Pizza Cupcake-Muffin-Popover-Pockets...or something

I did not want to make pizza tonight. It felt boring and standard, and something I just did at the start of the summer. However, with the heat settling into the neighborhood and the ensuing thoughts of heavy dishes and prolonged times with the oven cranked up to 350+ degrees, I found myself scrambling for a light-but-filling, relatively quick cooking dish. All my family could talk about was pizza. Go figure. So, determined to acquiesce to their requests without sacrificing my integrity, so to speak, I went on a recipe hunt. My Blackle search (google for those of us energy-conscious enough to use efficiently colored web pages but not so hard core that we actually stop using our beloved technology), turned up a wonderful little recipe for pizza cupcakes. Ah ha! Perfect: undoubtedly pizza-y, but with a little twist to keep me on my toes.

Of course, this means that I have not altered my pizza dough recipe to take into account my previous attempt's criticisms/thoughts/musings, so you will likely be seeing pizza again this summer. In normal form. Still, the recipe turned out well, particularly considering how much improvising I did and when taking into account the all-out war I waged with the dough trying to get it into the muffin tins. More on that later.

You can find the recipe for the pizza dough over here, and the inspiration for these wonderful cupcakes at The Cupcake Project. Feel free to follow the dough and filling recipes there, take a look at mine (filling and tomato sauce "recipes" below), or think up your own! Mine was more of a bruschetta pizza pocket, while the one at The Cupcake Project was a squash and feta combo that sounds delicious (but, unfortunately, wildly unpopular with the rest of ma famille). I had enough trepidation over the - oh my goodness - tiny dices of tomatoes as the filling to dare putting in such a frighteningly different veggie.

Here's the general gist of how to put these together (though really, you should check out the link above for the real instructions):
1. Take the pizza dough and wrestle them into muffin tins. If you come out of it unscathed (re: without smudges of flour on your clothes and dried bits of dough on the backs of your arms, forehead, etc.), I commend you, and must know your secrets. I have no method for this. In the end, I got so frustrated with the dough clinging to me, sinking down, puffing up, and letting holes form in itself that I took balls of it, shoved it down into the bottom of the pans, and punched it with my fingers until it stuck to the sides. If that's a method, go for it. I somehow imagine that there is a simpler, more peaceful way of going about it, though.
2. Put some cheese on the bottom of each cupcake/muffin/thing.
3. Add the filling.
4. Put some more cheese on top.
5. If you're me and used your dough inefficiently due to aforementioned war, and therefore have little left over to top the little buggers with, do your best to work the dough up and over the tops, and use the little bits you have on your rolling mat to patch it up. Really, getting it to mostly close is fine.
6. Pop in a 425-450 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
7. Here, you were supposed to take them out, remove them from the tins, place on parchment lined baking sheets and top with the sauce (recipe below) and more cheese. I forgot to do this, and left them in the pans. I think the only thing mine missed was a little 360 browning action.
8. Cook for another minute or so, just until the cheese is melted, and serve!

Bruschetta (ish) Filling
Yield: enough for approximately a dozen pizza cupcakes?? I shall get better at this recipe-generating-and-sharing business. I'd guess it made around a cup. Ish.
The Ingredients
1 1/3 large tomatoes
1/2 - 3/4 white onion
1 segment orange bell pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic (ish) (really, normal garlic would probably be ideal - again, in a household slightly more conventional than mine)
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil (dried, what I had on hand)
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

The Method
1. Chunk the onion and bell pepper and combine in a food processor, chopping until as fine as you can stand it (I attempted to make mine as pureed as possible in the hopes of slipping it into my dinner recipients' mouths unnoticed).
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, taking care to also chunk the tomatoes. Process until a desired chopped-ness. The mixture will look fairly watery at this point.
3. Strain the mixture through a sieve, reserving the liquid. Set the bruschetta mixture aside.

Quick Imitation Tomato Sauce
Yield: Maybe 1/2 cup. It's exactly enough to "frost" the cupcakes.
The Ingredients
All of the reserved tomato juice
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (again, real garlic would be ideal)
1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. corn starch (desperate non-sodium attempt at thickening it before relenting and adding the paste)
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil (dried)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
scraps of hand-peeled tomatoes (you don't have to be crazy like me and do this: I had some scraps of tomato left so I sliced them like I would a cantaloupe to get it off of the rind, and then chopped them a little and stuck them in.)

The Method
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce slightly to thicken.
2. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for roughly 10 minutes, or until it looks like the right consistency. Be sure to mash the chunks of tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon if you are crazy like me and chose to use them.

I served these alongside zucchini chips (coming soon!) and some fresh fruit. It wasn't the most wowing meal ever, but it was a fun and new way to use pizza dough. I love all of these insert-filling-of-your-choosing-here recipes, that can be substituted and mixed and matched to your heart's content. It makes me feel like I'm developing an arsenal of chameleon recipes that will give the illusion that I am constantly concocting new and exciting and impressive things. And you can achieve this illusion, too - no one has to know the truth. Your secret's safe with me.

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