Pockets, Turnovers and Calzones


The saying "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades" should be extended to include bread dough because it's one of the most forgiving things in cooking. Actually, there's really only one rule to making dough: Don't kill the yeast. About the only way to do that is to use water that's too hot. It is easy to know what's too hot: If water is uncomfortably hot for your finger, it'll kill the yeast.

I call these pockets, though they can be called turnovers or calzones. And I use them in place of sandwiches. I make them on a Sunday and take them for lunch throughout the week.

Getting well-shaped pockets takes some practice. Working with cold dough helps since it's easier to roll and shape than warm dough. Which brings up a good point: dough doesn't have to rise in a warm place, it does just fine in the refrigerator. This means you can make the dough in the morning then put it in the fridge and pretty much forget about it. All you need to do is punch it down when it gets approximately double in size. (Dough that rises up and collapses on itself is usable, but it won't have the poof a punched-down dough will.)

This will make 6 pockets.

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, then whisk in the flour.
  2. Stir in the olive oil and then start stirring in the flour—throw in the salt with the second cup of flour. When the dough gets too thick to stir, turn it onto the counter and knead in flour as necessary. Ideally, the finished dough is moist, even a little tacky, but satiny smooth. The kneading should take about 10 minutes. Smear a few drops of oil on the dough, put it back in the bowl, and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise on the counter or in the refrigerator.
  3. When the dough has doubled—from 45 minutes in a warm kitchen up to 8 hours in the refrigerator—punch it down. At this point it's ready to roll.

Tomato Mushroom Filling

You don't need a recipe for stuffing the pockets since the filling can be just about anything—if it goes with bread it'll probably be good. For instance, ham and cheese pockets are pretty good. Or sliced tomatoes, dried basil, salt, pepper, and a slice of mozzarella. You can easily take those ideas upscale by using torn fresh basil, roasted red peppers, goat cheese or crumbled Gorgonzola. But I think you get the picture.

Nevertheless, the filling below is a recent favorite. Use any mushroom you can get your hands on. If you can buy fresh shiitake mushrooms, try them (use only the caps). If portobellos are available, use them. If you want to use several varieties, great, just start with roughly one pound.

This makes about 2-1/2 cups filling...plenty for 6 pockets.

Remember, this needs to cool before using it.

  1. sauté the onion until it starts to brown. Then add the mushrooms. Stir until they are cooked, even sticking to the pan and browning.
  2. Add the wine and cook most of it away. Then add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Slowly cook off excess moisture—you want this to be juicy but not watery. Let it cool to room temperature.

Making Pockets

Okay, you've punched down the dough and the filling is at room temperature. Pockets are just around the corner.

  1. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees and liberally dust 2 cookie sheets with cornmeal.
  2. Use a pastry scraper to cut the dough into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a disc about the size of a hamburger bun.
  3. Dust the dough and counter with flour and roll a disc out until it is a little less than 1/2-inch thick. Brush it with oil, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edge.
  4. Put some filling (approx. 1/3 cup) and some grated cheese if you like on one side of center. Smear the margin with water, fold the dough over and crimp the edges together. Slide a spatula or dough scraper under the pocket to transfer it to the cookie sheet. Repeat.
  5. When they're all done, brush the tops with a little oil and dust with cornmeal. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes—till they are nicely browned.

Cooking As Science

Pockets with Tomato Mushroom Filling
Bread Dough Tips
Wild Mushroom Risotto

This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007