Hey, this is a fine recipe as attested to some years back by the Italian expert, Marie. She stated that "These calzones are every bit as good as any commercial outfit could make." Oh, yeah! I got the dough recipe from The Joy of Cooking© and, as usual, modified the ingredient amounts and preparation procedures to please me. I got lucky! The filling ingredients are to my liking. You can try any variation that pleases you, like pepperoni slices instead of sausage. Simply consider what you like best on a pizza and use those toppings inside a calzone.
Total preparation time is about one hour, but the total elapsed time is about three hours due to the dough rising and baking cycles. This recipe will feed four hungry adults as it makes six calzones. Note also that the calzones can be frozen without baking for future use. If you want to freeze some for later use, I recommend freezing followed by vacuum sealing … and then put them back in the freezer.
First, the dough …
Three and one half cups of flour
One package of active dried yeast
One teaspoon of salt
Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups of warm water
1 tsp. of sugar
Mix the yeast in 1 1/3 cups warm water (110ºF) to make a yeast starter. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Stir until mixed and keep the mixture warm. Hold for about five minutes.
Put the flour and salt into a four or six quart mixing bowl (I use a Kitchen-Aid® mixer with a dough hook). Add the cooking oil and start the mixer on low speed. Add the yeast starter.
Mix at higher speed (medium) and stop after one minute to scrape down the bowl to assure proper mixing of ingredients. Repeat the mixing and stopping two more times, making sure the dough is not climbing up the dough hook. If it is, push it down and restart the mixer. Let the mixer run for about five more minutes until the dough is obviously well kneaded.
Make a one gallon bowl warm by filling it with hot tap water. Drain the bowl, rub vegetable oil on the inside and put the dough into it. Roll the dough around to get oil all over the surface. Make a dishtowel (not terry) wet with very hot water and wring it out just enough so that it will not drip. Fold it in half and cover the bowl. Alternatively you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap that has been sprayed on the underside with Pam®. Place the covered bowl in the oven and set the oven temperature to 100º F. Let the dough rise for two hours. We have a "Proofing" cycle on our oven, so I am not totally certain about the operating temperature … only that it is neither hot nor cool, but uses a fan to circulate the air for even temperature everywhere in the oven.
Now for the filling:
4 links of Italian sausage (sweet or hot, a bit less than a pound)
½ to ¾ cup of grated hard Provolone cheese (not the soft sandwich type)
6 oz. of whole milk mozzarella cheese
½ medium onion, chopped
12 oz. of canned sliced mushrooms (drained weight from two 8 oz. cans)
1 small eggplant (optional)
1 qt. jar of Classico® Marinara sauce
1 tbsp. of dried oregano
1 tsp. of garlic powder
1 tsp. of sea salt
½ tsp. of cayenne pepper
Pam® (as needed)
¼ cup of cornmeal
Use four links of Italian sausage (four inches long by one inch or more in diameter) and remove the casing. Form a mixed ball of the sausage and then break off pieces about one tablespoon in size. Cook the sausage in a medium hot skillet turning frequently and chopping the pieces in half after they have browned on two sides. Mix them around in the skillet to assure browning (or at least cooking) on all surfaces. Place the cooked sausage on a paper towel, cover with a second paper towel and press to soak up as much grease as possible. I do the sausage in two batches and use a total of four paper towels. Note that the smaller pieces allow for better fat removal and they taste better in the final product because they have been browned on all surfaces before the calzones are baked.
Grate the hard provolone cheese until you have ½ cup to ¾ cup of grated cheese. Cut six ounces of mozzarella cheese into ½ by ½ by ¼ inch pieces. Drain about 12 ounces of canned mushrooms. You can use all the drained contents of two eight ounce cans. Chop about ½ medium onion into separated pieces about ½ inch by ½ inch, one layer thick. I also peeled and diced one small eggplant and salted it to remove moisture … I then put the pieces between two paper towels to remove all the excess moisture. The pieces will be about one half the size they were after dicing.
Prepare the sauce by using 2/3 bottle of Classico® Marinara sauce with or without basil included in the sauce as purchased. Add ½ cup grated parmesan cheese. Add one tablespoon or more dried oregano or "pizza spices". Add one teaspoon garlic powder. Add one teaspoon salt. Add ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Mix well and set aside. Do not cook.
Prepare one large baking tray by spraying it well with Pam® and shaking a generous amount of cornmeal evenly over the oil.
Prepare the surface you will use to form the dough into six circles. We used a flexible whiteboard that Marie found that rolls up and that is about 24 inches by 30 inches when laid out flat. Spray Pam® on the whiteboard (or other) surface.
When the dough has risen for two hours you will notice the towel (or plastic wrap) is raised in the middle. This is good for it means the dough has risen properly. If not, you have a problem with either dead yeast or a proofing oven that was either too hot or too cool. Do note that the dough can rise at a room temperature of 75ºF or warmer but the rising process will take longer than rising it in a proofing oven.
Preheat your oven to 400ºF. My oven has a lower stone surface similar to what is used in commercial pizza ovens. You can create this environment with any type of large flat stones like the flagstone people use in walkways. It takes longer to preheat your oven but the food cooks perfectly.
Spray your hands with Pam®. Remove the dough and tear off enough to make the first of six eight inch circles of dough for the calzones. How you manage to make the dough form the correct size circles and hold the size is your problem. The dough will tend to pull together after stretching so be prepared to stretch it two or three times to get it to relax at the right size.
Ladle the sauce onto one side of the dough circle, avoiding the outer edge. Then add the sausage and cheeses evenly. Add the mushrooms and the onions. Add the eggplant if you are using it. Try to keep all the ingredients on one side of the dough without spilling over the edge. It is best to keep a ½ inch border without sauce or other ingredients so that you can pull and fold over the side of the circle that you did not cover with ingredients and achieve a seal in the dough … by pressing or pinching the edges together.
Carefully transfer the calzones onto the baking sheet with a spatula. Spray them with Pam® and sprinkle on a generous amount of cornmeal on top. Bake them for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them rest for about five to ten minutes. Serve them and go wild with pleasure … well, okay, that is a bit of an overstatement. I am sure, however, that you and your guests will be quite pleased.