Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spinach & Mushroom Calzones for "Megan's Challenge"--TFF

A new addition to Tyler Florence Fridays this year is "Megan's Challenge". Named after our lovely co-host Megan of My Baking Adventures, it is an optional, once-a-month recipe, selected by Megan, and made and posted by all those "opting in" by the end of the month. This month's pick is Tyler's Spinach & Three Cheese Calzones and being NOT A BAKER! (Have I ever mentioned that before!?), and having never made calzones, I was a bit nervous about this one. Also there is a whole lot of cheese in Tyler's recipe, so I knew I had to "healthy it up" in order to make it meet my current eat healthier goals.  

I decided to cut the recipe down to make two calzones instead of four, get some whole wheat in there, replace the bulk of the cheese with some mushrooms and roasted red pepper, and sneak a little ground flax in for good measure. Tyler's recipe is below and my changes are in the "Notes/Results" section.

Spinach and Three Cheese Calzone
Tyler Florence
(Makes 4 servings)

1 package rapid-rising dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Egg wash
Cornmeal, for dusting

For Dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, bloom the yeast by combining it with warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve, then let stand 5 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour, 1 cup at a time. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and add salt. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Test the dough by pressing 2 fingers into it. If indents remain, the dough is adequately risen. When ready, knead the dough gently and divide in 4 balls. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes. This will relax the dough, making it easier to stretch. In the meantime prepare filling.

For Calzones: Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. If you don't have a stone, simply grease a baking pan. Roll or spread the dough discs into 10-inch circles, leave the dough slightly thick so that the filling will not ooze out. Spoon a quarter of the filling onto 1 side of the dough round and brush the outer edge with egg wash to help form a seal. Fold dough over to enclose the filling and form a large turnover. Roll up the edges with your fingers to close tightly and prevent leaking. Cut a few slashes in the top to allow steam to escape during baking and brush with egg wash. Repeat with remaining rounds. Sprinkle a pizza peel (or prepared baking pan) with cornmeal and carefully transfer the calzones. Bake directly on pizza stone for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Let the calzones rest 10 minutes before cutting to allow the cheese to set. Serve with basic tomato sauce if desired.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
Salt and pepper
15 ounces ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded fontina
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For Filling: In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add the spinach, season, and continue to cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander and squeeze out the excess liquid. If necessary, drain the ricotta in a sieve to remove excess moisture also. Calzone filling should be fairly dry, because it may leak out or make the dough mushy. Combine spinach, cheeses, egg, and pepper in a large bowl.

Notes/Results:  Really good! I was pleased with the changes I made. I was not sure how much whole wheat flour to put in without changing the texture too much and making it too dense, so after much consultation (thanks Natashya!), I settled on making 1/3 of the flour I used a whole wheat pastry flour. I was a bit worried about making the dough since I have a fear of yeast and no standing mixer with a dough hook (remember--NOT A BAKER! and limited counter space), but it all seemed to work, even using my hand mixer. The calzone crust was flaky, crisp on the outside but soft on the inside and not too dense. For the filling, I omitted the egg, the ricotta and fontina cheeses and cut the total amount of cheese to about 1/2 cup of mixed Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. Since I removed most of the cheese, to keep it interesting, I added about 3/4 cup of sliced cremini mushrooms, 1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper and some extra garlic and red pepper flakes. I also snuck about 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed into my filling mixture--you don't notice it in the calzone and it adds a boost of those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids. To serve it, I made a quick marinara sauce, (basically a canned no-salt tomato sauce simmered with garlic and herbs), and I added a dash of hot pepper flakes to it so both the calzone and the sauce had a nice little kick. I didn't miss the extra cheese at all and was really happy with the texture that the yummy mushrooms added. This healthier version still had lots of flavor so I didn't feel at all deprived.

A great pick Megan, and something I never would have tried on my own. If you want to participate in Tyler Florence Fridays and Megan's Challenge, you can get all the details at the TFF site, here.


  1. I actually find calzones easier to make than pizza (although I cheat and use store-bought dough). I love that you can just stuff them with whatever you want. Yours is certainly making my mouth water.

  2. They look really good. I love your healthy changes!

  3. Mushrooms and red pepper are great additions! Love calzones and yours look perfect - Ms. Baker in Training!
    I am surprised you could mix a bread dough with your hand mixer - if it is ever too tough, you could just go old school and knead by hand.
    Great calzones - who knew they could be so healthy?

  4. And what was the cup filled with in the background?

  5. I think I'd prefer your filling, Deb. I love most cheeses; ricotta--not so much. The veggies make a wonderful addition and are so much healthier. Great adaptations.

  6. I may have you craving pizza but you have me craving calzones, I don't know how long it has been since I've had one.

  7. Hi Deb,
    I've made a new soup to join you in this week's Souper Sunday.


  8. Joanne--thanks! Store-bought do would be much less pressure for me!


    Natashya--that seems like it would require me to work so I am glad the mixer worked instead! ;-)

    Joie de vivre--the red stuff was the marinara sauce I served with them. I am happy you are coming to Souper Sunday this week!

    Arlene--I like ricotta OK, it certain things but it just didn't sound good to me in these.

    Kat--we need to exchange our food! ;-)

  9. I'm making this tonight. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as pretty as your picture!


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