This was one of our favourite lockdown lunch creations from last May. We were still on ‘the garden’ topic at school which inspired our hummus garden toasts, but I wanted to make something with the children that felt like a proper morning’s project.
You can make the dough completely by hand, but there’s absolutely no shame in using a mixer to do the kneading or indeed a bread machine to do the whole dough stage for you. We did! I knew the attention span of my 5 and 2 year old at the time would not have stretched to 10 minutes of pumelling dough, plus it speeds along that first rise.
We tried a couple of different fillings on different days: garlic mushrooms, spinach and goat’s cheese (my hands-down winner!), and a more traditional tomato, mozzarella and olive (unsurprisingly, the children’s favourite), but you can use any of your favourite pizza toppings really. Treat the recipe below as a rough guide and get creative!
Served warm from the oven, the snails have a crisp crust and a deliciously chewy, squidgy middle.
- 400 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp sundried tomato paste
- 1 handful mixed olives, stoned
- 2 balls mozzarella, diced
- 2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
- 1 egg, beaten
- salad (snail food) to serve
- Mix together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Stir the oil into 280 ml of warm water then stir it into the dry ingredients.
- Knead the mixture on a lightly oiled surface for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Leave the dough to rest, covered with oiled clingfilm, for 1–2 hours or until doubled in size. Alternatively, use the dough setting on a bread machine to mix and prove the dough.
- Set aside about a quarter of the dough to make the snail’s bodies. Roll out the rest of the dough on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle. Tack down the top edge of the dough to make it easier to roll later (literally smear it onto the work top with your thumb).
- Spread the dough with tomato paste, leaving a gap at the top (it’s helpful to draw a do-not-cross line to remind over-enthusiastic little ones). Scatter over the rest of the toppings as evenly as possible.
- Roll up the dough tightly, starting with the edge closest to you, then tack it closed to seal. Use your sharpest knife to cut the roll into eight equal pieces, then transfer them to two greased, lined baking trays.
- Divide the reserved piece of dough into eight pieces and roll each one into a sausage. Snip the end into two antennae and add to the snail shells.
- Put the baking trays into proving bags if you have them (or large clean carrier bags if you don’t) and leave to rise somewhere warm for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. If mine need a little encouragement, I sometimes pop a (not-too) hot water bottle underneath.
- Preheat the oven to to 220°C (200° fan) / 425F / gas 7. Remove the proving bags and brush the snails carefully with beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through to the centre. Delicious served warm, but still lovely at room temperature.
- Store any leftover snails in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. Defrost then revamp with 8 minutes in a moderate oven.
- You can use pesto in place of the sundried tomato paste or try stirring a little Dijon mustard into some creme fraiche for a pizza bianca vibe.
- For the mushroom filling, saute diced mushrooms with garlic in butter until browned. Stir in a few handsful of spinach and cook until wilted. Leave to cool completely before scattering over the dough with cubes of goat’s cheese, chopped walnuts, chopped parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan.