Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pizza or Calzone...or Both

One of the great things about having pizza dough in the freezer is that you can make a quick and creative meal without a whole lot of trouble. Well, quick once the dough has had a chance to thaw and warm up a bit. Yesterday I knew that I would want pizza for dinner, so I too a couple of portions out of the freezer and they thawed while I did some weeding and stained glass work and read a little more of a book I'm enjoying. The author? Louise Penny, a Canadian writer. If you haven't read any of her work yet, start with Still Life. You can blame me when you fall in love with a little village and want to move there, even though an amazing number of murders happen there for such a small population. Perhaps just visiting is fine.

I made the pizza dough last week when I decided to make calzone, mostly to use up some pasta sauce I'd made a couple of days before. When there are only two of you dining and you were raised to cook for at least eight people, leftovers are a way of life. A calzone is really just a pizza folded over on itself before baking. I like mine with ricotta cheese on the bottom, layers of sauce and meat or veggies, and plenty of cheese.

I made two kinds. One had a filling of the ricotta, some roasted butternut squash,a little bacon, some Italian parsley, and garlic, plus shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan. The second one had less ricotta, the tomato rich pasta sauce, slices of pepperoni, more mozzarella and Parmesan. Both were delicious in their own way.

For yesterday's pizza I was using up some leftover chicken thigh meat. That's the photo at the top of the post. On went the ricotta, the chicken, some local bacon, crumbled, some caramelized onion, Italian parsley, mozzarella and Parmesan. It was tastiest when cooled just a bit and was a mellow flavor combo, smokey with the bacon, but if you like more flavor, add some hot sauce.

The nice thing about both these is that you hand form the dough, stretching it gently to get a nice thin crust, thicker around the edges. If the dough fights you when you are stretching it. Just let it sit a few minutes and try again. Sometimes the gluten needs a brief rest before it cooperates.

In loading the pizza or calzone, keep the toppings light in weight. When I knew I was going to use fairly heavy pasta sauce, I went very light on the ricotta for the second calzone. When I made the chicken pizzas, I went light on the chicken. One thigh was more than enough for two four-slice pizzas.

The final tip is to use a pizza stone, if at all possible, in the oven and to preheat the oven so that it is really hot when you put the pizza in. I found for my oven that baking each one on the stone, then transferring it to the rack to finish baking was just the thing so that the crust was crispy and the fillings fully heated through.

I still have two more bags of dough in the freezer. Looking forward to the next great pizza/calzone meal.

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~ To Use for Calzone or Pizza
Original recipe for the dough taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes six pizza (8-10 inch) crusts or six 4-slice calzone

Ingredients: 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

 DAY ONE Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 pieces. NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap. 7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make calzone or pizzas, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator, or you can thaw the dough on the counter for about 3-4 hours before you bake.

8. On the day you plan to eat calzone, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. Note: In case you would be having trouble rolling the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.

On a lightly floured surface roll each dough ball into a circle about 8 or 9 inches in diameter. Place on a sheet of baking parchment paper.
Fill as desired. To assemble the calzone, roll out as described above and place on pieces of baking parchment.

If making as I described at the top of post, spread about 1 - 2 tablespoons of ricotta on half of the dough circle. Top with other ingredients, remembering to keep filling light.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the plain half of the dough over the filled half. Run a finger that you have dipped in water around the edge of the filled section and press the top dough to seal. Use the tines of a fork to press all around the edge to seal further. If desired, glaze the dough with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

Set aside and make the other five calzone. If there are dough balls left, save for pizza or more calzone. They can be frozen to be used later, too.

Once all the calzone have been filled, check to make sure that the pre-heated oven is hot. If you are using a baking stone, slide the calzone, still on its parchment onto the stone and bake until the dough is golden brown. Repeat with each of the other calzone. Let cool a couple of minutes, then remove from the paper to a cutting board and cut each into four pieces. Serve at once.

For pizza, follow the same steps, but fill the whole shell and don't fold over or seal.

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