Pizzetta | Little hands at work and play


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When my son was born, one of the things that I was waiting for was to be in the kitchen together. I was not really allowed to help with cooking growing up. The occasional baking I was allowed were done completely independently and would almost come out of the oven completely burnt. When we first moved back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, we had an open kitchen. From in between watching Blippi, he would walk over, take a few onions and sit on the floor removing their skins. I would give him little cups of water and he could spend an hour pouring it back and forth. nAround the time of weaning, he would bring his kitchen toys, set it on the floor and tell me what he was doing. I was thrilled when I felt he was ready to help me with a  simple recipe. One day we made oatmeal cookies. I have a picture of helping himself to remnants of the cookie batter on the spatula he was holding. That was the beginning of us cooking together and it has been wonderfully messy yet fulfilling. We’ve ticked off a lot of cookie and cupcake recipes. This year we started baking bread and one of the first recipes we made were these mini Pizzas. 


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One of the first things baby A would help me in the kitchen with was measuring. He would sit on the counter top and I would hand over the appropriate measuring cup and let him know the number of cups he needed to measure. At the cusp of 3, he could count to ten. He would then dig deep into the flour bin, giggling when he had created flour dust  and I would watch as some of it settled on his eyelashes. Almost a year later, he was comfortable leveling the top of the cup with the back of the spoon. This time when we made the dough, I watched part amazed and part proud how independently he had the flour ready. We chatted about why yeast smells a bit funky but how it is crucial for making fluffy bread. Asking him to knead is always met with a shout of delight and he quickly works his little fingers just like how he would when he would use Play Doh. Once it all comes together, I let him lift the top of the stand mixer and let him know what speed it needs to do its work. At this point, he knows the dough is going to take a while to rise and he’s out of the kitchen to wash his hands and in all probability get back to his LEGO workshop. 


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After making that dough from scratch, this recipe get a bit cheeky. I must admit I’m almost embarrassed to even put this out here. The pizza sauce. There’s no peeled garlic and no plump tomatoes blanched. No simmering for an hour and no stirring of fresh herbs. Involving children means the recipe methods must pander to their attention span and patience (and yours 😉 ). Someday when this little one grows up a bit more,  we will create pizza sauce for scratch. For now, it doesn’t get easier than this. Tomato ketchup is combined with mayonnaise and a sprinkle of oregano flakes and stirred till it turns well, peach. That’s it. And it surprisingly works! It’s a bit tart and a bit sweet and the Oregano lends some authenticity to this bizarre substitute.


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For toppings, you could get stick to your favourites or be ‘inspired’ by the contents of your refrigerator.  On this particular day, I had some unused gravy from my Butter Chicken Lasagna I had made earlier that week. I transferred it into a hot pan and let it cook down till it reduced and then I gently prodded the chicken in the pan itself till it was completely shredded. Accompanied by a few black Olive halves and Jalapeno slices, it made for a resourceful way to finish up my leftover Butter Chicken. As for the little guy, his requests are pretty much always just Pepperoni and Cheese. You could try Sausage rounds, thinly slivered Eggplant or even some Samosa mince that couldn’t make a whole filling.


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Be generous with your cheese. If it were a time where I was walking through the supermarket aisles myself, I would have bought some fresh Mozzarella. For now, it will have to be grated cheese and I won’t skimp on it. A loves this bit. It’s a task for little hands to make sure the cheese is sprinkled all over on the pizza alone and he would end it by picking up and redistributing the strands that fall on to the baking sheet. 

Baking time can be as little as 15 minutes but if your cheese hasn’t melted completely you could wait for another 5 minutes. Any more and you risk burning your Pizzetta bottoms especially if you’ve decided to roll your bases out thinly. The Pizzettas are best eaten about ten minutes after they’re out from the oven. The cheese should have cooled just enough and the right temperature for little fingers to handle. They’ll love to eat these with all the effort they’ve put in.  


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Pizzetta

INGREDIENTS

  • Active dried Yeast – 1 tsp

  • Warm water – 1/4 cup

  • All Purpose Flour – 2 cups

  • Sugar – 3 tsp

  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp

  • Salt – a pinch

  • Butter, room temperature – 3 1/2 tsp OR 50 g

  • Milk – 1/4 cup

  • Water – as needed

  • Olive oil – as needed

  • Grated Mozzarella Cheese – as needed

ASSEMBLY

  • Tomato ketchup – 6 Tbsp

  • Mayonnaise – 3 Tbsp

  • Dried Oregano – 2 tsp

  • Your choice of toppings

METHOD

  • Stir the yeast in the warm water. Set it aside for 15 min or until its foamy on the surface.

  • In a clean bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix them.

  • Add the butter and milk and gently stir them into the flour mixture. The butter doesn’t have to be completely combined just yet.

  • Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture.

  • Start kneading the dough using medium pressure. Add water sparingly as needed to make the dough smooth.

  • Once the dough forms a ball, knead by hand or a stand mixer for 10 minutes. It is ready when the dough springs back slightly after you press a finger into it.

  • Gently pat a little olive oil on the surface of the dough.

  • Use a few drops of olive oil and spread it inside a large bowl. There should be enough room for the dough to rise.

  • Place the dough inside the bowl and cover with a cloth or cling wrap.

  • Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour minimum and a maximum of 4 hours. The dough should double in size.

  • On a clean surface, use your hands to flatten the dough into a large rectangle.

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.

  • Use a rolling pin and gently roll out the dough. It should have a thickness of half an inch.

  • Use a small metal bowl or a circle cookie cutter and cut out mini circles. They should be roughly the size of your palm.

  • Transfer these to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil making sure they are an inch apart from each other.

  • Combine the Mayonnaise, ketchup and oregano together.

  • Spoon this mixture on top of each Pizzetta round.

  • Add your pizza toppings.

  • Cover generously with grated Mozzarella.

  • Sprinkle a pinch Oregano over each Pizzetta on top of the cheese.

  • Bake the Pizzettas for 15-18 minutes. The dough would have puffed slightly and the cheese should be completely melted.

  • Serve them warm.

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