We seem to be in a pie mood here at the Tribune Chronicle, so the review copy I received of "175 Best Mini Pie Recipes" by Julie Anne Hession couldn't have come at a better time.
This book caught my attention because it is not just full of mini pie recipes, both sweet and savory, but there also are more than 16 recipes for various doughs as well as a photo tutorial on making various pie shells, hand pies, tarts and pockets.
Some of these recipes include this pizza / calzone dough recipe as well as recipes for regular pie crust dough, whole wheat pie dough, dark chocolate pie dough, savory cheese dough, graham cracker pie dough and many others.
Italian sausage and pepper calzones is just one of the recipes in a soon-to-be-released cookbook “175 Best Mini Pie Recipes” by Julie Anne Hession. The book is scheduled for publication April 30.
I love working with dough and have spent a considerable amount of time making pies and breads over the years. I like knowing where my food comes from as well as what ingredients are in the things I am eating, so making things from scratch rather than buying processed food is something I don't mind taking extra time to do on the weekends. To make things even easier, I found that the recipes in this cookbook are easy to follow and the result was exactly what I expected.
My favorite part of this cookbook is that most of the mini pie and turnover recipes can be frozen prior to baking and popped into the oven later. Those nights when I get home from work tired and don't feel like cooking, if there are pre-prepared mini pies in the freezer, I can simply toss a couple in the oven for dinner and serve with a small salad. I even can bake extra to take to work as lunch the following day.
Many of the mini pies are baked in muffin pans or are folded into turnovers, but I am particularly entertained by some of the recipes under the chapter titled "Pies for Kids of All Ages," especially the recipes for Pie Pops. Like the trendy cake pops that are so popular now, pie pops are mini pies on a stick that look fun to make and to eat.
Pizza / Calzone Dough
(Makes 12 large or 24 small calzones)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 packet)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon liquid honey
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 1/2 cups bread flour, divided
In bowl of stand mixer, combine yeast, water and honey. Stir to combine and set aside to proof for five minutes until foamy. Add salt, olive oil and 3 1/2 cups flour to the bowl. (Add remaining flour two tablespoons at a time if the dough is sticky). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes to form a smooth and elastic ball. Additional flour can be used on the work surface if needed.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area until dough has doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. If not using immediately, wrap each piece in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. The dough can be stored tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for one day or frozen in a freezer bag for up to one month. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator before using.
Italian sausage and pepper calzones
(Makes 12 calzones)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage or turkey sausage links
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One recipe Pizza / Calzone Dough
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sausages and cook, turning occasionally until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.
Increase heat to medium high and add onion and peppers to the pan. Saute until golden, about six minutes. Add garlic and oregano and saute for one minute.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Add reserved sausage pieces and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
Divide the dough into two pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Using a cutter, cut into six-inch rounds and place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Reroll scraps of dough if needed.
Brush the edges of the rounds with the egg wash and place about 1/4 cup of filling in the center of each one. Fold the rounds in half, enclosing the filling. Fold the edges over to create a double thickness and pinch the edges to seal. Crimp the edges by using the tines of a fork. Brush the tops with the egg wash. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Place the pies on the baking sheets and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut three slits in the top of each pie. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, switching positions of the baking sheets halfway through until the pies are puffed and golden brown.
Let cool for about five minutes on wire racks before serving.
While most of the recipes in the book are for dessert pies, there are still plenty of savory pies as well, including a large chapter on meat and seafood pies.
The first recipe I chose from this cookbook used the pizza / calzone dough to make the sausage and pepper calzone. It reminded me of the sausage and pepper sandwiches often found at festivals and carnivals, but instead of a thick, soggy roll, the filling is folded into an easy to eat hand-held pie with firm, crispy crust.
I made the dough first and while it was rising, I made the filling. By the time the filling was cooked through, the dough was ready to roll and fill. Although the recipe calls for the filling to be completely cooled, I didn't wait that long. As a result, the dough was somewhat softened by the warm filling while I worked with it and made it a little more difficult to handle. I probably would have had better looking calzones if I had made the filling first and let it cool while the dough was rising. Even so, they turned out quite well, and I was impressed with how the crust puffed up and turned golden brown while baking.
The cookbook calls for a six-inch round cutter for the calzones, which I don't have in my kitchen. But what I do have is a bowl that is about six inches in diameter and a sharp knife. I put the bowl opening-side down on the rolled out dough and used the knife to cut around the circumference, making a perfectly circular pie crust.
Folding the round in half and double rolling the edges took a little practice, but after the first two or three, it became easier. I dipped the fork into flour to avoid sticking as I pressed it onto the folded edge giving the pie the crimped seam the recipe described. Even so, I worried about the pie popping open during baking and all the filling running out, but that didn't happen.
Since I was only baking two calzones and was freezing the rest for another time, instead of using the stove's oven, I used a tabletop toaster/oven. I set the timer for 35 minutes, but noticed the pies were already puffy and turning brown after 15 minutes of baking. To keep the crust from getting too dark before the filling was heated through, I covered the pies with aluminum foil and that did the trick.
The crust was nice and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just as I would expect from a good pizza crust. I've already decided to use this crust recipe again for regular homemade pizza since it was so easy and came out so well.