Last week my husband David offered to do the grocery shopping for us, not knowing that I had tasked him with finding sweet potatoes – not yams, sweet potatoes. He was up for the challenge of doing this (in a foreign country, no less!) and succeeded in finding the biggest sweet potatoes I’ve every seen from our local organic market.

This week I went to pick out some more, but unfortunately I failed at distinguishing between yams and sweet potatoes. However, all is not lost because the taste is fairly similar. After some research, I learned some of the key distinctions between these two root vegetables:

  •  The inside of a yam is white, whereas the inside of a sweet potatoes is orange
  • Sweet potatoes are higher in beta carotene
  • The skin on a yam is rougher and browner, whereas the skin of a sweet potato is smoother and has more of an orange hue
  • Both yams and sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and good carbohydrates and are low in fat
  • When it comes to protein and vitamin A, sweet potatoes do win out over yams, but both are still nutrient-dense foods

Now that we’ve all learned a few more yam facts, let’s move on to why I decided to purchase this vegetable this week in the first place. Before we moved to France, my friend Brian taught me his recipe for a thick-crusted Italian Focaccia pizza. One of his signature combinations includes potatoes, caramelized onions and oregano. I’ve always experimented with different types of sweet toppings on pizzas, so I thought I’d play with the potato focaccia recipe. The result? A focaccia topped with yams, apples, caramelized shallots and fresh mozzarella.



Yam Apple Focaccia

***Note: this dough only takes 2 simple steps, but it has to be made the night before you plan to serve it.

  • Author: Rachel VanDuzer, Rachel's Farm Table


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 ¼ cups water at 80 degrees
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup water at 105 degrees
  • 1 heaping tablespoon salt
  • 1 small or medium yam/sweet potato
  • 2 medium crisp apples such as Honeycrisp, Stayman-Winesap or Cameo
  • 2 shallots/onions
  • Plenty of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil or parsley to garnish


  2. The night before you plan to bake the focaccia, make your “poolish.” In a very large mixing bowl, mix together the first 4 cups of flour, yeast and 2 ¼ cups of 80-degree water into a very goopy mixture called a poolish. Cover it with plastic wrap or a tea towel and set it aside at room temperature overnight.
  3. MAKING THE DOUGH: The following morning (12-14 hours later), check your poolish mixture. It should be very bubbly and have bubbles that come to the surface and pop every few seconds.
  4. Next, mix together the flour and salt. Measure out the 105-degree water. The temperature is very important! If your meat thermometer doesn’t read this, try using your household digital thermometer.
  5. Pour (most of) the water around the edge of the poolish to loosen the mixture from the side of the bowl. Add the flour and salt mixture and combine by hand until the mixture resembles dough, adding the remainder of the water or additional flour if necessary.
  6. Stretch the dough mixture once or twice, roll it under on itself so that it forms a nice smooth ball. Cover the mixture and leave it out at room temperature for 6-8 hours more. (If you do not plan to use it that evening, refrigerate the dough, covered, up to one week. Just be sure to allow it to reach room temperature before baking.)
  7. BAKING THE FOCACCIA: Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  8. Choose a cookie sheet with at least a ½ inch rim. Generously coat the cookie sheets with olive oil. Divide the dough into two or three equal parts. Divide into two parts if using large (15×10 or 17×11) cookie sheets, three if using anything smaller than that. Stretch the dough evenly onto the cookie sheet (work it under your fists first if needed). Brush the top of your focaccia lightly with olive oil.
  9. Finely slice the yams, apples and shallots on the pizza dough. Caramelize the shallots in olive oil. Arrange the yams in a layer on top of the dough, then add a layer of sliced apples. Sprinkle generously with salt and garlic powder.
  10. Bake approximately 10 minutes, then add cheese and caramelized shallots and bake 5-10 minutes more until the dough is cooked through and toppings are golden brown. Garnish with fresh herbs, slice and enjoy!

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