Friday, January 30, 2009

Nature's Most Perfect Food: the Calzone

You thought I was going to say pizza, didn't you? For years, when I craved comfort, I made pizza. Yeasty dough, garlicky sauce and bubbling cheese made heaven on a plate. Always looking for something new to try, I made calzones last year, and I'm a convert now. The calzone, for the uninitiated, is a rolled-up pizza, all the fillings encased in the dough. Genius.

I make a slightly different dough from my tried and true pizza dough (see earlier post), fill it with a variety of porkular products (sausage, bacon, ham), gooey cheese, Parm, and the slightest bit of an easy breezy tomato sauce, roll and bake it. These are so good, it's embarrassing to admit how quickly my small family scarfs them down.

The original dough recipe calls for a mixer. I use the food processor, just because that's what I'm used to. If using the mixer, switch to a dough hook for the kneading, about 2 to 3 minutes.


3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (I've had good results with all-purpose flour as well)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and olive oil in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the bread blade. With the processor running, add about 1 1/4 cups room temperature water. Mix until the dough comes together in a ball, just a couple of minutes. Touch the dough, if it islightly sticky, then it's done. If the dough seems dry, add a bit more liquid, tablespoon by tablespoon, until you get the right consistency. Using the food processor, knead the dough for a minute or two.

Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil into a bowl that's larger than the dough ball. Place the dough in the bowl and then turn the dough so that ball is coated with the olive oil. Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature if using in a few hours, or place in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Tomato Sauce

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes (organic, if you can find them)
2 or more cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients together. No need to cook, unless you feel so led.


About 1 or 2 cups of assorted bits that are probably kicking around your fridge or freezer. I keep a special container in my freezer with odd amounts of leftover sauteed spinach and mushrooms, bits of ham, cooked and crumbled bacon and sausage. For a good melting cheese, I buy the shredded pizza cheese (not exactly gourmet, so sue me).

Assemble and Bake Calzones

The surprise with this dough is that you don't use extra flour when rolling it out, just extra oil and it doesn't stick. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, set it on a lightly oiled counter, and divide into four pieces. Roll each piece into ball. Let the dough rise at room temperature for up to two hours (I have successfully skipped this rising and gone straight to the assembly and baking. The only difference is that the dough has substantial snap at this stage and may be more difficult to roll out. My advice is if you have the time, let the dough rest at this point.)

Heat the oven 450 and place a baking stone in the oven. Assemble the fillings and sauce. Lightly oil a rolling pin and roll each dough ball into an approximately 9-inch circle. On one half of each dough, place about 1/4 cup of sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup melting cheese such as mozzarella and then the filling ingredients. Fold the dough over and seal the edge, by turning and crimping. Brush the dough with additional olive oil and cut a small steam vent or two.

Place on hot pizza stone and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes and serve with a small bowl of the room temp tomato sauce alongside. These will amaze and astound your family. Serve with a tossed salad with all the Italian restaurant goodies -- pickled beets, chickpeas, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and a homemade vinaigrette. Your world will be warm and hazy and there will be no leftovers.

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