We make and eat a lot of pizza around here – it’s my go-to meal when a bunch of people show up and are hungry. Last summer I discovered my new favourite easy crust, and there’s been no going back – I make it all the time. I change it from time to time – whole wheat flour, a little bit of buckwheat flour every so often, or spelt even. I let it rise a little for a thicker pizza, which is how I like it, or roll it out flat for a thinner crust. Or, sometimes, I add a little bit of semolina flour, give it 30 minutes in a warm kitchen, cut it into eight pieces, roll each piece out until it’s barely as thin as a pie crust, and stuff it with sauce and cheese.
Calzones are a treat, and they’re awesome for lunches at work or school – they’re pizza pops, but with none of that chemical stuff that’ll probably kill you. Cheese, a little sauce, some veggies and meat if you want – and you can stick them in the freezer and reheat them as you need them, in the microwave or toaster oven, whatever you’ve got. And if you’re using an easy crust, they’re the kind of thing you can serve on a weeknight, or even to company, with a little bit of salad and not much else.
If you use leftover chicken, even better! Less effort, so you have more time for drinking beer and inhaling the smell of baking pizza. Which is infinitely better than ordering delivery, even though delivery is easier. Some things are just worth a little bit more time, and people will like you more if you serve them calzones over take out schlock. Some of us need all the help we can get in that regard.
Chicken and spinach calzones
Dough (inspired by a recipe from everybody likes sandwiches):
- 1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp.)
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup semolina flour (if you don’t have this, it’s not crucial; just use regular flour, or sub whole-wheat, if you want)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 2 cups packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- Salt, to taste
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
In a large bowl, combine yeast, honey, and water, and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Add flour, semolina flour, oil, and salt and stir to combine. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead ten times, and then place in a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes.
Use semolina if you can, because it’s extra nice in this kind of crust. It’s a coarser flour, and it produces an excellent crispiness that you’ll want in your calzones. Regular old all-purpose will work fine if that’s what you’ve got, but semolina is a nice touch. A little goes a long way too – spend the two dollars, and you’ll have a bag that will last you a long time, and you can add it to homemade pastas and breads and all kinds of things.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat onions in olive oil until shimmering. Add garlic, stir and saute for another minute, and then add crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium, then add chicken, spinach, lemon zest, garlic, and basil. Taste, adjust salt as needed, and set aside.
Cut dough into four equal pieces, and then cut each piece in half. Roll each piece out until it is no more than 1/8-inch thick – it should be as round as possible, about the size of a small plate.
Spoon filling onto dough, dividing the amount as equally as possible between all eight rounds. Place the filling slightly above the centre of the dough, so that when you fold the short side of the dough over top of the filling, you still have an inch or so of dough on the other side. Place 1/4-cup of cheese on top of each scoop of filling, and fold dough over.
Press dough down gently to seal, and then fold the remaining dough over the crease to seal. You’ll end up with a sort of scalloped pattern, as you fold each bit of dough over the last. (See below.)
Place gently on a baking sheet lined with parchment or sprinkled with cornmeal. I bake these four to a sheet, with at least an inch between them, as they’ll puff up a bit and get bigger.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.
If you’re not going to serve them all right away, you can cool the rest on a wire rack, and then wrap up and freeze. Reheat as needed.