The forests surrounding Hollyhock are teaming with nettles in the early spring. Take the afternoon to find your local nettle patch. Revel in the time and precision necessary to harvest these prickly spring buds, while you dream of the divine balance of salty dough, sweet roasted sweet potatoes and spice wills-crafted pesto topped with creamy chèvre. You’ll be glad you took the time. We were.
Makes 2 12″ Pizzas
1 1/2 cups Stinging Nettle Pesto
- 1 cup warm water (about 115°)
- 2 tsp honey
- 3 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1+ cup unbleached white flour
- 3 cups sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ cubes (no need to peel)
- 2 cups asparagus, cut thin at an angle
- 5 oz (140 g) chèvre
- a little extra flour or cornmeal and coarse salt
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the honey with the warm water until dissolved. Gently is the yeast into the water. Allow to rest 5 minutes or until the yeast bubbles up to the surface. Add the oil, salt and whole wheat flour and mix well with a wooden spoon or mixer. Slowly begin to add the white flour while mixing. When the dough is firm enough to knead, transfer to a dry floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Continue to knead for two minutes, always folding the dough over itself and pressing and pushing in a circular motion. Depending on the grind of flour you are using, you may need to add a little more. The dough is ready when you can punch your dry fist in and pull it out clean. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm spot for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size, whichever comes first. Our favourite spots for rising dough are sunny windows or floors, beside wood stoves and on top of dryers.
Preheat oven to 450°. Drizzle the chopped sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 20 – 30 minutes.
Turn oven up to 500°. If you’re using a baking stone, place it in the middle of the oven and preheat for 45 minutes.
Punch the dough down with your fist, popping all the air bubbles that have developed. Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls. Keep one ball covered with a damp cloth while you work the other dough. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to start working through the dough into a flat round. When it is about 7″ across, lift onto your well-floured fists and stretch it to 12″ across. The dough should be elastic enough that this is very easy. Transfer the finished round onto a pizza peel or an overturned baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkled with cornmeal. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the edges o the crust and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Spread 1/2 of the pesto onto the pizza, top with 1/2 the roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus and crumble 1/2 the chèvre. Put the pizza in the oven or slide off the baking sheet and onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 15- 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings. Enjoy immediately.
Moreka Jolar is most fired up when creating good eats and motivating others to do the same. Her career has taken her from Vancouver’s artisan bakeries to busy island retreat centres. She has been a chef at Hollyhock for 15 years and co-authored the bestselling cookbook, Hollyhock Cooks and just recently, Hollyhock Garden to Table (Spring 2013). Moreka’s passion for fresh, inspired foods is as infectious as her laughter. cookscooperative.com