Like most people, I love my pizza any way I can get it. And I like to order calzones in restaurants, but I prefer making them at home because I can stuff 'em any way I want 'em. However, they seem intimidating because you have to make dough (which is scary), and then roll the dough (which might be scarier).
Making calzones was my first forray into the dough world, and it was rough going. Let's just say that I started at about 2 p.m. Three attempts and six hours later, I was bawling in the kitchen because we were never going to get suh-uh-uhp-per and I was a horrible co-oo-oo-ook. (Yes, they were heaving sobs.) I've learned a lot since then, so I will attempt to impart a few tips that make dough t less frightening for me.
But first, a funny calzone story. And some background that might get me disowned by my mother. When I was growing up, my family took a very low-maintenance approach to food. The oven was used pretty much for frozen pizza and the occasional batch of cookies. And the stovetop was virtually off-limits. That's what the microwave was for. If it could possibly be cooked in the microwave, we did it. Eggs. Bacon. Hot dogs. Mac 'n' cheese. Hamburger Helper (including the hamburger itself).
Case in point: My mother was visiting last week, and she got hungry. She raided the fridge, hoping for some sandwich fixin's. We were out of deli meat, so she ate half a jar of pickles, and two bagels slathered in ketchup and Dijon mustard. And then she grabbed a can of Chunky Baked Potato soup from the cupboard. I got out a saucepan -- because I use the stovetop whenever possible -- and Mom said, "Oh, that's not necessary." I said, "You want to mic it?" She said, "Oh, no need." And she proceeded to eat the soup cold. From the can.
But back to my story. Last year the hubby and I went to Florida with his sisters. And I talked my brother, Cory, into house- and pet-sitting for us. (He was quite the trouper; I was too busy at Disneyworld to answer my phone when he accidentally locked himself out of the house and was hoping I'd hidden a spare key. And when he called for advice while walking the dogs because one of the dogs was "stuck," I hung up on him because we were deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and a pair of dolphins were racing our boat.)
We stocked the house with Cory-friendly food before we left, including a few frozen calzones. I told Cory to call us if he planned on eating them, and I'd explain how to bake them; it seemed like too much info to put in a note.
At one point I called Cory to check in. I asked how the food situation was going. He informed me that he'd eaten all the pizza in the house, and also the calzones. And they were pretty good. I said, "Oh, how did you bake them?" He said he put them in the microwave. I said, "Uh, you were supposed to BAKE them, not just heat them up."
He said, "Alyssa, we're not all as particular as you are when it comes to food. I'm sure they would've been better in the oven, but the microwave was just fine."
I explained that this wasn't an issue of food snobbery. "The calzones weren't prebaked. The dough was raw when I froze them. They'd NEVER BEEN COOKED."
"Oh, I get it. But oh well. I thought they were a tad doughy. But they were still pretty good. I dipped them in the pizza sauce that you left me, and they were just fine."
Anyway, the recipe for this dough is a modified version of a Cuisine at Home recipe. I made my own filling, but you can certainly substitute anything you like -- any meats, veggies, cheeses, etc. You want about one cup of filling for each calzone, and you don't want it too watery, or it will make your dough soggy.
1 c. warm water*
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. sugar plus 1 Tbsp., divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing
3 c. bread flour
1 Tbsp. table salt
1/4-1/3 lb. hamburger or sausage, browned, drained, and cooled
3/4 c. chopped ham or Canadian bacon
3/4 c. chopped pepperoni
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/2 c. pizza sauce, plus more for dipping
*The recommended temperature is between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I drove myself crazy with a thermometer the first time I made dough, and it didn't work. The hubby, who had more dough experience, showed me the right temperature, so I could get accustomed by feel. Now when I make dough, I get the water as warm as I would for a baby's bath. Conversely, when the hubby is running water for the Jack-baby's bath, I tell him to make it as warm as he would for his pizza dough.
1. Coat a large bowl and a small sheet pan with cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and water. Let stand for 15 minutes, and then stir in 2 Tbsp. olive oil.
This is "proofing" the yeast -- basically, making sure that it's still alive. The warm water activates it, and the sugar gives it something to eat. The yeast should bubble and froth as it expels gas (yummy). If your mixture isn't foamy after 15 minutes, your yeast be dead.
You can learn a lot from Alton Brown.
3. Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, briefly combine bread flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and salt. Slowly add the yeast mixture until a ball forms around the hook. Turn your mixer to medium speed and knead for about 10 minutes.
If your dough just isn't coming together, it might be because of the weather or altitude. You can add a bit of water -- such as a teaspoon or two -- to give it some more moisture.
4. Turn your dough out onto the counter and knead by hand a few times. Form the mixture into a ball and place in the bowl that is sprayed with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.
I have a problem finding a "warm" place in my kitchen without turning on the oven. So I usually take a mug of hot water and heat it in the microwave for 1 minute. I push that into the corner of the microwave, and then put my dough in and close the microwave. The steamy water makes it warm, and it's certainly draft-free.
5. Punch down the dough and divide it into four equal pieces. Form each into a ball. Place on the greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise for another 30-40 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and generously spread cornmeal on a baking sheet.
7. Combine hamburger or sausage, ham, pepperoni, cheese, and 1/2 c. pizza sauce in a medium bowl.
8. For each calzone, roll a piece of the dough in about a 10-inch circle. Perfect circles need not apply.
9. Place about 1 c. filling in the center of one side of the circle.
10. Brush the edges of the dough with water to help with the seal, and then fold over one side of the dough. Crimp the edges of the dough with a fork to seal them.
11. Place the calzones on cornmeal-covered baking sheet.
I usually bake two and freeze two for later.
12. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden. Brush with a bit of olive oil, and serve with heated pizza or marinara sauce.
And be careful, because that filling is piping hot!