Calzones serve, deliver easily
While calzones have been around for decades, they continue to grow in popularity year after year. I want to share the best practices for creating some creative calzones for you to incorporate into your well-balanced menu.
One of the best vessels you can use for an endless variety of culinary concoctions is the calzone. Like a pizza, I want you to look at a calzone as an empty canvas.
A calzone is essentially a folded pizza and anything that you can put on a pizza can be put in a calzone. You’ve got to be careful, however, of how much sauce and how many ingredients you stuff inside this delectable baked treat. Too much sauce will create a soggy calzone and make it almost impossible to pick up and eat. Customers get excited about adding lots of fillings, which leaves us trying to figure out how to cram so much into our dough.
Remember, too many ounces of calzone fillings may be undercooked by the time the dough is finished and golden on the outside. Therefore, train your staff to limit the amount of filling. Or, if a customer wants many fillings, train the crew to use less of each so that your calzone can bake properly. My preference for the ideal calzone is a 12-ounce pizza dough ball stretched out to 12 inches. Put your ingredients on the lower half of your stretched dough, preventing the toppings or fillings from overlapping the bottom edge of the dough. This will ensure a proper seal of your calzone, which is critical so it doesn’t open during the baking process. When your seal separates, sauce or cheese can ooze out while in the oven and make a real mess.
If you are going to use any sauce in the calzone, it is better to add your sauce last by drizzling a small amount over your other fillings. This will allow the sauce to bake down over the other ingredients leaving a crispier bottom.
Once all of the appropriate fillings are on the dough, simply fold the top down to the bottom to cover all the ingredients. Some folks use egg wash, but I just act as though I’m trying to push my fingers straight through to the bottom of the dough (which always seals it well). Here’s the trick: as the calzone bakes (which is generally the same time and temp as a pizza), it will get very hot inside. That will create some steam and it will want to escape. That’s why I slit or rip a little hole in the top of my calzones before they go into the oven. That steam that wants to escape will find the path of least resistance. If there’s not a hole in the top, it will rip a hole in your seam and make a mess in your oven. So don’t forget the hole in the top. Think of it as a chimney.
OK, we’ve got the basics, essentials and calzone building techniques down. It’s time to put our chef hats on and get creative. So many pizzerias have your basic calzone with pepperoni and cheese or ricotta and tomatoes, but if you want to knock your customers’ socks off and have them talking about your amazing calzones at the water cooler, you’ve got to get creative. It’s important that we know our customer base as well. You don’t want to have a sophisticated and overpriced calzone on your menu if you’re feeding a community who can’t afford it or have never heard of the fillings you’re offering.
A finishing option to give your calzones that perfect look would be to give them a light brush of butter blend or olive oil with a dusting of grated Parmesan mixed with parsley flakes once it comes out of the oven.
I love a great steak bomb calzone. It’s something everyone can relate to. Cook your steak with grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic salt and pepper. Then put about 10 total ounces of that mixture with some cheese, and you’ve got a winner for sure.
Think about some of your favorite entrees or sandwiches and figure a way to transform them into a calzone using the principles that I’ve shared with you.
Chicken cordon bleu is a classic French dish that can easily be made into a calzone. Use either grilled or cooked breaded chicken breast, ham and Swiss cheese. You can add a drizzle of Alfredo sauce and now you’ve got a French classic.
The only thing better than a great Reuben sandwich would be an amazing Reuben calzone. Sliced lean corned beef, Swiss cheese, very well drained sauerkraut and a drizzle of 1000 Island dressing will yield you some raving fans.
Pulled pork can be used on a Cuban sandwich as well as a pizza topping and, of course, is great in a calzone. Let’s call this one a “Bar-B-Q Pit” calzone. Toss six ounces of pulled pork with two ounces of your favorite barbecue sauce and spread that on the bottom half of your 12-inch stretched pizza dough. Next, add two ounces of ham, one ounce of crumbled bacon, two ounces of grilled onions and three ounces of your pizza cheese to finish off this hand-held barbecue calzone.
These are just a few great ideas for some extraordinary calzones that are sure to please. Add your own flair and creativity. Don’t be afraid to try some vegetarian options using things like spinach, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and feta cheese. A breakfast calzone with scrambled egg, ham, bacon, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese can create a whole new meal period for you if you feel there is a need for feeding folks breakfast.
Once you’ve got your calzone repertoire down to some great choices, let your customers help create and name some new ones. That always creates a buy in factor.
I hope you can take some of these creative tips and run with them. Now, go stuff it….your calzone, that is!
Jeffrey Freehof is a frequent Pizza Today contributor, Pizza Expo speaker, chef and restaurant consultant.