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EpicureanPiranha | May 30th, 2011 - 01:38

Italy and the Art of Gourmet Calzone & Pizza

I love good pizza! For me, this means a thin, flavourful crust, and a few well-seasoned, choice ingredients that compliment it. I enjoy the harmony of the beautiful fresh toppings combined with just a little bit of delicious pizza dough in each mouthful. It’s the same way I like my calzone (a folded, stuffed pizza pocket). In fact, prepared this way, pizza or calzone becomes a true gourmet food!

Calzone-garlic spinach chili blk olives proscuito V

I like the dough for my calzone to be very thin, which bakes to a beautiful, golden, crust. The combination of durum semolina and bread flour used to make the dough allow you to create a delicious, thin yet tender crust.

When I think of pizza, my mind drifts back to delightful memories of small trattorias in sunny Italy, sipping a glass of wine, perhaps cold Pino Grigio or a smooth Valpolicella, and the mouth watering aromas of simple fare prepared with the freshest ingredients and the passion of true lovers of wonderful food! 

After spending several hours walking off the beaten track, discovering some of the hidden treasures of the city or village I happened to be visiting, one of my favourite lunchtime treats would be to enjoy a delicious pizza at one of these small local restaurants. No tourists ~ just cheerful locals, enjoying a meal with friends or family, and a friendly chat with the chef as he or she walks around to greet patrons who, no doubt, have been visiting the establishment for years.

Trattoria - Steve Stento

A beautiful fine art print of a trattoria in Italy by artist Steve Stento ~ you can view more of his work on his website: www.stevestento.com

This is where I discovered the true art of making excellent pizza! Beautiful, thin, crispy crusts with a slightly chewy edge (from the durum semolina used in the dough) garnished with just a few toppings bursting with flavour. Italians love to savour the freshness and taste of individual ingredients, and have a special reverence for vegetables. Whether it’s rich, garlicky, sun-ripened tomato sauce, fire roasted, marinated baby melanzane (aubergine) or carciofi (artichokes), fresh porcini sautéed in garlic releasing their rich, heady scent, or some other fresh vegetable, their pizzas rarely contain more than a select few. Their pizzas are garnished simply, with a few vergetables or herbs and one of their excellent cheeses, with fresh, garlicky seafood, or perhaps a combination of thinly sliced, salt-cured meat and cheese or fresh rucola (arugula or rocket). Served golden, drizzled with aromatic olive oil and fresh herbs, these pizzas are a gourmet’s delight!

Spinach Olive Prosciutto Calzone ~ ikey ingredients 608w

Some of the ingredients that go into my spinach prosciutto calzone, with the fresh dough ~ after its first proving and ready to use ~ in the foreground.

So as you can see from the first photo above, to prepare my calzone, I roll out the crust very thinly before filling it. One of my favourite fillings is fresh spinach sautéed with garlic and chilli, prosciutto, lots of coarsely chopped black olives, fresh mozzarella, and fresh oregano, which is the recipe I’ve illustrated here. Scrumptious!

Calzone Transformed!

Making calzone is not more difficult than making pizza, as long as you work quickly. But it wasn’t quite that simple when I decided to shoot some photos in preparation for this article! So this is a funny anecdote about the first calzone I set about making for this article, and the result!

I work in my kitchen as opposed to a special studio, and do all the preparation, cooking, styling and photography myself, using no flashes. This means it can take some time to find the best light and the nicest perspective from which to shoot each sequence of steps. It took several minutes to shoot the filling on the dough in the available light. Folding over the pizza dough to enclose the filling, sealing it and studding the edge with fresh rosemary sprigs, then brushing the top with garlicky olive oil (for extra flavour in the crust), took several more minutes. Once ready for the oven, taking pictures of the finished calzone took still more time!

Now, when I’m preparing dishes that involve pastry of some kind (or beaten eggs, egg whites, and other fragile mixtures), since I do everything myself this occasionally creates problems. This is because, as you probably know, time is usually of the essence when baking or making pastry! I also mentioned above how thinly I like to roll my pizza and calzone dough ~ well, I’m sure you can guess some of what happened next! I attempted to lift the calzone off the surface on which I’d rolled the dough and filled it, and it completely fell apart so that I was left holding handfuls of dough mixed with filling!

I have to admit that the whole episode was rather funny, and my sweetheart and I stared at each other and just started laughing. But I didn’t want to lose all this hard work and delicious ingredients! So I took the handful of dough and garlicky spinach cheese prosciutto filling, placed it on the baking parchment-lined baking sheet in a little heap, and continued making little mounds the size of mandarins, until I’d used up the dough and some of the filling (using about 1/3 filling and 2/3 dough for each ball, and minimal manipulation). The result baked up into tender and very flavourful mini buns with a more delicate texture than fresh ciabatta, due to the vegetable and cheese filling roughly woven into the dough! Absolutely delicious ~ so much so that we quickly devoured them warm from the oven and I forgot to take photos ~ but I’ll be making them again :-}

A Fabulous Spinach, Black Olive & Prosciutto Calzone!

First, a little note about making the dough. I prefer to use half durum wheat semolina flour and half bread flour when making pizza dough because it creates a wonderfully textured crust. However,if you only have plain flour on hand, the recipe will still be delicious. Just make sure to knead it well. No matter which flour you use, bear in mind that many factors affect the capacity for flour to absorb water. Don’t hesitate to adjust the water or flour quantities as required, a little at a time. What you want to achieve is a dough that’s quite soft but doesn’t stick to your hands. If you add too much flour, the dough will be dense ~ you need more moisture to create a light dough! Knowing whether you need a little more water or flour will come naturally after making pizza dough several times.

This recipe makes one calzone which serves 6 as a main course, with enough dough left over for a second calzone or a pizza. You will need a baking sheet that’s at least 40 cm wide.

Start by preparing the spinach filling below, then prepare the dough.

Garlic Spinach Filling:

Metric Ingredient Preparation
30 ml Olive oil
5 Garlic cloves Finely chopped.
1/2 Dried red chilli Crumbled.
1 ml Ground nutmeg Preferably freshly grated.
500 g Fresh spinach You can use frozen spinach – cook it a little less than suggested on the package, and allow to drain well (otherwise, your calzone will either tear or be soggy!)
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-gauge, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli, and sauté 30-60 seconds until just starting to colour.
  • Add the spinach and nutmeg, a little salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper; cook till wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside in a colander to cool (this will allow any excess moisture to drain out).
Calzone-garlic spinach chili blk olives proscuito III

Spread the cooled, garlic spinach mixture over the thinly rolled dough to within 2.5 cm of the edge. Sprinkle with sea-salt crystals or fleur de sel, then scatter the chopped olives evenly over the top.

Ingredients for the Dough:

Metric Ingredient Preparation
300 ml Warm water (38C)
15 g Honey I like to use manuka honey, but any honey will do. You can also use sugar.
11 g Traditional, active dry yeast Note: 11 g active dry yeast equals 7.5 ml
30 ml Olive oil
250 g Strong, white (bread) flour Or use Italian “00″ flour.
250 g Durum semolina flour
15 g Sea salt

Remaining Filling Ingredients:

Metric Ingredient Preparation
398 ml tin Pitted black olives Drain and coarsely chop (about 250 ml).
50 g Prosciutto Tear slices into pieces.
350 g Fresh mozzarella Cut into small cubes.
30 ml Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves Finely chop and add to the oil.
3 Large sprigs of fresh rosemary Cut each stem into pieces so that each piece has a small tuft of rosemary on a piece of stem.
2.5 ml Sea salt crystals or fleur de sel
  • Warm the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Add half of the warm water, the yeast, and the honey. Mix gently and allow to rest for 5 – 10 minutes until it foams.
  • Measure the flours into a medium-sized bowl and blend in the salt with a wisk or a fork.
  • Once the yeast is foamy, add the olive oil, the remaining water, and half the flour.
  • Using the dough hook, blend on “stir” for 30 seconds, then increase spead to “2″ and blend for 30 seconds more.
  • Stop the mixer, and add remaining flour around the edge of the bowl; starting at “stir” for the first few seconds, increase speed to “2″ and continue to blend for 2 – 3 minutes; stop the mixer and using a rubber spatula, scrape the edges of the bowl.
  • Knead on “2″ for another 5 minutes, or until dough starts forming a ball on the dough hook. Don’t let the dough get too stiff! You can stop the mixer and feel it with your hand; if it sticks to, and stays on your fingers, sprinkle in 15 ml of flour ~ if it feels too dry, sprinkle in 5 – 10 ml of warm water; continue to knead and check again after 30 – 60 seconds; this step will take from 5 to 10 minutes in all. What you want is a smooth, soft dough.
  • Remove the dough from the mixer, scrape the hook clean and add any bits to the dough.
  • Gather the dough, smooth it and pull it into a ball; tuck the folds underneath and place it into a clean bowl that has been lightly oiled (use olive oil); roll it in the bowl so that the surface is also very lightly oiled, and then place it seam-side down.
  • Cover the bowl with a slightly damp tea towl or cling film, and allow to rest for 45 – 60 minutes until doubled in size.
Calzone-garlic spinach chili blk olives proscuito IV

Evenly scatter the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cubes over the spinach and olives. Then scatter some fresh oregano leaves all over this.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients for the filling.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, place it on a flat surface, and cut into two equal parts with a sharp knife; shape half into a ball and place back into the bowl, covering it to prevent the dough from drying.
  • Preheat the oven to 225C (450F) [or 210C (425F) for fan ovens]; have the baking sheet ready.
  • Place a sheet of baking parchment that is at least 40 cm wide over the work surface on which you will roll the dough (to make lifting the calzone onto the baking sheet easier!); dust your rolling pin and the baking parchment with a little flour.
  • Flour your hands and punch down the remaining half of the dough; knead it lightly, folding it over no more than a few times.
  • Stretch out the dough by hand into a circle, then place it on the baking parchment  and roll it out, starting at the center and working outwards until the dough is very thin and stretched to a large circle at least 41 cm in diameter (this will take several minutes, because the dough ~ especially when made with durum semolina and bread flour ~ will be very stretchy).
  • Keep rolling it out into a circular shape ~ and if it gets a little larger than 41 cm and isn’t perfectly round, don’t worry!

You’ll need to work quickly here so that the dough doesn’t get soggy, therefore make sure you have all the ingredients prepared as mentioned above!  For the steps marked with an “*” below, refer to the images above.

  • Spread the cooled, garlic spinach mixture over half the thinly rolled dough to within 2.5 cm of the edge.*
  • Sprinkle with sea-salt crystals or fleur de sel, then scatter the chopped olives evenly over the top.*
  • Evenly scatter the prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cubes over the spinach and olives. Then scatter some fresh oregano leaves all over this.*
  • Now carefully lift the unfilled dough over the filling, using the parchment paper to assist you, so that it completely covers the filling and edges and being careful not to tear the dough; starting at one end of the fold, press lightly around the edge, folding the dough over twice to seal the edge; work all the way around.
  • Carefully slip the calzone onto the baking sheet by holding the edges of  the parchment paper and slipping it onto the baking sheet; stick the small pieces of fresh rosemary into the edge at 2 cm intervals, then using a soft pastry brush, brush the garlic and olive oil all over the top and edges.
  • Place in the centre of the preheated oven for 16 – 20 minutes; check after 16 minutes and watch carefully ~ remove from the oven when the top is golden.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Calzone-garlic spinach chili blk olives proscuito III F

Notes ♥

  • Serve warm with a green salad, such as a arugula dressed with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing and a few shavings of fresh parmesan, and a Valpolicella or other smooth red wine.
  • Calzone is a great party food, since it can be prepared in advance and reheated before serving.
  • Calzone is also delicious served at room temperature and is easy to transport, so it’s perfect for a picnic. Just prepare in the morning and allow it to cool, then wrap in foil to carry.

4 Responses to “Spinach, Black Olive & Prosciutto Calzone”

  1. Fleur says:

    Hi Epi, looks wonderful! I will try this tomorrow;-> yum!!!

    • Hi Sis :-)

      I’m so pleased you want to try it! I know you and Ron will love this :-) Let me know if you think it’s detailed enough or if I’ve made any typos ~ I reread it over and over and changed it so many times that I may have missed some!

      Love,

      ~ marie xxx

  2. dubonnet says:

    Looks fabulous as always! you could easily make a living as a chef…or a photographer for a gourmet magazine!!

    • Hi Sharon ~ Thanks so much! Your sweet comment made my day :-)

      Hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It looks long but really isn’t ~ I’ve just tried to describe all the steps, adding hints and tips where things might get tricky for someone who’se never made calzone before! And of course, you can change the filling to suit your taste ♥

      ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha xxx

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