These week I decided to take a shot at making a calzone. One of my biggest pet peeves with many restaurant-bought calzone is the distinct lack of ricotta cheese, which results in a folded-up pizza in my book. So, if people can't it right, you just gotta do it yourself, I suppose.
Honestly, there are three ways you can make calzone (and pizza, for that matter) distinct, in my opinion: the crust, the sauce, and the pre-cooked filling. In the interest of full disclosure, I do have to cop to having used jarred spaghetti sauce time around, mainly because part of why I picked this food to make was I needed a new way to use up the rest of our jarred sauce. Sorry to all you purists out there!
For this experiment, I went with a fairly simple flour crust. There are a couple variations you could use that make for some tasty treats as well, and I'll mention them at the end here. Start off with 1 package of dry active yeast, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1.5 cups of warm water (the package recommends about 100F... I just brought it to a simmer in a pan and let it rest a minute). Let the mixture rest for five to ten minutes; you should end up with a somewhat frothy concoction. Add it to 1.5 cups of flour and begin kneading the dough, working on a well-floured surface. Keep an extra half-cup to a cup of flour on hand to slowly add to the dough, working it in slowly. For these calzones, I also tossed in about an eighth of a cup of dried oregano, and a quarter cup of corn flour. This gives the dough a more crusty texture once baked, and tastes pretty nice as well. Roll your dough until you get one sizable ball, put in a bowl, and let rest in the fridge so that the yeast will mature.
At this point, you'll have plenty of time to start getting together your fillings. Ricotta, fresh mozzarella and sauce form the base of all the calzones, a fairly sweet and mild flavor overall, so from there you want to generally go with savory and spicy flavors. In one I'd already decided to do pancetta and garlic mushrooms. As always, start with a hot pan, olive oil, salt and
pepper. Throw in some sliced garlic (I do sliced over crushed because I want some bites to just be bursts of garlic. Crushed is good for getting an evened out flavoring, sliced is good for having nice chunks), and cook until they just begin to brown, then throw in your sliced mushrooms (I went with crimini). As they start to brown, add in a knob of butter and let them saute for a bit before taking off the pan and draining in a strainer.
For my second calzone, I decided to go with something a bit more classic: italian sausage. Because my brother-in-law has something of a sensitive palette, I opted to go with mild and then add crushed red pepper sparingly. Simply brown and drain.
For the third and final calzone, I wanted to do a taste less sharp than the other two, and decided to boil some shrimp in water with garlic salt, a single dried bay leaf, and some paprika. I planned to serve it up on top of a some fresh basil leaves.
This next bit really could use some proper photos, but I was in the house alone and no one to take the shots. Simply put, divide up your now-poofy crust dough into thirds, and roll out to an even and thin plate of dough. Take a spoonful of sauce or two and coat the bottom half of the dough, then lay on the ricotta and mozzarella. As best as my own experience has taught me, this order helps to make sure that the mozz melts without soaking the bottom with grease. Lay on your fillings, and finally, fold over the crust and press out as many air pockets as you can before crimping and rolling the ends to seal it in.
I thought I'd play it smart and top each calzone with a little piece of what was inside as well, in order to make life easier for myself later on.
Place them in a preheated 400F oven on top of a pizza stone, and bake until the tops turn a nice crusty brown. Plating pieces of calzone is always a trick, especially when dividing it. Instead of serving it straight hot out of the oven, let it rest a bit so that the filling can "gel" a touch and won't pour out when you cut into it. Serve with a side of extra sauce. Enjoy!