Clearly I am drawn to breads that have other things stuffed inside them. Maybe that’s because I am trying to kill two birds with one stone (dinner and a bready thing!) or maybe it’s because I’m petrified of purebred breads that have no adornment and nowhere for me to hide. It’s probably both.
This one was inspired both because Maitland had seen it during my first trawl of prospective recipes and declared it to be of interest, and also because his mother had read the pide entry and suffered flashbacks to her own calzone making experiences. For some reason this sealed the deal for me? My brain is possibly not working all that well.
The ghost of the pide hung around and haunted me throughout the process, starting with the dough being kind of similar. By that I mean I had a lot of issues getting it to form a ‘shaggy ball’, and found myself staring manically into my mixer waiting for the proverbial ‘shaggy ball’ to form. As you all know a watched dough doesn’t shaggy ball. I then abandoned machinery and tried to make things right by hand, which was more successful. Eventually I declared it time to prove, less because the dough had become shiny and elastic and more because I was over it. Also, I needed to go to the supermarket and get all the filling ingredients.
When I returned the dough seemed to be rising but without much enthusiasm. I certainly gave it much longer than the suggested half hour prove (same time as for the pide, the parallels are uncanny). I let it prove while I cut the eggplant. I let it prove while I cooked the eggplant. I let it prove while I debated whether I had burnt the eggplant. I let it prove while I mixed the cheese together. I let it prove while I realised my kitchen scales were non-responsive and I had grated an unknown quantity of parmesan. I let it prove while I decided to take a chance and combine the rather dark eggplant with the cheese. I then finally decided that over an hour of proving on a windowsill on a 40° day was generous to a fault.
Luckily for me, for the dough, and also for Maitland (I was feeling too fragile to absorb a failure), the results were much better than the pide. The dough was probably not quite right, but it was still fluffier and easy to cut, and the filling was all cheesy deliciousness. The eggplant did not taste burned at all, and although I had had my doubts about the recipe instructions to make a passata dipping sauce (instead of having tomato inside the calzone) I actually loved how that worked. The recipe allegedly served 4, but we devoured 2/3 of it between us and Maitland announced he would ‘gladly have it once a week’. Good for him.
I do think I have had a bit of a breakthrough here. I believe that the issues I faced with both the pide dough and this pizza dough come from the mixer I’m using. Recipes generally give instructions for either using the bowl of a mixer, believing you to have an aspirational kitchen centrepiece like this one:
or they instruct you on doing it the old fashioned way, by hand. My mixer is actually a fancy schmancy food processor, and that means there is a central column in the bowl. My working theory is that, for your more shaggy doughs (Deb uses this word to describe the ball the dough forms and I find it extremely amusing. It makes me think of Hagrid) the processor set-up isn’t up to the task. I think this means I am taking way too long in the initial stages to bring the dough together and presumably not doing it or myself any favours. Doing the whole thing by hand would probably avoid this. Given my predilection for making breads stuffed with things, I am sure I will have an opportunity to test this soon.
Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone
Another winner from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook, only modified insofar as I struggled to accurately weigh the parmesan.
Allegedly serves 4 (more like 3 in our case)
This dough is the rushed pizza dough recipe and could equally be used to make a 30cm round pizza
100ml warm water
1¼ tsp dried granular yeast
200g plain or bread flour plus more for the counter (I used bread flour, because what else do I buy it for?)
1 tsp table salt
Olive oil, for coating bowl
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium eggplant/aubergine
Freshly ground black pepper
40g parmesan (substitute any amount you feel like)
1 egg, beaten with 1tsp water for egg wash
A handful of snipped fresh basil leaves
¼ tsp table salt
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Few drops of red wine vinegar (optional)
To make the dough:
By hand (aka what I should have done): Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it stand for five minutes. Add the flour, then the salt and mix with a wooden spoon until a rough, craggy (WOW. The word she uses is craggy not shaggy. Shaggy is all me. I’ve created a monster) mass forms. Turn dough and any loose bits out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until a smooth, elastic dough forms.
In a mixer (but not my mixer): Pour the warm water into the bowl of your electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it stand for five minutes. Add the flour, then the salt and mix with your dough hook at a moderate speed until the mixture starts to form a craggy (/shaggy) mass. Reduce the speed to low and mix for 5 minutes, letting the hook knead the mass into a smooth, elastic dough. Remove dough and wipe out bowl.
Note: If you choose to do as I did and mix this in your fancy schmancy food processor then it will take a very long time to do anything and you will ultimately have to follow the instructions for hand mixing anyway.
Next, regardless of your method, coat the inside of a bowl (the one you’ve just used is perfect) with olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place (you can use an oven that’s been preheated to 120°C for five minutes then turned off, however this is only going to be helpful if you have another oven to do the eggplant in). Let the dough rise for 30 minutes, or longer if you are busy fretting about burning key ingredients.
While the dough is proving, make the filling:
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan. Slice the eggplant. The recipe suggests 0.5-1cm slices but the pictures seemed to involve a more slender eggplant + those slices felt very large in diameter to me. I cut mine smaller as the picture above attests. Coat a baking tray with olive oil and arrange the eggplant slices in one layer. Season them with salt and pepper and then roast for a maximum of 20 minutes before flipping roasting for another 10 minutes. Depending on how small or large you cut them this time can vary – for the slices I went with I think 12 and 10 would have been fine and would have saved the agony of wondering if I’d ruined everything. Let the eggplant cool while you mix your cheeses, leave the oven on.
Put the ricotta in a bowl and then roughly grate the mozzarella in. Finely grate the parmesan in and then season with salt and pepper plus a pinch of the dried oregano (dealer’s choice – go more if you’re wild for the stuff). Stir the eggplant into the cheese mixture.
Roll out your dough into a 30cm round OR a 30cm Millennium Falcon. Dollop the cheese and eggplant mixture into the centre of the dough, leaving a decent border. Pull the sides up over the cheese mixture and press them together in the centre, completely enclosing the filling.
Place the calzone onto an oven tray lined with baking paper and then brush the outside of the calzone with the egg wash. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and golden all over. I left ours in for 25 minutes because I wanted it to get browner.
While the calzone is baking, make the sauce. Heat the tomatoes, salt, garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small saucepan until simmering. Gently simmer for 5 minutes, then taste for seasoning. For extra sweetness add some sugar, or to give some punch add a few drops of red wine vinegar. Simmer for another minute and then pour into a small dish.
To serve – slide the baked calzone onto a serving dish and cut into large sections. The cheese will ooze out and it will be quite satisfying. Garnish with snipped basil and serve with the sauce on the side.