There is a little shop in the depths of Maryland serving up pretzel calzones and it is one of my favorite places on this earth.
Soft pretzels are a wonder in and of themselves, but combined with all the charms of a calzone? It is the most delicious of hybrids.
Being that Maryland is a bit too far to drive for lunch, I was forced to develop my own, at-home variation of these ingenious creations.
Pretzel dough is rolled into four rectangles and stuffed with your favorite pizza toppings.
I am a pizza purist at heart, so a generous dose of mozzarella and a few slices of pepperoni suit me just fine, but feel free to tuck in whatever toppings you like best. Just be sure to stick to relatively dry toppings, as anything too wet (I'm looking at you, pineapple), can result in underdone, doughy calzones.
Fold and pinch until we have something that resembles a half-circle.
A bubbling, baking soda bath brings the signature deep, brown color and the coveted chewy texture.
While the calzones bake, a super quick marinara is thrown together.
No mall kiosk could ever compete with the beauty we have just created.
A heavy brush of garlic butter is not to be neglected.
Grab a calzone and a little pot of sauce for dipping and turn on your favorite film.
Summer nights have never looked so good.
makes four // pretzel dough recipe adapted from Alton Brown
FOR THE PRETZEL DOUGH
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- nonstick spray
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, and kosher salt. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes; until foamy.
Add the flour and melted butter to the yeast mixture and fit your mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until the flour and butter are well incorporated. Then, increase the speed to medium and knead for five minutes. At this point, the dough should be smooth and will have pulled away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is still a little shaggy, knead for 2-3 minutes more.
Remove the dough from the mixer, and transfer to a large bowl that you have greased with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for 55 minutes, until doubled in size.
Cook's Note: While the dough rises, gather your fillings and make your marinara sauce. (Recipe follows.)
FOR THE MARINARA
This recipe will make far more sauce than you actually need for the calzones, but it is excellent as pasta or pizza sauce. Sauce stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar*
Cook's Note: The amount of sugar greatly depends on the sweetness of your tomatoes. I suggest beginning with one teaspoon of sugar and tasting before you consider adding a second.
Heat olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and has just started to brown.
Add canned tomatoes all at once, along with the kosher salt. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer then reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
Stir in sugar and season with additional salt, if desired. Puree, using an immersion blender or stand blender.
Allow to cool slightly while you finish preparing the calzones.
FILLING & ASSEMBLY
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup pepperoni
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water)
- coarsely ground kosher salt
Cook's Note: You may use any fillings you like, however, be sure to pat any wet ingredients (such as sautéed vegetables or especially moist meats) dry before stuffing them inside the calzones. Too much moisture will create steam, leaving the inside of the calzones doughy.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with nonstick spray.
Cook's Note: Pretzels are highly prone to sticking. However, I have found that this parchment paper produces perfect pretzels every time. It is the only kind I will use when I am baking them, and you do not even need to grease it!
In a 4-quart, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the 10 cups of water with the baking soda. Bring to a rolling boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, turn the risen dough out unto a lightly-floured surface and portion into four equal pieces. Roll each into a 8x6-inch rectangle. Place 1/4 cup mozzarella and several slices of pepperoni in the center of each rectangle. Fold the dough over on itself, matching the upper edge with the bottom of the dough. Fold the edges over and crimp to seal, forming a half-moon shape.
Place the calzones in the boiling baking soda bath, one at a time, for 30 seconds. Transfer the boiled calzones to the prepared sheet pans. Brush each with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
Bake the calzones until they are deep golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
Cook's Note: While the pretzels bake, prepare the garlic butter. (Recipe follows.)
FOR THE GARLIC BUTTER
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
Melt butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in garlic salt.
Allow the calzones to cool for about five minutes before handling. Once cooled slightly, brush with garlic butter and serve alongside warm marinara.
Cook's Note: These calzones will last up to 24 hours, if refrigerated. Microwave for 1-2 minutes to warm.