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As it gets colder and COVID-19 cases rise, I’ve been working on home-based date ideas for my husband and I. Now that we’ve figured out how to stop constantly bumping into each other while prepping dinner, cooking something special together is an easy way to enjoy each other’s company.

I got the idea for a make-your-own-calzone date in the middle of the night this week, and it was a perfect Sunday together, from researching calzone-folding techniques on YouTube to choosing and preparing ingredients, to marveling at the taste of ricotta seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper. This would be a great family activity, too, since it includes personalization, preparation tasks simple enough for kids (grating cheese, seasoning ricotta, etc.), and is a new way to eat what is basically pizza.

This also has the benefit of being comfort food of the highest degree — who doesn’t find comfort in warm bread that’s full of cheese? We all could use some extra comfort right now — find it inside a steaming, delicious, personalized calzone.

HOMEMADE CALZONES

Makes 4 generous calzones

Ingredients:

2 pounds pizza dough, room temperature (buy some at the store or make your own — my favorite recipe is listed below)

1 pound mozzarella cheese, low-moisture (you can use fresh, but you risk additional leakage)

15 ounces ricotta

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour and cornmeal for dusting

Your choice of fillings (you can make plain calzones, but the fillings make it more fun. Try classics like pepperoni, ham, sausage, green pepper, onion, broccoli, olives, banana peppers, mushrooms, etc.).

Egg wash (One egg plus 2 to 4 tablespoons water)

Marinara sauce, warmed (make your own or from a jar)

Romantic calzone-making music

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Scatter cornmeal on two standard sheet pans. If your dough is refrigerated, take it out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature; it’ll be easier to work with.

Create fillings: Meat like pepperoni and sliced ham can go into calzones without any prep, but cook crumbled sausage and other raw meat first. To reduce the potential of leakage or wet-bottomed calzones, cook vegetables in a pan with some salt and pepper on medium for 5 to 8 minutes, reducing their moisture and amplifying their flavor a bit.

Shred mozzarella. In a bowl, mix ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. You can skip this step, but it adds a lot of flavor and interest to your final product.

On a cutting board or clean, floured counter, split 2 pounds dough into four equal portions. Start by stretching with your hands, then use a rolling pin to get your dough into a 10- to 12-inch circle.

In center of dough, add 2/3 cup of shredded mozzarella, 2 to 3 spoonsful of ricotta, and fillings of your choice; 2/3 cup of filling per calzone is a good estimate, but it depends on what you’re using. Top with scant mozzarella and a final spoonful of ricotta. Fold dough over filling into a half-moon shape, and seal using egg wash on the seam, folding the edges of your dough together tightly. If you’re worried about the seal, you can also use a fork or spoon to press firmly on the edges to seal.

Place on baking sheet. Cut 3 to 4 small vent holes in the top of the calzone, then brush with egg wash. Once calzones are assembled, bake 15 to 25 minutes, or until dough has become golden brown. (This took around 25 minutes in my oven, which is notorious for lagging bake times.) Remove from oven, let sit 5 to 15 minutes, then cut in half and enjoy.

PIZZA DOUGH

Recipe courtesy of Epicurious

Ingredients:

153 grams 00 flour

153 grams all purpose flour

8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)

2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)

4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. In a small bowl, mix 200 grams lukewarm tap water, yeast and oil. Pour in the flour mix. Knead until combined, about 3 minutes, then let rest for 15 minutes. Knead bread for 3 minutes. Cut into two and shape into balls. Place on heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth let rise 3 to 4 hours or longer (or put in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours). Remove from fridge and let sit room temperature for 3 to 45 mins. Place each ball on heavily floured surface and use fingers to stretch to shape into squares or rounds.


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