The Intentional Calzone

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The Intentional Calzone, by Mikkel Elbech

“We can just turn it into a calzone,” my friend told me as his yet-to-be-baked, beautifully decorated pizza turned into a tragic mess. The crust had gotten stuck to the pizza peel, and there was no way to get it off the peel and still have it be recognizable as a pizza.

So, indeed, we turned it into a calzone. Still a highly delicious feast.

It was a relief to know that there would always be a handy Plan B to turn to, whenever I would run into the same problem.

Baking Steel acquired, ready to impress

This incident happened just a few days before I acquired my Baking Steel. I had decided to add pizza baking to my existing sourdough baking excitement. A decision very much spurred on by randomly seeing the Baking Steel at Sur La Table while perusing their baking equipment section.

I didn’t buy it initially, but I kept thinking about it, and so, after a few weeks, I bought it. I ordered a nice aluminum pizza peel on Amazon, too, and I was ready to impress the world (or my wife, at least) with incredible homemade pizza.

As it turned out, I needed that plan B for the very first pizza I made.

It was a genuinely upsetting experience. But, again, that Plan B calzone still proved itself to be a most delicious meal.

After that, my pizzas generally turned out quite well, and they’ve continued to improve over the past month since getting the Baking Steel.

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A different, intentional kind of calzone

Something was off, however, about the whole calzone thing simply being a Plan B option. Especially since my pizzas were no longer getting stuck to the peel. Would this lead to me never getting a homemade calzone again? That was an unsettling thought.

Thus, I wanted to make a different kind of calzone than those Plan B calzones: I wanted to make the intentional calzone.

This was quite the game-changer. It allowed me to carefully layer the contents on the dough – and to close it up gently. A much more satisfying experience compared to the Plan B approach of somewhat angrily folding up what was supposed to be a delightful pizza. 

After having good luck with the intentional calzone approach a couple of times, I made what I honestly have to consider one of the most exciting meals I’ve ever had: A calzone filled with pulled pork and mac n’ cheese from The Original Q Shack, the finest BBQ establishment in Durham, North Carolina (or the entire world, probably) – topped off with a bit of barbecue sauce and sriracha.

My only mistake was to eat it while it was still extremely hot. I’ve since then learned to let a calzone cool off for about ten minutes before biting into it. It’ll still be plenty hot by then.

Approach

My approach should be quite simple for anyone who’s ever made a pizza on the Baking Steel:

  1. Use the dough you’d normally use for a pizza, but when you shape the dough, don’t go for the perfectly round shape – instead, allow for an oval shape to emerge (but still go for as big a dough and as thin a crust as you otherwise would)
  2. Place the dough on a floured surface
  3. Put your toppings on one half of the dough – as with pizzas, use less toppings than you might think you would need
  4. Close the calzone by lifting the other half over the first one
  5. Seal it by sticking the edges with a fork
  6. Transfer the calzones to the Baking Steel, which should be on the top rack of the oven
  7. Depending on the original weight of your dough and how thin you stretched it, you will need to bake it somewhere between 4 to 8 minutes
  8. When the dough looks edible, give it 1-2 minutes with the broiler to perfect the crust – potentially less for a really thin crust, or if the calzone is almost in contact with the broiler (either way, keep a close eye on it the entire time – and rotate the calzone if necessary)
  9. Remove the calzone and let it sit on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before eating
  10. While you wait, take a photo of your calzone and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #intentionalcalzone #bakingsteel
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Mikkel Elbech is a resident of Durham, North Carolina. He runs his own storytelling agency, Toro Town Storyworks, and you can track his slowly rising sourdough skills on Instagram: @itstruedough

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