Friday, May 20, 2011

Stromboli Baby

I have a new favorite word, and perhaps a new favorite food.

Can you tell it is raining, and hailing? Yes we just as of five minutes ago set a new record for latest snowfall in Utah at valley elevations. Five straight weeks of precipitation, and moping, my usual coping method, got old, and I just don't have the young energy anymore to drink hard as a hobby, so I decided I'd better start cooking. I figure I have a lot of hiking to catch up with in June, so I might as well store a lot of good stuff to eat now. Preferably portable. And also I started to make muffins from scratch (3 kinds), am baking more breads, and invented some recipes to try soon, I hope.

Stromboli is an Italian dish defined on Wikipedia as being a calzone with the sauce inside. This tripped me up as I thought I was making calzones to throw in the freezer, but as I was over-ambitiously trying to put tomato sauce inside them without rupturing their thin skins, I learned I was making stromboli. Stromboli can be made in a swirl log shape too though, and I wanted to try that. The pics are above.

To start, just make a pizza dough as you normally would. Throw down a lot of flour on your counter and roll it into a rectangle. Then put down whatever you want, roll it up as you would a yoga mat or a sleeping bag, coat the edges with egg, seal, sprinkle with something good on top, bake, and carve it like a roast with a big bread knife. It is delicious, artistic, structurally sound, stores well in freezer, and will make you seem like you are an actual Italian in a way pizza will not, even when you make it from scratch.

My first roll stromboli was: tomato paste, black olive, red bell pepper, spinach leaves, whole basil leaves, slices of provolone cheese, roast beef, and salomi, mustard, garlic powder and sprinkled with asiago, romano, and parmesan cheese, and oregano on top. My dough was half whole grains- a mix of rye and whole wheat flours with unbleached standard baking flour. I think this is one sturdy food you could get away with all whole grain flour- it doesn't need to rise much, you are coating it with egg anyway, sprinkling it with good things, and stuffing it with sandwhich fixings and pizza toppings. No one will mind.

Some other ideas:

Vegetarian: tomato paste, bell pepper, olives, whole basil leaves, eggplant, squash, onions, provolone, sprinkled parmesan, romano, and asiago.

Vegetarian 2: tomato paste, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin strips, crushed red pepper, minced garlic, onions, mozzerella, sprinkled with oregano and parmesan on top

Pink Lady: Ham, mayo, mozzerella, tomato paste, olives, spinach or lettuce, crushed red pepper, a touch of ranch, ground rosemary, sprinkled on top with oregano and parmesan

Hot Italian sausage would be good too. I like parmesan cheese, if you cannot tell.

Now as to calzones, in their crescent shape, they will certainly make better easier to eat stored food, if you are in the habit of keeping tomato sauce around to dip them into, or some other condiment you prefer. They will be dry to travel with though, which for hiking and car trip purposes, is why I wanted them to be complete, with sauce inside, like a Hot Pocket.

I used to consider "Hot Pockets" one of mankind's greatest inventions. Then I got clued in a bit to the way the world used to be, you know, for about 4,000 years until the microwave and massive grocery markets, and realized they were just the corruption of every nation's old lunch pail stand by, the enclosed sandwich, calzone, stuffed na'an, empanada, pasty, etcetera. The coal miners even built a handle into theirs, which they would eat around and then discard, so birds could pick at the filthy black bread stick and die instead of them. Clever. So the original lunch pail was edible, and now it does not decompose for 25,000,000 years- approximately. Now, Hot Pockets are not very good, but I kept buying them in college, on the hopes they would be good, or really, the conviction that they SHOULD be good. I mean they were so convenient and clever and self-contained. Every food good right there, little spillage, eat it hot or just let it thaw as you sleep in class and then eat it coldish.

A better idea: buy a $6 dough press set (mine is by Progressive and can be found at TJ Maxx, Ross stores, and Amish farmers markets) and just make the things yourself, without preservatives and with a lot more flavor and real ingredients. You could make do without the dough press kit. If you can roll dough into a circle then you can fold it over itself. Paint the edges or lips with a little egg yolk, and press them with a fork if you want that artisan's touch. Almost anything can go in them, and you can make empanadas, mini dessert or fruit pastries, calzones, stromboli, and anything else you want to call them with one kit. The largest size my kit makes is about the size of a Hot Pocket, which I know is good to cut down hunger on the run, but not quite fill me. Simple eh? I have not tried empanadas yet, which I think I will fry in corn oil to make them a bit different, or mix in some masa to my dough. But here are some calzone tips, or stromboli tips, depending on how technical you want to be.

Do not overstuff them. That will be the temptation because everything going in them is good, and you like good things. But overstuffing stretches your dough and creates weak spots. They will leak- no big deal, or explode- which may be.

Use tomato paste, rather than tomatoes or tomato sauce. The paste is drier and will not weaken your dough or add to leakage. Then again, the most delicious part of the calzone experience is peeling that crispy patch of mozzerella and tomato goo off your pan after you lift off your calzones.

Type of pan does not seem to matter. I tried pale and dark metals, flat and high walled. What you want is to work your dough as little as possible. My early calzones in each batch were more stable than the ones I formed from the scraps of left-over dough I re-rolled out. Also, don't grease the pan, put down a little corn flour, it will add to your crust and works just as well, and is easier to clean off. Just shake it over the garbage can.

Coat your calzones with egg even if you don't want any herbs or cheese on the outside. It will make the crust less dry and taste better. I put herbs in my dough, which is a fair idea also. And garlic powder will work better than minced garlic. That too can go in your dough for safe keeping.

Bake around 400 degrees, and watch them close. They finish faster than you might expect. I left mine in the oven for 10-12 minutes. They will cook a bit more even after you've removed them, which is true of meat and any enclosed dish or food too.

Ricotta cheese is great in stuffed shells, but I think it is too hard to find good ricotta with the flavor you need to stand up to the crust of a calzone. Stick with mozzerella or provolone. Parmesan and cheddar in little touches will help to enhance either cheese.

Watch out when hot- they spit!

If you are really ambitious, try selling them. Who doesn't love a good portable meal?

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