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Note #2: Calzones revisited (2007.10.10)

Yesterday my wife came home early from teaching. She usually gets home quite late, but yesterday she said she’d be home in time for dinner, so it was up to me to put the food on the table. Those of you who know me will know that I need very little excuse to get cooking, and this was more than enough. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. There was some cheese filling in the freezer from a recent ravioli dinner. I also had some thick marinara sauce I had made the other day for pasta. All I needed was some dough and I had the makings of calzones.

My first attempt at calzones had gone well, but not perfectly, and I was itching to give it another try. In fact, when I froze the left-over ravioli filling I deliberately divided it into calzone-sized portions. So when Hyunjin asked me to prepare dinner, I was already contemplating what I would do differently this time around.

After my first attempt, I got an email from The Maven, who suggested that perhaps my calzones had burst because I didn’t cut any steam vents into them. I couldn’t remember having seen calzones with steam vents, and I was afraid that if I cut slits into my calzones they wouldn’t get nice and puffy, but I promised to give it a shot the next time around.

There were many other changes to make as well. Last time I made six calzone out of a full batch of pizza dough. This time I made two calzones out of a half batch of dough. This meant I had 1.5 times the amount of dough to work with for each calzone. I think part of the problem last time was that the dough got stretched too thin. So I wanted to make sure I had plenty of dough.

Most of my problems that first time, though, stemmed from the fact that I made my dough circles in advance and didn’t flour them enough, so they stuck to the wax paper. Hyunjin and I had to perform emergency surgery on them to get them back into something resembling the proper shape, but ultimately I think that was my downfall. With the pain of that defeat still fresh in my memory, I reduced the amount of water in the dough to make it less sticky, and when I pressed out my dough circles I made sure to flour them liberally before placing them on the wax paper. Since there were only two, I placed them side by side and then covered them with my dough towel (the towel I use to cover my dough when it is rising).

When the circles had doubled I flattened them out, making them even larger. Then I put the portions of cheese filling—faux ricotta (handmade), mozzarella, grana padano (a hard cheese, similar to parmesan), and emmenthal—and topped that with some diced sausage. Then I carefully folded the dough over, making sure I didn’t stretch it, and sealed the seam. When this was done I placed them on the oiled (extra virgin olive, of course) baking pan and covered them with the dough towel to let them rise once more. I don’t remember exactly, but I don’t think I let the calzones rise much before I put them in the oven last time. This is an important step because it allows the dough to recover from the shaping process before it gets exposed to heat.

I went to pick up Hyunjin from the bus depot (it’s not an actual stop, but it’s at the entrance to our village) while the calzones rose, and when we got back we preheated the oven. Before I put them in to bake, I cut a long, diagonal slit in each of the them. After thirty minutes in the oven, they were done. I was pleased to see that not only had they not burst, they had puffed up into that nice, rounded shape. Although I probably could have put in a little more effort in terms of decoration (crimping the seam, etc.), they were pretty much perfect.

And now for the most important part: the photos. Here is a calzone uncut on the plate so you can see the lovely shape unspoiled.

Next, I cut them in half and spooned some sauce between the two halves. I know there are a number of ways to eat calzones, but this is how I like mine.

Finally, here is a close-up of one half of the calzone so you can see the gooey innards. It’s a bit crushed from being cut in half, but it is a meal, after all, and not a work of art.

I have to say that I really couldn’t be more happy with the way things turned out. I think I can now add calzones to my repertoire of dishes that I can prepare with confidence. Many thanks, of course, to The Maven for her suggestion and encouragement.

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