Italian Appetisers

COCCOLI: FLORENCE FRIED BREAD BALLS

Coccoli are simply fried bread balls, salty, oily and highly enjoyable.

Small in size, these bite size treats are perfect comfort food, which may have had a role in their moniker, coccola, Italian for cuddle or pamper.

You can find them served in paper cones for a to-go snack, and many trattorie in Florence offer these as a perfect bar snack to enjoy with a glass of Chianti or Vermentino, accompanied by stracciatella cheese and prosciutto – preferably on a piazza in Florence, while watching the sun set over the Duomo, or Santa Maria Novella, or Ponte Vecchio.

 

Makes dough for two 12-inch pizzas

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 package yeast (scant 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • Frying oil – vegetable, canola, peanut
  • Stracciatella, stracchino or other soft fresh cheese – burrata, fresh mozzarella
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Pecorino cheese

If you haven’t used your yeast in a while, begin by proofing the yeast to make sure it is still active. Combine the yeast and warm water in a large bowl. After a few minutes, bubbles should form. If nothing happens after 10 or 15 minutes, discard and begin again with fresh yeast.

By hand:

Add the salt and olive oil and mix well. Stir in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. As you incorporate the last 1/2 cup of flour, the dough should become to stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a floured counter and begin to knead. Continue kneading until smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes or so. Try to use as little flour as possible during  the kneading process; the less flour you use, the lighter the dough. The dough should be tacky, even sticky. You can do this in a stand mixer if you prefer.

Food processor version:

Place the water, yeast, salt, olive oil and 1/2 cup flour into tne bowl of your food processor. Pulse a couple of times until combined. Add 1 cup of flour, and pulse a few more times – the dough should come together into a ball that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. Add the last 1/4 cup flour if it does not come together, and pulse again a few more times. Once it is in a ball, put the processor on “Start” and allow to run for 2 minutes. Watch as it processes; you may need to add a bit more flour if the ball falls apart into a sticky dough, and some food processors have a tendency to ‘walk’ along the counter top a bit while processing a heavier dough. You don’t want it taking a tumble.

All versions:

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces – maybe some for pizza, some for coccoli? Sprinkle flour over the dough, flour your hands and shape each piece into a ball. Place each ball in a medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil and turn the ball to coat it in the oil. Place each in a large plastic bag and put in the refrigerator to rest overnight, or up to 5 days. Note, at this point you can freeze any extra dough just as they are in the plastic bag for up to 3 months.

To fry the Coccoli:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to warm up a bit, maybe an hour or so. Flour your fingers and begin making balls about the size of a walnut. Work with the dough gently so that you don’t knock the air out of it. Fill a heavy, medium-sized saucepan 4 inches deep with frying oil and heat. Test the oil by dropping in a small piece of dough

When the oil is fry-ready, carefully ladle the coccoli balls into the oil. You will need to work in 2 or 3 batches. The coccoli will puff up after a few seconds. Fry for 5 minutes or until they are a light golden brown. Use chopsticks or a spoon to rotate the balls ensuring a nice even color

Scoop out the coccoli with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle with salt and, while still warm, break them open and fill each with a scoop of stracciatella and a prosciutto crudo.

 

 

 

 

 

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