I’ve been making calzones from scratch since first becoming vegan close to 9 years ago. A calzone is basically a sandwich-size pizza pocket. Traditionally, a yeasted bread dough is filled with leftover vegetables, cheese and tomato sauce, and it is baked to perfection. Calzones are really easy to make, and are great to make ahead and take on the go for lunch. For a vegan calzone, the filling possibilities are seemingly endless: vegan cheese, vegan pepperoni and pizza sauce is an obvious, but how about curried vegetables and rice; or tofu, brocoli and potato; or peppers, onions and tomatoes? You can be as creative as you want to be with calzones. They are really a fabulous comfort food.
Side note: I am also a huge fan of Parks and Recreation. And, if you watch the show, you probably already thought of this when you first saw the title of this post. Now, no matter how hard I try, every time I think of calzones, I think of Ben in season 3 where he becomes nerdy obsessed with calzones, and later on with making calzones. Leslie says to him ”Calzones are pointless. They’re just pizza that’s harder to eat. No one likes them. Good day, sir.” That episode is hilarious, but sadly it paints the wrong picture when regarding calzones. They are actually delicious, lots of people like them, and they’re very easy to eat. You can eat them with one hand while writing a food blog! See, not nerdy at all!
Okay, back to my calzones. These I filled with a balsamic-braised beef-style seitan, green peas, bruschetta sauce and vegan mozzarella. It’s a very delicious combination, comforting and warm. It’s a great movie night dinner, when you just feel like staying in. Or make these ahead, and pop in the toaster oven for a few minutes to reheat for lunch.
makes 8 calzones
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar
1 – 1/4 ounce packet quick-rise yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted (I use Earth Balance)
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs (a mix of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
In a glass bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water completely. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, stir gently. Let sit for up to 5 minutes to proof the yeast, if it does not bubble up, it’s inactive and you’ll need to start over. In a separate bowl, or the bowl to your stand mixer, sift together the bread flour, dried herbs and salt. Add the water, yeast and melted vegan butter to flour mixture and knead to form a dough. If you use a stand mixer, with your dough attachment, knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until it’s soft and no-longer sticky. If you don’t have a stand mixer, knead your dough on a floured surface with your hands for 10 minutes, or as long as you can go! Form the dough into a ball. In the same mixing bowl, pour a little olive oil to coat the bowl, put the ball of dough back inside the oil-coated bowl, and cover with a clean, dry towel. Let rise for one hour. After one hour, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Punch down the dough (which should have greatly expanded in size) and with a little bit more flour, knead for about 3 minutes. Cut and form the dough into 8 balls. With a rolling-pin, on a floured surface, take a dough ball and roll it out till it’s about 1/2 inch thick and about 5 inches in diameter. Place filling on half of the dough circle, and fold over the other end on top of the filling. Fold over the edges to seal the pocket. Poke the top of the calzone a few times with a fork. Drizzle tops with olive oil if desired. Repeat with all of the dough balls until you have 8 calzones. Place calzones side-by-side on a baking pan and bake for 10-12 minutes until tops are golden.
For the filling:
2 cups beef-style seitan (I used Gardein Beefless-Tips)
up to 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup bruschetta sauce (or pizza sauce)
1/2 cup cooked sweet peas
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and black pepper to taste
In a cast-iron (or non-stick) skillet on high heat, sear the seitan in a teaspoon or so of extra virgin olive oil for 5 minutes, or until all sides are browned. Reduce heat and pour in the balsamic vinegar, stir to coat, cover pan and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a separate bowl, mix the garlic, salt and pepper in with the peas. Assemble the calzones by spreading a thin layer of sauce, topping with seitan, peas and then cheese. Proceed with making and baking the calzones as stated above.