For those of you who have heard some of my advice regarding menu development over the years, you understand how important it is to maximize the usage of your ingredients. By following this philosophy, you will enjoy a lower food cost by not wasting product that didn’t get used before it expired –– all while your customers benefit from a larger selection of menu items.
One of the best vessels you can use for an endless variety of culinary concoctions is the calzone. Like a pizza, I want you to look at a calzone as an empty canvas. Absolutely anything that you might put on a pizza can be tucked into a calzone. However, be mindful that raw vegetables, if they are cut too thick, and if they are baked at high temperatures, will still have a little crunch to them. Therefore, I suggest slicing your veggies slightly thinner. Also, I would stay away from raw meats going into a calzone, for obvious reasons.
Calzones are so easy to make! I suggest using a 12-ounce dough ball. Start by simply stretching the dough out to 12 inches in diameter. Make sure you have a dusting of flour underneath it to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface. After stretching your dough, put the filling ingredients on half of open shell. Avoid overlapping any ingredients onto the edge of the dough — otherwise you won’t be able to seal it properly. I like to put my cheese on top of the filling. Then I apply a little strip of sauce over it. That way, when it bakes the sauce moves down through the cheese and mixes with the toppings. Bear in mind that too much sauce will make for a very sloppy calzone.
Once all of your ingredients are layered onto the bottom half of your stretched out dough, you want to fold the top half down over the fillings. Although egg washing the edge doesn’t hurt, I don’t think it’s really necessary. I simply push down on the edge firmly as if I were trying to push my fingertips through the top layer down into the bottom layer. Follow that procedure around the entire edge of the calzone and you’ll have a perfect seal.
Now, here’s an important trick so your seal stays intact: you’ve got to put a slit into your calzone before you bake it. When your calzone is baking and the ingredients start to get hot, some steam will form inside the sealed calzone. That steam will need to escape. If you forget to make a slit, the steam will find the path of least resistance and will rip open part of your sealed edge.
Customers can get a little bit out of hand once in a while with wanting a dozen ingredients in a calzone. Don’t worry, give them what they want. Just keep in mind that the more they want to put in their calzone, the less of each filling you need to use. Otherwise, stuffing a calzone with too many ingredients will not allow the center of the calzone to cook. You would have to literally burn the outside of the calzone to get the center to cook, and that’s not going to make anybody happy.
Calzones generally bake at the same time and temperature as your pizza, so that makes life pretty easy when making that decision to add calzones to your menu.
12 ounces pizza dough
6 ounces shaved steak
2 ounces sliced onion
2 ounces sliced green peppers
2 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
Salt and pepper
Just as if you were going to make a steak bomb sub, cook your shaved steak, peppers, onions and mushrooms with salt and pepper on the grill until it is ready. It’s fine to cook this calzone filling ahead of time. You can even refrigerate it if you plan to have it on your menu or run it for a daily special. Follow the instructions in the adjoining article on stretching out the dough. Place the steak mixture on the bottom half of the dough, place the mozzarella over the steak and close up your calzone and seal it as I have instructed in the article. Bake in your pizza oven at the same temperature and time in which you bake your pizzas.
Jeffrey Freehof owns the Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, and is a frequent speaker at the Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.