I used to be afraid of baking bread. It felt like this giant activity that required time and planning. And time. Lots and lots of time. Baking bread is for people with time, and time is something I don’t have, I would tell myself. Because, really, I don’t. There are things like a job and four kids that take up most of that, and then there’s the cleaning that is never. ever. done. It’s more of a balancing act, and I promise you that someday (hopefully soon) I will give myself permission to read a book cover to cover again. I have, however, found that making things like pizza dough is therapeutic and surprisingly quick and easy. In this case, it is more of an attempt to get in the kitchen sooner than 20 minutes before I want to be eating. The time component is really more of the planning to get in there. Don’t believe me? I dare you to try.
Calzone night starts an hour and a half before I want to eat or whenever I happen to finish work and stroll into the kitchen. I get out these things:
I pour the water into a glass bowl and microwave for one minute. I make sure it is somewhere between 110° and 130°F. I sprinkle yeast over the top and watch it foam. Being impatient, I stir it in with a fork and add the salt and oil. Then I do something else for five minutes. I organize my fridge, check my email, read a blog post, chop the vegetables for later (this would be smart, wouldn’t it?), something. Anything.
Then I come back and start adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time (2 cups total). I stir it in with a fork after each addition until it starts to get too thick for the fork. It should hold some shape, but it is definitely not a bread dough as you think of it.
I dump a generous 1/2 cup of flour on my counter and spread it out. Then I pour the glob of goo onto that bed of flour. I cover the top with flour, dip my hands in the flour and start kneading the additional flour in, usually another cup’s worth goes on the work surface. I continue to knead it in until the dough feels smooth, usually a 5- or 10-minute process depending on my level of distractability.
Plop it into a greased bowl, cover it and let it sit. I turn my oven on while I’m kneading until it gets to 170° and then turn it off. I stick my covered bowl in the warm oven for that hour.
While your dough is expanding, chop up the fillings. You’ll need chicken. We tend to use leftovers for this, whether it’s leftover whole chicken, leftover breasts from sandwiches, leftover drums and thighs (which is what we did use this time), whatever: some form of precooked chicken. Then grab some spinach, a basil leaf or two from the garden, tomatoes, your favorite cheese (mozzarella is easy to come by) and green onions. And alfredo sauce. I happen to like Newman’s Own over the other jarred varieties that are easily accessible. I can even make my own if I have heavy cream on hand. Today, however, it’s Paul Newman in the calzone.
When you’ve left it sit for an hour, return, uncover and give it a good punch. Then flop it out onto another bed of flour and knead once or twice.
Pull your dough apart into four similar-sized balls (eight if you double it) and set those aside.
Then roll out each dough ball into a small circle. Keep rolling until your dough is slightly smaller than the size of an average paper plate. You can determine what an average paper plate is. Well, let’s see, I’m going to say an 8-inch circle.
Layer your ingredients. I like to put down the chicken, tomatoes, green onions, basil and spinach and then the sauce, followed by the cheese. This helps when you flop the top so the sauce doesn’t go spilling out the sides. You could also leave the spinach for last to have the same effect. Just get the sauce somewhere in the middle.
Flip the top over and start sealing. I prefer to press and roll my seal to ensure there will be no leakage. I push around the outside once first. Then I pull the dough out and start rolling in to the bubble until I get all the way around.
Because it’s hot, we try to keep the oven off and keep the house a decent temperature. We threw these on the grill. The difference on the grill is that you need to flip them because the temperature is concentrated on the underside of the calzone. With your grill set to around 450° it should be about 8 minutes per side, but everyone’s grill is different, so just watch for a slight crust to form.
A bed of spring greens adds extra vegetables to the meal without any extra work. The cheese and alfredo sauce act as the dressing.
But you could just grab hold of it and take a bite.
|Chicken Alfredo Calzones|
2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (approximately 110-130°F)
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups flour
1-1/2 cups dice, cooked chicken
1 cup fresh spinach
6-8 fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup diced green onions
1 diced tomato
1 cup your favorite alfredo sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Mix warm water and yeast in a large bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir in salt and olive oil. Add 2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring with a fork after each addition.
Prep a flat surface with 1/2 cup of flour and turn your dough onto the surface, covering the top with excess flour. Begin kneading, adding the last 1/2 cup of flour to the work surface as you knead. You may not pick up all the flour, but you want the dough to be soft and smooth but stretchy and not too tough. It should still be somewhat sticky.
Place dough in a greased bowl, covered for 60 minutes until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, remove from bowl onto floured surface, kneading twice to make it easier to work with. Separate dough into 4 balls. Roll out each individual ball to an 8-inch circle and fill with filling ingredients.
Flip the dough over the top and seal the edges by pressing along the seam. Then roll the edge towards the inside to prevent any possible leaks. Place calzones on a baking sheet sprinkled in corn meal. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes until it begins to brown.
Makes 4 calzones.