Recipes for Perfect Little Bites

Get the party started with easy—yet impressive—mix-and-match canapés
Mini Buckwheat Pancakes, Oven-Baked Crostini, and Cucumber Canapés topped with mix-and-match spreads, prosciutto, shrimp and mushroom

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Those stylish toasty bread bites with artistically placed toppings you see at catered affairs are easier to make at home than you think. They have a fun name to say, too—canapé (pronounced KAN-uh-pay), which is French for bite-sized open-faced sandwiches. “Would you like a KAN-uh-pay?” Sounds more impressive than “Would you like some potato chips?”

They are made with three parts: bases, spreads, and toppings, says Twin Cities chef and Saint Paul College Culinary Arts instructor Jason Ross, who created these recipes for Real Food. In addition to the popular crostini bread base, you can get creative with mini pancakes and cucumber bases plus different spreads and toppings from shrimp to prosciutto or herb-roasted mushrooms.

Here is a selection of recipes—for all three parts—you can mix and match to make a variety of perfect little bites for the big game-day party or any upcoming get-together.

Bases

Canapé bases should be small. People eat them standing up—chatting, maybe holding a drink in their other hand—so keep it to one bite. It is important to have a selection of flavors and textures. While mostly hidden underneath, the base can be the most creative part of the canapé.

Mini Buckwheat Pancakes

Makes about 12 to 15 mini pancakes

Buckwheat flour gives these mini pancakes a little extra flavor and bite. Substitute bread flour or all-purpose flour if buckwheat is not available.

1¼ cups warm milk
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
pinch plus 1½ teaspoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
pinch salt
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons butter for cooking

  1. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together warm milk, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Allow it to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. Combine buckwheat and all-purpose flour and stir into yeast mixture with a spatula until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm space for 1 to 2 hours until batter rises and nearly doubles in volume.
  3. Whisk the buckwheat batter to deflate.
  4. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together the egg, salt, cream, and remaining 1½ teaspoons sugar. Whisk the egg mixture into the batter until smooth.
  5. Heat a large skillet or non-stick pan over medium heat, and grease with a little butter. When the butter is melted and hot, but not browned, spoon in tablespoons of pancake batter into small circles. Cook the pancakes on one side until distinct bubbles rise and the edges are nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and finish cooking the other side. Remove pancakes and cool on a plate.
  6. Serve pancakes cooled and topped with spread and garnish.
  7. Pancake batter can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored covered and cooled in the refrigerator. The pancakes also can be made and then stored covered and cooled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Oven Baked Crostini

Makes about 12 to 15 crostini

Try these crispy and crunchy crostini for everything from canapés to cheese plates.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Use a serrated knife to cut ¼-inch slices from half of a French baguette. Lay slices on sheet pan in a single layer. Brush bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil on both sides and season with ½ teaspoon salt and a pinch black pepper.
  3. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove tray from the oven and flip bread slices over. Return to the oven and brown bread on other side for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove bread from tray when cooled and store wrapped in a container, unrefrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Cucumber Slices

Cucumber is an easy and fresh vehicle base.

  1. Cut 1 large English cucumber into slices about ½ inch thick for 12 to 15 pieces. Leave skin on for bright green color. Use a melon baller to scoop out a depression into the seeds of the sliced cucumber.
  2. Fill the scooped depression with spread and finish with favorite topping.

Spreads

Spreads need to connect the flavors of the toppings with the base and also keep the toppings from falling on the floor! Use enough spread to give flavor and support the topping, but not to overwhelm. Depending on the size of the base, a 1-tablespoon smear is good. Here are spread options using a basic recipe for cream cheese mousse with a few flavor options.

Cream Cheese Mousse

Makes 1 cup, enough for about 15 canapés

Choose blue cheese, chives, or sun-dried tomatoes to flavor the mousse.

4 ounces cream cheese
pinch salt
pinch black pepper

Choose 1:
4 ounces blue cheese crumbles
¼ cup minced chives
¼ cup minced sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

  1. In a food processor or medium mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, mix the cream cheese, salt, and pepper until softened and smooth. Make sure to work out any lumps.
  2. If using a food processor, transfer to a medium bowl. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, and depending on which mousse you are making, fold in blue cheese, chives, or sun-dried tomatoes. Fold in whipped cream.
  3. Use a spoon to dollop on 1 tablespoon portions, or for a cleaner look, try a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe small stars on canapé bases.
  4. Cream cheese mousse can be stored in a container covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Toppings

Toppings are the stars of the show. Here is your chance to use top-notch ingredients. You don’t need very much, so it’s easier to splurge here. Use a mix of options, colors, and flavors. Make sure toppings are easy to chew, thinly sliced and not more than a bite. Here are three ideas that make 12 toppings each.

Poached Shrimp

Pour 2 quarts water into a medium saucepan, add 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil. Add 12 medium shrimp. Cook the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes or until just done; they should be pink, firm, and starting to curl. Strain the hot shrimp through a colander. Put them on a tray for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle. Peel and de-vein before refrigerating. The cooked shrimp can be stored, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Prosciutto

Split 4 thin slices prosciutto ham into thirds. Roll prosciutto into bundles and place on top of canapés.

Herb Roasted Mushrooms

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl combine 12 medium mushrooms split in half, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon minced thyme, pinch salt, and pinch black pepper.
  3. Put on sheet tray and roast in oven for 10 minutes, until brown. Remove tray and stir using a spoon. Return tray to oven for another 5 minutes. Remove tray and serve warm on canapés. Mushrooms can be covered and refrigerated for 5 days. To serve warm, reheat in microwave or in sauté pan.

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Mary Subialka
Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.