Serving up handheld mini cheese pizzas
Appetizers come in all types and flavors. When those flavors include the classic tomato, mozzarella and basil combination of pizza, appetizers are sure to fly off of the serving tray. During peak entertaining seasons, having a bevy of appetizer options at the ready helps ensure successful celebrations.
This recipe for “Pizze Fritte” from Daniel Paterna’s “Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food & Family” (Powerhouse Books) makes for tasty appetizers or even a fast Friday night dinner. Cooks can decide if they want to make homemade dough and sauce or use prepared options. Also, consider making mini calzones to accompany these handheld pizzas.
Serves 8 to 10
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl to drizzle
31⁄2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
Combine the yeast, sugar, warm water (just warm to the touch) in a large bowl. Whisk to mix and let sit about 3 minutes until bubbly.
Coat the bowl of a standing mixer with olive oil. Arm the mixer with a dough hook, then place 2 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix at medium speed about 1 to 2 minutes until a rough, sticky ball of dough comes together, adding a little more flour or water as necessary.
Let the dough rest for 5 minutes in the mixer. Then mix on low about 1 minute until the dough is no longer sticky.
Oil your hands, transfer the dough to a lightly floured board or the dough to an oiled bowl and cover the surface of the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. (A less labor-intensive alternative to the above would be to buy some pizza dough from your corner pizzeria.)
Toppings (maintain at room temperature):
1 pound of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small, thin slices
1⁄2 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons dry Italian oregano and 1⁄2 cup torn fresh basil
Freshly made sauce, or Don Pepino All-Natural Pizza Sauce is a good alternative if you are pressed for time.
Working on a lightly floured board or the kitchen counter, pinch off enough dough to make a 4-inch-round mini pizza.
Place it on the floured baking sheet. Continue in this manner until all of the dough has been used. Set the mini pizza crusts aside to rise for at least 30 minutes.
Add canola oil with a drop of extra virgin olive oil to a 10-inch skillet, over medium heat. When the oil reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a deep-fry thermometer, add two to three pizzas to the oil. They cook very quickly. Fry for approximately 2 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden.
At this point, turn the pizzas over and very carefully top each one with a slice of mozzarella. The moisture in the cheese will cause the oil to splatter, so it’s best if you keep it from sipping off the crust. Remove the pizzas from the oil when the bottoms are brown and place them on a platter. Add sauce, grated cheese, oregano, and basil, if using, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve.
Alternative: Take the risen dough rounds, add a teaspoon of ricotta cheese and a slice of mozzarella cheese. Fold in half and pinch the edges to make mini calzones. Fry until golden.