Monday, August 2, 2010

Calzone 101...

For a change, I thought I would do a food post since my camera is still a bit wonky :)  I got the memory card sorted, but now the little gadget that transfers the pics to the compute has quit on me!  So, a foodie post...

I worked for years at Pete's Pizza as a college job and sometimes a second job.  Not rocket science, but people would come from all over for them because they are fab.  I made them over the weekend and I forgot how wonderful they are and how easily adaptable: you can do meat or vegetarian or even small ones for hors d’oeuvres.  It's one of those dinners where you can please everyone because you can customize for all likes and dislikes.  Here we go...

As always, read directions all the way through first so you know the whole process…:)

Pizza/Calzone Dough

(Half this recipe makes two medium pizzas or four good size calzones)
• 2 tsp. dry yeast

• 2 c. warm water (blood temperature)

• ½ tsp. sugar

• 5 c. flour

• 2 tsp salt

• Olive oil
In a small bowl, add yeast and sugar and slowly pour water over and stir until dissolved. Leave to bloom (the yeast will start growing and you can smell it in the air) for about 10 minutes. If it doesn’t grow, then you have the water too hot and killed it (start over) or too cold to activate it (add a bit of warmer water).

Meanwhile, get a large bowl out and add your flour, salt, and a swirl of olive oil to the bowl. When the yeast is ready, add it the flour mixture and stir until it becomes a decent lump. Mix it with your hand until the dough all comes together, catching the dough around the sides of the bowl and adding flour to your hands to keep it from sticking too much. If you added a little more water, then you will need to add more flour.  Smoosh and knead the dough for about a minute, pour olive oil on top of it and turn the dough so the bowl and dough are all covered. Put a tea towel on top and leave in a warmish place for an hour.
This whole dough process should take about 12 minutes, tops. Leave it and make yourself a cup of coffee and relax or go do some awful chore that you would rather not do, but has to be done.

Sauce: you can make your own in five minutes or you can buy a jar of decent sauce and make your life easier. I make my own because it takes no time at all and it’s cheaper. You need 16 oz/large can of tomato sauce, pinch salt, splash balsamic vinegar, pinch sugar, and 1 tsp. oregano. Stir in a skillet and heat through. Garlic is also nice to add. Let it start to boil and then turn off. I use a cast iron pan and it stays hot, but the flavors will develop as it cools. Better to not have the sauce too warm for assembly as it’s messier. I have an herb garden and so I use fresh oregano and that makes a huge difference.  Fresh basil works also.
Fillings: You have to have cheese and plenty of it. This is not time to cry diet. Make your life easier and buy the grated mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is too wet and causes sogginess, so don't get too fancy. I highly recommend ricotta cheese, especially if you put anything spicy in the calzone. Olives and spinach are excellent, but you can do any combination of things. One thing to watch out for in the veg is the amount of water that cooks off when heated. Spinach is lovely, but you should blanch it and squeeze out the excess water so it doesn’t make your calzone really soggy and watery. Mushrooms are okay, but broccoli cooks off a lot of liquid also. My favorite is spinach, mushroom and meatball with red pepper flakes or jalapenos and ricotta. Yum! This is a great thing to make for friends that are vegetarian because you can easily customize for everyone!

Assembly: It is not as scary as it sounds.  Once you have made one you will see how easy it is. 

Roll out dough to a circle (not too thin or the pressure of the filling will make it burst=disaster) and put a small handful of grated cheese in the middle; this will make a barrier so the heavy ingredients aren’t pushing at the back of the calzone and forming a hole. You are going to build a mound from the middle forward so you can fold the part nearest to you over and make a half moon. Add a spoon of ricotta on the cheese and the meat or main veg onto the top of that. Pour 1/2 cup sauce over the mixture. Add the remaining toppings and then more grated cheese, about a cup (Pete’s uses 8 oz if I remember right). Fold over the half of the circle on top of each other and line the edges up. Starting on the left side, put your thumb down on its side and use your right hand to fold the dough over it. Pinch down to seal as you go around the half circle. Repeat until you have a neat "roll" all the way around the calzone. If this is too tricky, use a fork around the edges to seal it.  Air bubbles in the calzone are good, holes bad. Cheese in the roll looks a bit messy, but it's delicious. Now, if you are making different calzones for everyone, take a bit of the main ingredient and put it on the corner of the roll (small piece of pepperoni, mushroom, and olive) so you can identify after they come out of the oven. Otherwise, chaos trying to tell them apart.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes in a hot oven, around 425 degrees.  If the top gets dark, put a small hat of tinfoil over the top.

Three notes for eating:
• A half cup of sauce over the top is REALLY good. I make extra sauce just for this.

• They are VERY HOT inside, so take a fork and break open the top like a vent and let it cool a second, even though it’s very tempting to start wolfing it down.

• They are really filling. Make half-size baby calzones for kids and some adults. I recommend half size portions if you are drinking beer with them because you will want to take over the sofa like sea lion afterwards. And perhaps not flattering for a date to look six months pregnant.

Bon appétit!

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