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Anchors Aweight - Calzones

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EPISODE I - VTPhD shows you to make a calzone from scratch.

With full credit to our SBN sister site, ATVS, I realized the other day that AoG is sadly lacking in food stories.  While I am starting things off, I encourage y'all to post your own recipes! The only (hopefully obvious) ground rule is don't take something from a book or website;  just use common sense and I think we'll all be fine.

Today: Calzones

This is a fairly easy thing to make, but I never measure things out when making calzones.  I've provided pictures to give you an idea of what to do, but be aware that this will take practice to get as you'd like.  Experiment, and find the right balance that you'd like.

What You'll Need

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  • All-Purpose Flour, Unbleached
  • Yeast (I'm using active dry here)
  • Ricotta
  • Mozzarella (fresh is better)
  • Italian Sausage (hot, you wuss)
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Crushed Red Pepper

(the tony's is there by mistake, ignore it)

Preparing the Dough

Start by pouring some lukewarm (NOT hot) water in a mixing bowl and add the yeast to the warm water.  How much yeast you use is ultimately up to you.  More yeast means a fluffier/airy dough, but I find that it can also lead to the dough tasting too yeasty to my liking.  I generally use about half the packet.  You need to add some sugar to this as well so the yeast can feed.  You don't need much, a tablespoon or so is more than enough.  Mix this together and you'll get a cloudy mess.  From there, you play the waiting game.  After about 10 minutes, the yeast should be frothing and getting foamy on top.

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proofing in action!

Now we add gradually add the flour into the active yeast mixture.  How much you'll need to add will depend on how much water you used. You'll want to add enough flour so that the dough is no longer sticky, but don't make it bone dry either.  Once the dough is easy to handle, you can move it to a floured flat surface and kneed it.

BE PATIENT.  Kneeding dough takes a good deal of patience.  Firmly press down on the dough making it into a disc-like shape, fold it in half.  Repeat this process over and over and over and over.   10 minutes or so, and you'll probably be there.  The dough will be smooth and silky.  At this point, make a ball out of the dough by folding the edges in under itself, almost like you are making a mushroom cap.  Do not roll it.

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all ready!

From here, cover the dough with a damp paper towel.  You may also want to **lightly** wrap your pastry board with plastic wrap to keep it sealed.  I don't always do this, but I've been told it's the proper way.  Again, you're going to play the waiting game and wait for the dough to rise.  It's going to take time, so if you make your own sauce like me, do that now.

The Filling

This part is easy, and y'all probably have already done something like this already. I'm doing sausage, but of course you are free to make whatever filling y'all want.

Start preheating the oven to 450 degrees.

Get out a few of the sausages (I'm using two for this, but probably could have gotten away with three).  Take a knife and free them from their wrappings.  Cook the sausage in a pan on med-low heat.  I spend the majority of this time chopping up the meat with the spatula so it's in small chunks.  Be careful, you want to cook it, but remember it's going back in the oven soon enough.

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drool.

From here, I mix the sausage with ricotta and mozzarella.  Fresh mozzarella is always best.  I'm experimenting with a new brand today, so don't consider it an endorsement.  You probably can find some *very* fresh mozzarella at you local supermarket, which I think will almost always be better.  On the same lines, whether you use part-skim or whole milk ricotta is purely a personal preference.  Chop your mozzarella into small chunks, or shred it.  Add the seasonings to taste.  I very much endorse using basil, oregano and some crushed red pepper.  Again, in the picture above, you'll notice some Tony's, which I put in like an idiot, but do not use.  Force of habit with a lot of other things I'm afraid.

The consistency I aim for is something like this:

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perfecto.

Putting 'em Together

At this point, the dough should have sufficiently risen.  Let's check...

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sweet, it's ready!

A big mistake people make with dough like this is to put pressure on it.  DO NOT DO THAT.  The whole purpose of allowing the dough to rise was to allow the air pockets to build up and you'll crush them if you handle the dough roughly at this point.  GENTLY pull at the dough in short lengths to spread it out.  One thing I do to get things going is to pick up the dough and hold it sideways, rotating it quickly.  This lets gravity do the work, but can be tricky.  The majority of the work is still done spreading out flat on the board. You'll be able to tell where the thicker parts of the dough are to spread out and what parts are thinner and you need to be careful of.

At some point in this process, before it is finished, you'll want to move the dough to a cookie sheet.  I suggest covering it with some tinfoil and applying a light layer of extra-virgin olive oil to it.  Once you've got the dough spread out on your sheet to your liking, add the filling.

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as I said, I could have gotten away with more filling, but ah well!

Fold the dough over and seal the edge.  Start by gently pushing the top and bottom together.  Then, you want to want to fold the bottom over the top bit by bit.  Put you finger down about an inch from the corner, fold over the dough over your finger.  Remove, and repeat the process all the way around.  It looks like this when you are finished.

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Almost ready for the oven!

Take some extra virgin olive oil and brush the surface with it.  It helps brown the crust and adds to the flavor.  Cut three or four slots (like you would for a pie crust) in the top to allow for ventilation as it is cooked.

Place in the oven, and start checking after 10 minutes.  I've had them take as little as 10 and as long as 20.  Generally, 12-15 will be enough time to finish.

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This turned into enough for two... or one large Italian man.

All you have to do now is add your sauce and a little parmesan to the top and it's ready to go.

Disclaimer:

VTPhD is a large Italian man who is not a nutrition expert, and has been known to eat entire large pizzas in one sitting.  VTPhD recipes have been known to cause extreme food comas, bloating, and in one unfortunate instance, gout. Consult your doctor before embarking on a VTPhD recipe quest.