I have always appreciated the virtues of big-batch cooking and leftovers. Eating the same thing over and over again never bothered me. That’s still mostly the case, but with everyone home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, there are more mouths to feed more meals. Truthfully, there are only so many meals my husband and I can mass produce each week. Surely I’m not the only one currently feeling like there is both more to cook and less time to do it.
Plus, with spotty grocery shopping and a desire to eat down your supplies, it can help to have a few back-pocket recipes on hand that can be adapted to whatever is in the house or whatever you are in the mood for. And if it staves off palate fatigue and gives you something new to look forward to when we’re all staring at the same faces and places every day? I’m in.
Enter this no-knead olive oil dough. It served as the basis for the Fast Focaccia recipe I shared last year, one of the most popular recipes we’ve published on Voraciously. We can thank sources Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg, of the “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” series, for this gem. As promised, it takes only minutes to assemble. The high moisture in the dough means it basically kneads itself as the gluten aligns and forms the signature structure and texture you expect in bread. At this point in my life — in a pandemic, while trying to juggle a full-time job and a toddler — it’s the type of bread dough I can manage, much more so than sourdough. It’s also an ideal entry point for beginners.
The dough lasts up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, meaning you have plenty of time to use it up, with the flavor only improving as it ages. (You don’t even have to clean the container out in between batches.)
The full base recipe makes 4 pounds of dough. That’s enough for each of these options, though it does require about 7 cups of all-purpose flour. I know that’s a big ask these days, when accessibility can be dicey. Feel free to scale down the recipe to suit, if you don’t feel like making such a huge commitment. I, however, thought it was worth it to have several days of flexible, delicious eating.
What to make
Each of these recipes uses 1 pound of dough. Portions can also be frozen for future use.
This Italian flatbread with a crispy exterior and chewy interior is baked in a round cake pan. It makes a lovely accompaniment to soup or a braise with plenty of juices to sop up. Slice it through the equator and you get special sandwich bread. The recipe calls for nothing more than rosemary and salt, but you should consider the bread your blank canvas. Other herbs, onions and very thinly sliced vegetables are all fair game.
Well, what do you know, my colleague Ann Maloney’s skillet pizza calls for — you guessed it — 1 pound of dough. Follow her recipe with this dough in hand, and you’ll be golden. Top with anything you like, naturally. Me? Twice in the past week I’ve made it using nothing other than Ann’s big-batch tomato sauce and some shredded mozzarella. Bliss.
Shockingly, we don’t have a calzone recipe in our Recipe Finder. No worries, because this one, based on an entry in François and Hertzberg’s original “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” is easy enough to share here.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, ideally with a baking stone (but an overturned baking sheet is fine too), positioning the broiler tray or another sheet pan somewhere that won’t get in the way of the calzone. Roll your shaped 1 pound of dough into a circle that’s about 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking. (This makes one very large calzone, so feel free to divide it into smaller portions, too.) Move the dough to a pizza peel (again, a rimless cookie sheet or overturned baking sheet works) that’s been heavily dusted with whole-wheat flour.
Place your filling of choice on half the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Dampen the edge with water using a pastry brush or your fingers, fold the bare side over the filled side and pinch shut to seal. Cut three slits all the way through the top crust.
Slide the calzone onto the baking stone or sheet, and pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray. Bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the calzone cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Here I did a little mash-up between Joy “the Baker” Wilson’s Sticky Pecan Rolls from our Baking Basics newsletter and the Bread in Five team. I wanted to keep things on the simpler side, so I skipped the topping and instead just used Wilson’s filling with François and Hertzberg’s technique. Many cinnamon roll recipes, including Wilson’s, use an enriched dough made with butter, sugar (more than in the base recipe here) and eggs. The olive oil dough is leaner, but once you add in the butter and brown sugar filling, you may not notice the difference.
Here is François’s genius tip for further nudging this dough into sweet territory: Roll the dough in sugar. Dust a work surface and the top of the dough with granulated sugar and then roll and fill according to Wilson’s recipe (because her batch makes more rolls, the spices can come on a bit strong; I thought it was really tasty, but reduce the cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves as desired). Work quickly, because the sugar will begin to dissolve on the surface and almost form a syrup on the outside of the dough. If that makes your rolling and cutting sloppy, don’t fret. No one will be able to tell once they’re baked.
Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a log. Chill for 20 minutes if it’s too soft to cut. Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 8 pieces and arrange in a buttered 9-inch round cake pan, cut side up. (I did one in the middle and 7 around the perimeter.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour. The rolls will look puny at first but will puff up. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the rolls for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and set in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While the rolls are still warm, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the entire pan onto a large serving platter. Serve warm, of course.
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