Back when I was attending UCLA, our default place for ordering pizza was Tony Maroni’s on Wilshire. While it wasn’t necessarily the best pizza I’d ever had in my life, the staff was friendly, the food was dependably good and they were really talented at remembering our orders and faces. The place is run by this sweet older Korean couple with the help of the typical parade of chipper college students. They also were really good about substitutions and special orders, which is where the Hawaiian chicken calzone here came from. T is a hardcore pineapple fan — put pineapple on anything and it’s guaranteed he’ll eat it with no questions asked. I preferred calzones over pizza because they usually made less of a mess and stayed warmer when I picked up an order before driving home from an LA trip. Rather than having to make lunch upon arriving home, I’d just toss something with pineapple on the dining table and all was well with the world.
Alas, calzones don’t really grow on trees here in Finland. The local pizza places here make two things — pizza and kebab. The Italian restaurants here are more into their pastas, steaks and pizzas. Overall, there’s a large gap in the restaurant industry here in our particular city — we have several cheap fast food places you can show up to in sweats and a healthy number of nicer upscale restaurants to take your business partners to, but almost nothing in the way of middle-ranged places you can go for a casual evening out. Which is pretty much where you see your calzones showing up. So the next item on my menu planning for the first week was to remedy that situation.
I’d just finished reading Nummy Kitchen’s Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta post, so that was the first source that popped into my head and I used her recipes as my base. She, in turn, borrowed the crust recipe and template from Mark Bittman’s excellent vegetarian cookbook.
First, the calzone crust. Pretty much the same as making pizza dough — I went with the Bittman recipe instead of the old standby out of my bread machine cookbook, just to try something different. This recipe will give you enough to make 4 healthy sized calzones. You could probably make 3 ginormous ones instead, but I had enough of a problem fitting the “normal” sized ones I made into a lunch container. Sometimes bigger is just… bigger. Anyways, you’ll need 3 cups of all purpose or bread flour, 2 teaspoons instant yeast, 2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt, what have you), 1 to 1 1/4 cups water, and 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Back when I had my bread machine, I’d just toss this all in the bucket, press the “dough” setting, and come back in an hour to collect my ball of dough. However, I have yet to replace that lovely machine with a Finnish version so for now we’ll do it the older-fashioned way… with a food processor! 😉 Mix together the flour, salt and yeast first. Then, with the machine on low, drizzle in the water and oil. Keep the machine mixing for 30 seconds to a minute, occasionally adding in a bit more water if necessary, until you get a slightly sticky and elastic ball of dough. Wrestle that dough out of the machine and onto your clean and lightly floured work surface.
Give the dough a good few minutes’ kneading until it’s a smooth and pliable ball. Like with any bread, make sure you don’t use so much flour that it becomes dry — better that it be on the sticky side than the dusty side. Drizzle some olive oil into a mixing bowl and coat the inner surface before putting the dough ball in there. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour or so in a warm spot. It should grow to about double the size. I personally have better luck doing this with plastic wrap rather than a towel — it seems to create a better atmosphere for the yeast, at least in our cold and dry winter climate.
Spread some wax paper on your baking sheets so you don’t have to deal with a huge mess after these are done. Split the dough into four equal balls and roll them out into 8-inch circles. I fit two of these babies on each baking sheet.
Here’s the fillings I used in my calzones, minus the chicken. 2 cups of mozzarella, a block of swiss cheese, 227 grams (1 can) of crushed pineapple, sea salt and Italian seasoning to taste. I really would have liked to use ricotta in these, but couldn’t seem to find either it, or a suitable substitute. I will probably try to make my own if I have more time when I next make this.
I also used 2 cups of chopped chicken seasoned lightly with chicken baharat.
Mixing together all the ingredients except the chicken.
Put a quarter of each mixture into each calzone on one side. They should end up pretty plump by the time you’re piling the meat on top. Fold over and seal shut — I squeeze with my fingers first and then go over the edges with a fork to make sure it stays shut. These things have a habit of leaking like crazy, especially with that juicy pineapple inside.
Bake for about half an hour at 350 F or 177 C. Let cool for a few minutes because the cheese in there will be dangerously bubbly. Serve while still hot with a healthy side of chunky tomato sauce. I use the standard tomato-basil concoction I put in my spaghetti, but anything in the same family goes very well. The original vegetarian versions of this recipe are supposedly on the mild side, but my version had a bit more kick to it from the seasoning blends I used. According to T’s report, these also reheat very nicely in the microwave the next day.
Cost breakdown time! Wow, low-lactose cheese is spendy.
- 2 cups of mozzarella — 3.56
- half a block of swiss cheese — .90
- 2 cups of chopped chicken — 3.25
- 227 gram can of crushed pineapple — .67
- 360 grams of flour — .10
- 2 teaspoons yeast — .09
- 2 teaspoons sea salt — .01
- 2 tablespoons + teaspoon olive oil — .02
- dashes of seasoning mixes — .25
So that’s a total of around €8.85 for 4 very well-stuffed calzones, or €2.21 per calzone. We used to pay $7.45 in LA, which is €5.44 at the current exchange rate. That is, if there were to be a convenient pizza place that sold such things here. Since there are not, however, I think that raises the value of said dish exponentially. Until I can convince the local delivery place of that fact, though, variations of these will continue to be a part of our menu lineup.