New England · recipe

Calzone and my Julia Child Moment

Ricotta Calzone
No sauce, no meat…just cheese, baby!

Last week I shared my pizza dough recipe with the idea that I was going to follow up immediately with some great calzone recipes.  Little did I know I would experience a supreme Julia Child Moment as well.

Things don’t always go as planned, do they?  Alas!  Here is my failed Spinach Ricotta Calzone, which practically flew out of my hands and plopped on the open oven door:

Far from perfect Spinach Cheese Calzone
Far from perfect Spinach Cheese Calzone

 

Here it is!  In all its hideousness.

You might be wondering why I would post such a dramatic failure on my blog.

I felt compelled to let you know that sometimes you just fail.  Sometimes–no matter how hard you try or how badly you want it–you fail.

The Internet has become–in large part–a place of perpetual perfection, hasn’t it?  Nothing to see but Instagram-worthy pictures of perfect lives filled with sunshine, butterflies and flowers!  On the Internet, no one fails.  No one makes a mistake.  Everything is perfect. Always.

So instead of introducing you to the history of calzone or maybe even the backstory of my Ricotta Calzone recipe, I wanted to show you my glorious failure!  My Julia Child Moment!

Let me start by explaining what a Julia Child Moment is first.

You might recall, from my recent post on French Onion Soup (Julia Child’s French Onion Soup Gratinee I am a huge Julia Child fan.  I cut my cooking teeth on her Boston-based PBS program “The French Chef” and I own all of her cookbooks.

I always admired the way Julia was able to simply explain the finer points of French haute cuisine without making you feel like you were simple.  Julia knew good food was for everyone and she shared that message wherever she went, even if things didn’t go as planned.

One of the most amazing things about Julia was her ability to “roll with the punches” and make a failure into a triumph.

How could I forget when she first tried to flip an oversized potato pancake…only to chock her failure up to not having the “courage of conviction”?

Or when she tried to teach Dave Letterman to make a gourmet hamburger on Late Night, but ended up getting him to eat raw ground beef and calling it Steak Tartare?

Nothing phased Julia Child and no failure was ever a true failure with her.  Julia believed failing was a learning opportunity and a way to adjust your perspective.

In watching The French Chef all those years, I developed many life skills.  But the most important lesson I learned was that no one is perfect.

No one is perfect, BUT we must always do the best we can with what we have.  Despite our imperfection, we should always “press on” in an effort to always be trying to improve our skills.

And that’s not just a cooking lesson to learn.

And that, my faithful reader, is a Julia Child Moment!

Courage and onward to our calzone!

 



Calzone

To make the calzone, you will need one batch of my pizza dough, which you can find here: Making Your Own Pizza Dough

Each batch of dough will make two medium sized calzones.  Keep your dough covered while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients for Ricotta Cheese Calzone:

  • 1 batch Pizza Dough
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup or so shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup or so shredded romano or parmesan or a mixture of both
  • garlic salt and black pepper
  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust

Ingredients for Spinach & Ricotta Calzone:

  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach defrosted and dried in a towel to remove liquid
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup total shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses
  • salt and pepper
  • cornmeal for sprinkling
  • olive oil or egg wash for brushing the outside of the crust

 


Directions for Making Calzone:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in before preheating the oven.
  2. Separate the dough into two equal balls.  Cover the one you aren’t working with.
  3. Flatten your dough ball on a lightly floured surface being careful to form a flat circle shape
  4. Roll the dough out from all directions to maintain the circular shape until it is about the size of a medium pizza.  Try not to roll the dough so thin that it could create holes in the dough. If you accidentally make a hole, carefully pinch the dough back together, making sure it is closed up.  Holes are bad.
  5. Since the dough is pretty elastic and will be heavy when filled, it may help you to transfer the dough to a pizza peel lined with a piece of cornmeal-sprinkled parchment paper.
  6. Spoon the filling on the right half of the dough circle and spread it out.  Keep a good inch of dough around the edge, but spread the filling out within the entire right half of the circle.
  7. Carefully lift up the empty half of the dough and drape it gently over the filled side, lining up the edges of the dough to make the classic half-moon shape of a calzone.
  8. Using water if necessary, pinch and crimp the edges where the dough overlaps.  Be certain that you’ve properly closed your seam…remember holes are bad.
  9. Lightly brush the calzone with oil or egg wash (I used olive oil).
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove with the pizza peel and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing, because contents will be extremely hot, extremely gooey and exceptionally delicious!

 

I do hope you try making your own calzone at home!  If this is your first time making a rolled dough remember your Julia Moment and press on!  Courage!

recipe

Making Your Own Pizza Dough

homemade pizza dough
Make your own pizza dough

Making your own pizza at home feels a bit hipster to me.

But, to be honest, I’ve been making my own dough for pizza for several decades now.  That’s hardly a hipster thing now, is it?

A word of caution: If you are looking for a simple recipe for good at-home pizza dough, then I’ve got a great one for you.  If you’re looking for hip ingredients or trendy “hacks” you may have to look elsewhere.

I say that as a caution.  To create the “perfect” pizza oven at home, there are a lot more steps involved in the process.  I say leave the pepperoni pizza making to the local pizza slingers, because they have the set-up and experience to produce a great pie over any home version I’ve ever tasted.

It’s better for you to reserve your pizza making skills for something that’s special or just “you”.  For example, when I get in the mood for homemade pizza, all I want is a super messy ricotta and cheese calzone, which is hard to find around these parts…especially the way I make it, naturally!

So here’s my basic pizza dough recipe, which can be used for both pizza or calzone making. I usually make two batches–not a double batch, two separate batches at the same time.  One batch will make two large pizza or two full half moon calzones.

Pizza Dough Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (I always use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of instant yeast
  • Three quarters of a teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water

 

Directions for making basic pizza dough:

  1. Combine all but 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and mix.
  2. Mix and knead lightly to form a soft, smooth dough ball.  Do not over knead or your dough will be tough.
  3. Lightly grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil and turn your dough ball around in the oil to coat thoroughly.
  4. Cover the bowl using plastic wrap and a towel and allow to rise until about twice it’s size, which will probably take about 2 1/2 hours in a normal kitchen.  You can tell it has risen enough when two finger pokes made in the dough don’t fill back in.
  5. Turn the dough out to your workspace and gently deflate it.  Knead it a bit to make a smooth, flexible dough.  Divide the dough into two equal sized dough balls.
  6. At this point, you can either freeze your dough for later use or use it to make your own pizza or calzone.

 

Risen pizza dough
You can tell the dough has risen enough when you poke the dough and the holes don’t fill in