Friday, November 14, 2014

Calzones - Freeze Ahead

There are times when I feel like getting my family to eat healthy is a complete uphill battle. The more I want to provide them with delicious and healthy food, the more they want processed, commercial "convenience foods". One of their favorites (and one of my absolutely least favorites to buy) are those little "pockets" of meat, cheese and sauce. It just kills me that they even will put them in their mouths! There is no accounting for the taste of teenagers. 

So in a wild sense of kitchen adventure and super-hero-ness I decided to try and make my own. They couldn't possibly turn out worse, could they?!  And they didn't, in fact, they turned out absolutely fantastic. I am not only going to be making these again and again (and again!), but I am planning on a day a month to make a whole slew of them to freeze and keep in the freezer for after school snacks, quick lunches and lazy dinners. You are going to want to make them too - they are that good and shockingly easy. 

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza - We will be using this for our Calzone Dough
Makes two 10-inch pizzas - Makes 6-8 Calzones (you are going to want to double this for sure!)
For the dough:
3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast. The mixture should look like thin miso soup. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until you've formed a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface along with any loose flour still in the bowl. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth.

If you have time at this point, you can let the dough rise until you need it or until doubled in bulk (about an hour and a half). After rising, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for up to three days.

Makes 6-8 calzones
What You Need

1 batch thin-crust pizza dough or 2 lbs store-bought pizza dough
2-3 cups filling: any favorite combination of cooked meat, cooked veggies, and cheese
Olive oil or melted butter (optional)


Rolling pin
Baking Sheet
Parchment paper

1. Preheat the Oven to 450°F

2. Divide the Dough: Divide the dough into equal pieces. Six pieces make good dinner-sized calzones. Eight pieces make nice smaller calzones for lighter meals and lunches.

3. Roll Out the Calzone - Method #1: Press the dough into a flat disk, then use a rolling pin to roll it into an 8"-9" circle for larger calzones or 6"-7" for smaller calzones. Roll from the middle of the dough outwards, as you do for pie dough. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for five minutes and try again. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

4. Roll the Calzone - Method #2: You can also roll out the dough on parchment paper. This is handy if your dough is very sticky or if you're not feeling confident about your calzone-stuffing skills! As they bake, the parchment will unstick from the calzones.

Cut a square of parchment and roll the calzone dough on top. The dough will stick to the parchment. If it starts to curl, let the dough rest for five minutes before continuing. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.

5. Fill the Calzones: Spread a generous 1/3 cup of filling in the bottom third of the calzone (slightly less for smaller calzones), leaving a a clear border around the edge.

• For Method #1, fold the top of the dough over the filling and press to seal. If you have enough dough, you can roll that edge up (simply fold it over on itself) to form a more secure seal.

• For Method #2, pick the calzone up in both hands and press edges tightly to seal. Set the calzone back on the work surface and press lightly to distribute the filing evenly.

Transfer calzones to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

6. Bake the Calzones: Brush calzones (the ones not wrapped in parchment) with olive oil or butter, if desired. This gives the calzones a nice golden color, but is not necessary. Slice steam vents in the top of the calzones with a sharp knife.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the calzones are golden, browned on the edges, and the filling is bubbly. The calzones in parchment will brown slightly less. And don't worry if some filling spills out - there always seems to be at least one explosive calzone in every batch!

6. Eat or Freeze Calzones: Allow to cool a few minutes before eating so you don't burn your mouth. Slip the parchment off the parchment-wrapped calzones. Let leftover calzones cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag and freeze.

7. Reheat Calzones: Thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge, or extend the cooking time to re-heat from frozen. If you put one in your lunchbag in the morning, it will be thawed enough by lunchtime. Unwrap from the plastic before reheating.

Reheat them in the microwave in one-minute bursts on HIGH until heated through (2-3 minutes total), or in the oven or a toaster oven at 300° until heated through.