Friday, April 8, 2011

A! O! Calzone!

Afterschool snacks are the best. My favorite was always a bowl of cereal. Apparently, after I left for college, my mom noticed a steep decline in the household consumption of milk. While in high school I was not coming immediately home, and did not have access to bowls of cereal and ice cold milk. Thus I needed to find an alternative to my afterschool snacks.
Perhaps because the popular lunch for my friends and I was a plain bagel dunked in nacho cheese (I am not proud of this), I seemed to always be very hungry after school. Plus the addition of friends with cars, a whole new world of food possibilities had opened up to me, specifically pizza and pizza joint related foods. Garlic Knots are one of the single greatest foods on the planet. Period. And I will share more about these sometime in the future. When you’re ready. They can be a powerful weapon and should only be used for good.
Instead we will talk about calzones. The original pizza pocket. Yeah, I know calzone is a fairly substantial afterschool snack. But remember, bagels dipped in nacho cheese necessitate something hearty. Personally it has been a while since I had a calzone, and I tend to skip over them on menus. But the other night reawakened my passion for a good calzone. 1. They are so easy to make. 2 They taste really good and 3. You can dunk them in marinara sauce.
You can put whatever you want inside of a calzone, but I like to stick to basics including but not limited to; cheese, meat and vegetable. I also make the dough here, because I like how it holds together, and how quickly it rises. But if you don’t have time, feel free to buy refrigerated pizza dough, but be careful not to tear any holes in it. And if you can make the edges look pretty, this is a very fancy thing to pull out of the oven to impress someone.

For the dough
1 package of dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 ¼ c flour (or half whole wheat and half all purpose)

For the filling
1 c. skim milk ricotta
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 package fresh spinach
1/8 c. diced roasted red peppers
½ c grated mozzarella cheese
Juice of ½ meyer lemon
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of an electric mixture and let sit for 5 minutes. Then add in sugar, oil and salt. Gradually blend in flour until the dough forms into a ball. Remove dough, and wipe out bowl and grease with about 1 Tb olive oil. Return dough to bowl and let rise, covered for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

While dough is rising, remove sausage from its casing and break up. In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook sausage.  Drain off fat, and remove sausage to a bowl to cool. Toss in spinach and cover bowl, to slightly wilt spinach. Add cheeses, roasted red peppers and spices, stirring to blend. Place bowl in refrigerator until dough is ready to use.

Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into three equal parts. Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out each ball into a circle, so that the dough is about ¼” thick. Place one third of the filling on one half of the dough leaving about ½ inch from the edge. Fold the dough over the filling and twist or crimp together the edges. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough and filling.

Gently lift the calzone and move to a greased baking sheet or pizza stone. Brush each calzone with beaten egg and back 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Allow calzones to cool slightly, then serve with warm marinara sauce.

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