I’d really like to tell you that this was a quick, fun and easy recipe that makes for a great snack to bring to parties or entertain with. But it wasn’t. It was really difficult and frustrating. Hopefully next time that won’t be the case with the experience and skills learned in the two or three hour-long process. I have a newfound respect for pizzas the size that they’re supposed to be. I’m always happy to put in some effort on food that’s being served to friends though, so if you share this value, then these baby pizza pies can be an impressive show of handiwork.
I know you’re probably thinking I could have used English muffins instead of making the dough from scratch. Pile them with sauce and cheese and stick them in the toaster for all it’s worth. But I already did that throughout grade school to make as afternoon snacks, so how boring would that be? No, I went and used a yeast pizza dough recipe. Hand-stretched, and cut into 4-inch or so circles with the top of the tomato can. The basic pizza dough recipe I used came from the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (12th Edition–the thing has more incarnations than a cat).
Getting the hang of this (get it–hang?)
The reason I had so much trouble is really from all the time it took to make the individual rounds of dough. I didn’t have any surface large enough to cut more than four rounds at a time, and the leftover scraps after the circles were made had to be kneaded again, sometimes re-wetted, and re-rested for a few minutes. I went through this procedure maybe eight times. Also, make sure you don’t place the rounds of dough in a pile unless they’re very well-floured. I didn’t follow this and erased fifteen minutes of work after a pile of ten rounds became completely stuck to one another.
Mini Party Pizzas
(Makes 25-30 4-inch pizzas)
Pizza dough (recipe below)
About 3 cups of tomato sauce (my basic recipe below)
About 4-5 cups mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
Sprinkle of fresh herbs for garnish
Once your dough has been kneaded, separated into two balls, and has rested for a few minutes, take each ball and stretch it out carefully. Use the back of your hands mostly, and start with the middle. Then move along the edges and rotate the dough in the air with the back of your hands. Once the dough becomes almost paper-thin, being careful not to make any holes, place onto a large surface. Cut the dough into small circles using the top of a large can, cup or small bowl, and place onto a floured baking pan.
Top each pizza with a spoonful of tomato sauce and some cheese, and bake in a 400-degree oven for about ten minutes. You can usually hear the cheese when it starts to sizzle and bubble as an indicator. Top with some fresh herbs for garnish, and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, 12th Edition:
Makes 2 pan or thin-crust pizzas
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons cooking oil or olive oil
1. In a large mixing bowl combine 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; add warm water and oil. Beat with an electriv mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. [I just stirred with a wooden spoon and it turned out okay --Ed.] Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6-8 min. total). Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Use to make pan pizzas or thin-crust pizzas.
Basic Tomato Sauce
1 large can of whole peeled plum tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 Tb olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Pinch of basil and/or oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, sautee onions in oil until just turning translucent. Smush the tomatoes with your hands as you pour them into the pan along with all the juices in the can. Bring tomatoes to a boil. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and spices and lightly simmer covered for at least an hour. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.
(for 25-30 mini pizzas)
for the dough
Flour, yeast, salt: $0.30
for the sauce
can of whole peeled tomatoes: $1.69
can of tomato paste: $0.59
1/2 cup diced onion and 2 cloves garlic: $0.25
Olive oil, salt, pepper, spices: $0.10
4-5 cups shredded mozzarella: $2.50
Sprinkle of fresh herbs: $0.05
Four brownie points – pizza isn’t generally considered a health food, but that’s part of why it makes good party food. When you make things like sauce and dough from scratch, you know exactly what you’re getting nutritionally. The only thing I watch out for is the sodium content of canned tomatoes and tomato paste, which is usually very high. It doesn’t hurt to compare the content levels of a couple of brands in order to decide which one to buy.