Muffuletta Mini-Pizzas

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  24 mini-pizzas
Prep Time:  1 hour 5 minutes Resting and Chilling:  12 hours 30 minutes Cook Time:  25 minutes

Muffuletta Mini-Pizzas

These mini-pizzas are a little bit Italian-American but with a decidedly New Orleans twist. I created this for my fantasy meal for the Duplass brothers, NOLA natives. But why the pizza? Mark Duplass gave an interview where he discussed the downfall of his uber-healthy day that ends, oh-so-realistically, with anchovy pizza. As a lifelong dieter, I feel for you, Mark. As a cook, I invented this recipe. As a nice person who understands the vagaries of dieting, I made them mini, so you can eat as much as you want with, ahem, far less guilt. Now, you can choose from several game plans for these mini-pizzas: Mix up the muffuletta the day before before you plan to serve and prep the dough at the same time and chill it overnight. Or you could make the muffuletta the day before and prep the dough the morning of, letting it rise at room temperature for an hour or so. Overnight pizza dough has a different texture and taste that this cook definitely thinks is better—so much better in fact, that I make pizza dough the overnight way all the time.

Ingredients

Muffuletta:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

2 small stalks celery, leaves included, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 carrot, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (see Kitchen Tips)

1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves

3 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, stems and seeds removed (see Kitchen Tips) or best-quality jarred roasted red pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice

6 anchovy fillets, drained and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 cup pitted green olives, Castelvetrano preferred, chopped (about ½ cup)

1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped (about ½ cup)

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Pizza Crust:

1 (¼-ounce/7-gram) packet instant yeast  (about 2¼ teaspoons)

1 cup warm water (85°F to  100°F) (see Kitchen Tips)

1½ cups (204 grams) bread flour 

1 cup (130 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter, well softened or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon (12 grams) kosher salt

2 tablespoons cornmeal or semolina flour, for dusting

 

Topping:

12 fresh plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, halved lengthwise,  and patted dry with a paper towel

1 pound fresh mozzarella, patted dry with a paper towel and cut in ¼-inch thick slices (24 to 28 slices)

Instructions

  1. Make the muffuletta spread: Heat the oil in sauté pan set over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the shallot, reduce the heat to  to medium, and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and browned at the edges. Add the celery, carrots, thyme, and oregano, reduce the heat to medium-low, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the carrots are softened. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 45 to 60 seconds, until fragrant. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, along with any accumulated juices and oil.
  2. Add the roasted peppers, anchovies, olives, capers,  vinegar, and pepper and stir to combine. Scoop the mixture into a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
  3. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, ½ cup of the water, and the sugar. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes or until foamy.
  4. Add remaining water, 1 cup of the bread flour, the butter or oil, and salt. Mix at low speed until combined; then gradually add the remaining bread flour and the all-purpose flour and mix until they are fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for an additional 5 to 6 minutes. The dough will clean the sides of the bowl and stick to the bottom just a little. It is a smooth, soft, but not tacky dough. Transfer to an ungreased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and refrigerate overnight (or if you would like to make and eat these right away, you you can let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 to 1½ hours).
  5. Preheat oven to 500°F.
  6. Lightly flour a work surface and place the chilled dough on it. Divide it into 24 (1½-inch) balls; each will be equal to about 4 teaspoons of dough. Using a rolling pin and moving the ball in your hands to create a circle shape (and also to make sure it is not sticking), flatten into 3-inch rounds, about 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick.  If the first ball of dough does not stretch and flatten easily or snaps back, cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap or a with floured kitchen towel and allow to sit to relax the gluten for about 2 to 3 minutes. The last pieces you roll will be the easiest, since they will have had additional time to relax while you were rolling the other pieces.
  7. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and dust them lightly with cornmeal or semolina flour to prevent the dough from sticking. When the dough has rested, place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between pieces.
  8. Top the crusts on two of the baking sheets with a slice of tomato and a slice of mozzarella. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 8 to 11 minutes, until the cheese has melted completely and the edges of the crust are browned and and puffy. Remove from the oven, and prepare the last sheet pan of mini pizzas with tomatoes and cheese and put the third baking sheet in to bake, again for 8 to 11 minutes.
  9. Top the baked mini-pizzas with a generous tablespoon of muffuletta. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

  1. To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, hold the sprig (or a few) at the top with one hand, and with the other hand, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently slide your fingers down the stem. The leaves will be pushed against the direction they grow in, and will come off easily.
  2. You can make homemade roasted red peppers on a grill, gas stovetop, or in the oven. To grill peppers, heat a grill to high heat. Rub each pepper with a little olive oil and place on the hottest part of the grill. Let the peppers grill, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin blackens all around. If you prefer to roast them the night before, preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub each pepper lightly with a little olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until tender but not brown. If you have a gas stovetop, you can put the oiled peppers right on the grates of the hottest, highest flame you have and allow them to blacken all round, turning them occasionally with large tongs and working in batches as necessary. Whichever way you cook them, place the warm peppers into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature. Peel off the skin. Cut open and remove the stems and seeds. It’s fine if there is a little burned skin left on the peppers. Do not rinse them. Proceed as your recipe instructs.
  3. Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it—between 85°F and 100°F—but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
  4. You can bake these pizzas as directed, without a baking stone, but the intense bottom heat of a pizza stone will make a better crust. Place the stone into the oven when you turn it on to preheat.  Just be careful, as baking these minis directly on the stone can be a bit unwieldy. One always wants to slide off the wrong way and onto the rack below or the oven wall.

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