calzone…or little parcels of goodness

First time I ever had one of these doughy little parcels of goodness, I was sixteen. I was walking on a crowded street with school friends on a Saturday night in southern Italy. It was cold, the middle of winter kind of cold. Cold enough for the wind to whistle up my slightly too short jeans, and leave a chilled to the bone feeling.

My jeans in those days were frequently too short, as I was quite tall. So in winter time, the wind would whistle around my ankles, attaching its cold breathy fingers to me.

Biting into a calzone was the perfect antidote. Two bites in and you would reach the molten lava that is the tomatoey mixture inside. Hot enough for you to start gasping, waving a useless hand in front of your gaping mouth. Hoping to god, that the mouthful of food would cool in your mouth before you had to spit it out and look like an idiot. In those days I would choose burning the roof top of your mouth until all that remained was a flapping bloody mess of skin, over looking like an idiot any day.

These days, the jeans length has dropped. My ankles stay warm, I don’t tend to keep molten hot food in my mouth and the happy taste memory of calzone are still with me.

Calzone to make are dead easy. It’s basically a folded pizza. What ever you like on your pizza, can go in these. I used this olive oil bread dough, (I like making up extra bread dough and keeping some in the freezer for a quick weekend lunch.) Rolled out a rough circle, shoved some cooked tomatoes, salami, mozzarella in and then folded it over. Pinch the sides and place on an oiled or lined tray. Into the oven at 240C, cook until golden and sounds hollow.

Eat…when slightly cooler.

Submitted to the lovely yeast spotting.

 

how to make bread, for the person who thinks they can’t…but really they can

This is, (I hope) a really basic way to start making your own bread. It’s an adapted version of the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook olive oil dough. I’ve used it a whole bunch of times, and it’s always reliably delicious.

 You will need.

600g flour (4 cups- I use strong bakers flour)

2 tsp dried yeast

400mls tepid water

 3 tbls olive oil

2 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl add the, 600g flour, 2 tsp yeast and 400mls water. (The slight warmth of the water will kick start things, don’t use hot; you’ll kill the yeast.)

 mix with a spoon until it all comes together. It will look a little dry and unlikely.

Now leave it for 10 minutes.

 The dough looks and feels a little different. It’s been doing its thing for the past 10 minutes.

It will feel softer and more workable.

Now add 3 tbls olive oil, and 2 tsp salt

 Mix it through with the spoon initially, for about a minute and then by hand. You will be able to feel it coming together. Now tip it out on to a bench and knead. (I don’t find with this recipe I need a floured surfaced area, but it may depend on the type of flour you are using. If it’s sticking, lightly flour the surface and your hands.

Work the dough until it comes together as a smooth, stretching mass (or use a mixer with dough hook). You want it to feel elastic.

Use the heel of both of your hands for kneading. Finger tips flick the dough up, and heel of hands push down.

 When the dough is soft and smooth, it’s a happy dough. The kneading will probably take about 10 minutes.

Then pop it back into the mixing bowl, (or a lightly oiled clean one, I just whack it back in the grubby one though) with some plastic wrap (or a shopping bag/wet tea towel) over the top. This stops it from drying out. Let it prove for 30+ minutes.

If the dough is in a warm spot (about 26C) it will just need the 30 minutes, if cooler, it may take longer. If it’s soft, and springs back when you poke it, it’s ready to be folded.

 Pop it out on to your work surface and roughly flatten it. Using your finger tips.

 Fold one third over

Then the other third over. Turn it 90 degrees, and fold it to thirds again. Pop it back in the bowl.

 looking kind of square

Another prove for about 30 minutes, (longer if it’s colder).  Then get it out and press the dough down on the working surface area and shape. Or…

Take the ball of dough out of the bowl and place on the bench. Pulling a side of the circle, and dragging it into the middle and press down. Keep going until you have gone all the way around. Then using one hand to do the same process with the heel of your hand, (side to the middle) and your other hand turning the disc. This process can be used instead of the folding after the initial prove or it can be a way to do a final shape.

 In to the middle.

 Looks like that

and then flick it over. Should be smooth and round. Once you’ve got the shape you want, pop it on an oiled tray (or a tray lined with baking paper) cover it with a plastic shopping bag and leave it to prove again in a warm spot. Should have risen by about 2/3 and feel/look soft and pillowy. This can take 30+ minutes.

This dough can be  shaped into just about anything. I used it as a foccacia base here, but have used it as a fish, mermaid, sunflower, grissini and bread rolls.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 240C with steam. I use a water squirter bottle for the steam. 20 squirts in the crack of the door once you’ve popped the bread in or you can use a little dish of water at the bottom of the oven when you turn it on. Baking time depends on the shape you have made. Bread is cooked when dark golden in colour and sounds hollow if tapped.

*****

 The trick with bread is, you just have to practise. Make it, and if there are any problems, write down what they are so you remember for next time and can change it accordingly. I watched my mum make bread my whole childhood so absorbed how to knead it just by watching. If you have never played with dough before though, it might seem a little daunting.

Play with it.

At worst, they will be stone hard burnt unsalted bricks, (and I’ve certainly made my share of them before). Most likely though, they’ll be delicious, and you’ll never want to buy shop bread again.

Books to make you want to play further

Bourke Street Bakery

The handmade loaf

River Cottage handbook- Bread

Online

The Fresh Loaf 

Dan Lepard

Wild Yeast