See you later, pizza; this dough is for calzones
MAYBE it’s the suggestive power of the name, but rarely do I use pizza dough for anything else, even though it’s perfectly suitable for savoury tarts, flatbreads and rolls.
Once I get pizza on the brain, it’s hard to redirect. Then I got reacquainted with an old friend also made from that same dough: the calzone.
Although it was a childhood staple at my corner pizzeria, I hadn’t eaten a calzone in years. But at a dinner at Lucali in Brooklyn, I saw one emerge from the oven, a burnished, puffy crescent oozing ricotta at the seams. On the side was a small bowl of tomato sauce for dunking, garnished with a few fresh basil leaves. It was a much classier presentation than the oil-stained paper plate I would use to transport my calzones of yore, and it tasted better, too.
I was inspired. It was time to revisit the calzone at home.
After all, a calzone has many of the perks of pizza. Easy and crowd pleasing, it’s a good vehicle for using up odds and ends in the fridge.
It also has some happy benefits of its own. For one, you can get away with adding a lot more cheese. In fact, it’s practically mandatory. You need to stuff enough ricotta and mozzarella into the dough so that it ripples attractively, rising as it bakes. A calzone should peak and singe at the top. (True, you could cram the dough full of vegetables and the like, but if you love cheese, calzones are the place to indulge.) Another calzone advantage is the element of surprise. Pizza gives it all up as soon as it lands on the table; serve a calzone to a group and let them anticipate the moment when they find out what’s inside.
The surprises continue even after the big reveal. A calzone unveils itself slowly, bite by bite, especially if you’ve layered the fillings with several elements, like sauteed broccoli rabe, olives and three kinds of cheese. For the dairy eschewers in my life, I whipped up a calzone without any cheese at all. Instead, I piled garlicky mashed white beans and caramelised fennel and onions into pizza dough, baking it until golden. It was full-flavoured and soft-centred, not a traditional calzone but a delicious tart-like creation unto itself, and one that I’ll make again.
Taking a cue from Lucali’s Nutella-drizzled calzone, I even attempted my own dessert version. I mixed honey, cinnamon and orange zest into ricotta before filling the pizza dough (the same one used for the savoury calzone), then I dusted the top with powdered sugar after baking. A sprinkle of sea salt lent a savoury contrast to this most sweet endeavour.
And finally, for those who can’t give up the pie, I offer a pizza-calzone hybrid.
Based on an elaborate dish I sampled at Don Antonio by Starita, a Manhattan pizzeria, it has basil-perfumed ricotta and Parmesan in the centre, and tomato sauce and melted mozzarella on top. It’s the best of both worlds, and an unexpected thing to do with a ball of pizza dough.
Pizza calzone Time: About 30 minutes Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil, as needed 3/4 cup fresh ricotta One ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup) Two tablespoons chopped basil 1/4 teaspoon black pepper All-purpose flour, as needed One 8-ounce ball pizza dough, homemade or purchased 1/3 cup tomato sauce Two ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (1/2 cup).
Method: 1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly oil. 2. In a bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, basil and pepper.
3. Lightly flour a work surface, and stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Spread ricotta mixture on half the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around. Brush the edges of the dough with water and fold dough in half, over filling; pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.
4. Transfer calzone to baking sheet.
Brush the top with olive oil. Spoon tomato sauce over the calzone and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake until crust is firm and cheese is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Let cool five minutes before serving.
Yield: Two servings. White bean and caramelised onion calzone Time: About 60 minutes Ingredients: One large fennel bulb with fronds Five tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more as needed One large white onion, halved root to stem and thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed 3/4 cups cooked white beans, from a can or homemade 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest All-purpose flour, as needed One 8-ounce ball pizza dough, homemade or purchased 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt Lemon wedges, for serving.
Method: 1. Remove the stems from the fennel bulb. Chop two tablespoons of fronds and save the remaining fronds for another use. Halve the bulb lengthwise, remove the core, and thinly slice each half.
2. Heat a large skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add three tablespoons oil, fennel bulb, onion and fennel seed. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and CARAMELISED, about 25 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
3. In a small bowl, mash the beans with two tablespoons oil, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper until they form a chunky puree.
4. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
5. Lightly flour a work surface, and stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Spread the bean mixture on half of the dough, leaving a half-inch border. Top with the fennel-onion mixture and sprinkle with fennel fronds. Brush the edges of the dough with water, and fold dough in half, over filling; pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.
6. Transfer calzone to baking sheet.
Brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until crust is golden brown and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool five minutes before serving with lemon wedges.
Yield: Two servings.
Cannoli cream calzone with honey and orange Time: About 30 minutes Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil, as needed One 1/4 cups fresh ricotta One 1/2 tablespoons honey, more as needed Finely grated zest of 1 orange 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon One 8-ounce ball pizza dough, divided into two pieces All-purpose flour, as needed 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt Confectioners’ sugar.
Method: 1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, honey, orange zest and cinnamon.
3. Lightly flour a work surface, and stretch or roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch round. Spread half the ricotta mixture on one side of each round, leaving a half-inch border. Brush the edges of one dough round with water, and fold dough in half, over filling; pinch the edges of the dough together to seal. Repeat with second dough round.
4. Transfer calzones to baking sheet.
Brush the tops with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until crusts are golden brown and firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool five minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and drizzle with additional honey before serving.
Yield: four servings. Variation: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips over the ricotta in each calzone before sealing.