I didn’t appreciate calzones until I started baking beautiful pizzas at home. Before my homemade pizzas achieved elegance, they tended toward soggy masses on soft, undercooked dough or slightly burned toppings over a cracker-crisp crust. Both variations resulted from the same problem: too many toppings at too low of a temperature.
I’ve learned not to compare pizzas baked in a home oven with fully loaded, wood-fire pizzas—and especially with those I ate in Naples. Kenji, lord of Serious Eats, puts it bluntly: “You’re never going to be able to produce a perfect Neapolitan-style pie in a home oven.” The crew at Bon Appétit is a bit less forceful yet just as adamant: “For those hefty pies to work, they need an ultra-sturdy crust and a really, really, really, really hot oven. Leave it to the pros and go simple.”
So as I teach all my workshop participants, whether grilling or baking your pizza, keep your temperature high and your toppings light. But if you’re a fan of deep toppings and excessive cheese, turn your pizza dough into calzones or empanadas.
2 ounces fresh or frozen pizza sauce or pesto
4–6 ounces cheese, such as Quick Homemade Mozzarella, goat cheese, and Lemon Cheese
6–8 ounces fillings (4–6 different items)
1 egg white (optional)
1 tablespoon water (optional)
Preheat your oven and a baking stone or tray to 475°F and prepare your fillings. Defrost the sauce and grate or crumble the cheese as appropriate. Fillings may need to be thinly sliced and sautéed or otherwise precooked as they would for Thin-Crust Pizza.
Once the oven is at temperature, take the ball of dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Flour your rolling space and rolling pin, and then use the rolling pin to shape each piece of dough into an 8-inch round. Spread half of the sauce, fillings, and cheese on one side of one circle of dough, leaving a wide edge; repeat with the remaining ingredients and dough. Fold the bare side over the filling and roll and pinch the edges together until sealed. Whisk the egg white and water in a small bowl, and then brush over the top of each calzone.
Slide the calzones onto the hot baking stone or tray in a quick motion. Bake at 475°F for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove to a cutting board or plate and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Serves 2 or up to 4 along with a salad.
Tips & Tricks
- It’s Sourdough Month at Twice as Tasty, and this recipe gives you one more use for the pizza dough that is hopefully already in your fridge. If you don’t yet have a starter, you can get some for free by joining in The Sourdough Giveaway Experiment.
- Filling choices abound for calzones and their smaller cousins, empanadas (see below). One of my favorite calzone combinations is Grilled Tomato Pizza Sauce, Kalamata olives, Roasted Garlic, sautéed mushrooms and onion, rehydrated dried tomatoes, and a blend of mozzarella and goat cheese.
- Although I advocate limited toppings and cheese on Thin-Crust Pizza, you can almost double-down when filling calzones. But it’s still possible to go too big. To avoid a blowout, pile the contents on half of the dough circle and leave plenty of room for sealing the edge.
- An egg wash gives a gorgeous golden color to the calzone crust, but it isn’t necessary. If eggs aren’t part of your diet, try a light brushing of olive oil or simply leave the crust unadorned.
Twice as Tasty
Although purists may disagree, I think of empanadas as baby calzones, stuffed with Spanish-influenced ingredients rather than Italian ones. Traditional empanada dough tends to include egg, but I first learned to make empanadas with yogurt in the dough and found the flavor delicious and easily adaptable to sourdough.
Others may argue that empanadas should be fried, rather than baked. But that too is changing, thanks to a shift toward healthier cooking and a recognition that deep-frying at home means acquiring special appliances or disabling smoke detectors. So crank up the oven if you want empanadas to pile on a party tray or simply eat out of hand. It can all start with using your Sourdough Starter to create balls of my highly versatile pizza dough. Then pull out the fillings you stashed away during the growing season—or create your own variation based on what’s at hand in your kitchen.
1 cup cooked black beans, drained and mashed
1/4 cup fresh or defrosted grilled and chopped onion
3 cloves Roasted Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 small Smoked Chili, minced
1/2 cup fresh or defrosted Grilled Corn
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg white (optional)
1 tablespoon water (optional)
Prepare to bake as you would for Sourdough Calzones, preheating your oven and a baking stone or tray to 475°F. Gather your fillings, defrosting and draining them as needed and mixing them together, except the cheese and egg wash. Once the oven is at temperature, divide the ball of refrigerated dough into eight pieces, rolling each into its own ball. On a floured rolling space, use a rolling pin to shape each ball into a 4-inch round. Sprinkle a healthy layer of cheese on one side of each circle of dough, leaving a wide edge, and then top it with a spoonful of filling. Fold the bare side of the dough over the filling and roll and pinch the edges together until sealed. Whisk the egg white and water in a small bowl, and then brush over the top of each empanada.
Set or slide the empanadas onto the hot baking stone or tray. Bake at 475°F for about 12 minutes, until the crust is golden. Remove to a cutting board or plate and let rest a couple of minutes before serving with homemade salsa and sour cream. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- My Sourdough Pizza Dough recipe yields three balls, so you can make one batch of dough and have three meals: Sourdough Empanadas, Sourdough Calzones, and Thin-Crust Pizza. Or you can freeze any extra dough in a waxed-paper wrapper inside a zip-close bag, allowing it to fully defrost in the fridge before use.
- I used this recipe to showcase some Twice as Tasty recipes and techniques for saving your garden’s bounty, but you can alter the fillings to fit what’s in your refrigerator or to suit your tastes. Other delicious ingredients include roasted potatoes and bell peppers, sautéed zucchini, and shredded carrot. Or simply mix some homemade salsa into leftover beans, grate in some cheese, and bake away.
- You can mix the cheese in with the other filling ingredients, but I prefer to add it separately so that it melts into the inner surface of the crust, rather than disappearing into the filling. Again, the egg wash is optional; olive oil or even a brushing of salsa is a lovely substitute.
All month long, Twice as Tasty is getting you hooked on sourdough. If I’ve convinced you that you can and should bake with wild yeast, check out the Sourdough Giveaway Experiment to find out how to get your free sourdough starter. I’m also teaching these techniques in a workshop held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.