Meet 5 teeny-weeny cures for your pandemic blues.

By Stacey Ballis
May 24, 2020
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By now, you've seen that viral pancake cereal all over social media. There is definitely something completely charming about a bowl of tiny pancakes with a dollop of butter melting on top and a drizzle of syrup. This feels like a particularly pandemic-friendly trend, since it takes a lot of time, appeals equally to children and adults, requires no specialized equipment, and results in something eminently ‘grammable.

Pandemic or no pandemic, tiny food is always fun. And I am as vulnerable as anyone else to its charms, having recently made tiny little croissants and pain au chocolats with some croissant dough given to me by a pastry chef pal. I mean, look how tiny!

Stacey Ballis

So, the question is—social media trends aside—which foods are actually worth making tiny versions of? Here are my top five, but first ...

Three Rules of Tiny Baking:

1. Baking Time: The main thing to know about making smaller foods is that they will bake much faster than regular sizes, so you will have to pay much closer attention to them. I recommend sticking close to the oven or pan, since you can burn or overcook stuff in mere moments.

2. Baking Temp: You may also want to slightly reduce the oven temp, because sometimes with little bakes the outside can catch before the middles are done.

3. Baking Barrier: And I always use either parchment or silicone baking sheets to really ensure that delicate miniatures make it off the pan.

Tiny Food Star #1: English Muffins

This was my own contribution to the tiny food movement, and I am not sorry. English muffins are easy to make, delicious at any size, and you are only limited by the size of your cutter! Why did I make little one-bite English muffins, you ask? Simple. One, once you cut out your initial round of regular size muffins, you are left with dough to re-roll and re-cut, and those muffins will never rise or be as full of holes as the initial ones. So, I thought making tiny ones would use up that dough, which it did, beautifully. Here's a peek at how they came out!

Stacey Ballis

Get the recipe: English Muffins

Also, I can make a whole meal out of little appetizers. If you’re like me, think about tiny one-bite English muffin pizzas, little mini Benedicts with poached quail eggs or mini McMuffins with little fried quail eggs. I always love a burger on an English muffin instead of a bun, so why not sliders? Or top a toasted garlic-buttered muffin half with a half a saucy meatball under some melted mozz for a one-bite meatball sub situation. If you have small kids who have a tendency to eat two bites of a muffin half before abandoning, making little ones to stash in your freezer is a perfect way to cut down on muffin waste! This also holds true for biscuits, if you are not an English muffin fan.

Tiny Food Star #2: Crackers

If you are making homemade crackers, and I sincerely hope you are, making them small makes them snackable. Think about the size of Cheez-Its and you will know what I am talking about. You can cut in squares easily, but also feel free to make little shapes if you have small cutters. My favorite cracker to make small is Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for goat cheese chive crackers from her book Cookies. I use a ¾-inch round cutter, make them the size of pennies, and put them in bowls for munching. Bliss.

Tiny Food Star #3: Cookies

While it goes without saying that some have taken the pancake cereal obsession to a Cookie Crisp place, tiny cookies are just fun, and while I don’t personally recommend them in a bowl with milk, I do recommend them as a fun little addition to a bowl of ice cream, as decoration on a cake, or packed in little snack bags. My favorite cookies to make small are French macarons, classic shortbread, and little chocolate chips using the mini chips.

Tiny Food Star #4: Meringues

Whether you make them in tiny drops the size of chickpeas or little one-bite kisses, meringues in miniature are fun to pipe, easy to make, and actually really great to have around. They are snackable on their own, but you can also add them to other desserts like ice cream sundaes or mousses as a crunchy garnish, coat them in chocolate for a fun confection, or use as part of my favorite summer dessert, the Eton Mess. Plus, meringues freeze well (no matter what the size), so you can keep a stash on hand.

Tiny Food Star #5: Meatballs

We all know how much fun a slider-size burger is, but mini meatballs are easier to make and infinitely more versatile. Just think of bites about the size of the meatballs in a can of SpaghettiOs for scale. You can make any flavor profile meatball you like, from classic Italian, to sweet and sour cocktail, to gingery Asian versions. Beef, pork, lamb, veal, poultry… whatever you are in the mood for. This is a great project for small hands, easy to eat, great as an appetizer, tossed into pasta or rice, or used as toppers on pizza. You don’t even have to brown them: Just bake on a sheet pan or cook right in your sauce. I have gone as small as half-teaspoons, but a scant teaspoon is my sweet spot.