil or herb pesto
- ¼ C olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ¼ red onion, sliced very thin
- About ⅔ C sliced kalamata olives
- 2 C coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
- ¼ C (or more) finely grated parmesan cheese
- Ground black pepper
- In a medium mixing bowl (the deeper the better), mix warm water with instant dry yeast and the salt. You don’t need to wait for it to bubble but will know immediately by the smell if it’s active. Stir in 2 cups spelt flour with a wooden spoon, then add the remaining ½ cup flour in ¼ cup increments until dough is cohesive enough to knead. Turn out onto a lightly floured (with more spelt flour) counter or board and knead vigorously for a few minutes, adding more flour if the dough remains sticky, until it forms a smooth ball that’s only a little sticky. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixing bowl, add the ball of dough, turn to coat (adding a little more oil if needed), and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to double in size, one to two hours. If you don't have a really warm spot, the dough may take a little longer to double, but it should still rise.
- Turn the doubled dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple times. Either refrigerate the ball, wrapped in plastic wrap, until ready to use, or shape into two 12" pizzas (or save half the dough, if you’re only feeding 2 to 3). Press and stretch the dough on a floured baking sheet or peel (if using in conjunction with a pizza stone) until it’s as thin as you can get it without tearing. I use a rolling pin towards the end to even everything out.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, then add the unpeeled sweet potato. Boil 15 to 20 minutes, until just tender. When pierced with a skewer or paring knife, you should meet some resistance in the middle. Drain and peel. When cool, slice very thin, then cool between sheets of wax paper, storing in the fridge if making ahead of time.
- Preheat oven to 450. If using a pizza stone, make sure you’ve already heated it gradually so it will withstand high temperatures without cracking. Mix pesto and olive oil in a small dish and brush onto the crust(s), almost to the edge. In order, top with red onion, olives, Gruyere, and sweet potato slices, slightly overlapping the potato. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake on the baking sheet or transfer carefully to the pizza stone, for about 15 minutes, until crust is crisp and slightly browned and cheese is bubbling around the edges. Sprinkle with parmesan and black pepper, then serve asap!
If making the dough ahead of time, it helps immensely to bring it to room temperature before rolling. It's more elastic and will be far less prone to tears.
Prep and cook times do not include inactive time for dough to rise.
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