Sometimes the goal isn’t to eat the perfect meal, it is the process of making that meal. You may want time alone in the kitchen with a favorite podcast, or maybe some one-on-one cooking time with your kids. But gooey, messy projects are perfect for when we have some free time for a project. Making pizza pockets from scratch may not seem like a project, but it becomes one when you cook with a toddler. I value having Z in the kitchen with me, but making pizza pockets is not a weeknight activity for us. But pre-measuring ingredients and having a little bit of extra time makes this into a fun activity on a cold day. Plus, pizza pockets make a great dinner, snack or lunch at work.
We start with homemade dough. This is perfect for toddlers: you measure the ingredients, they dump each part into a bowl, and they stare in awe at how the stand mixer quickly makes the dough. Z loves to stand on a stepstool at the counter adding small scoops of flour into the mixer (when it is stopped!), shaking seasoning into the dough and watching it wrap around the dough hook. No mixer? You can mix the dough with a spoon together. The whole project is magical because you are turning ingredients into dough and watching it grow. Even better, it becomes pizza pockets.
Making your own pizza sauce or marinara isn’t necessary, but it is so simple that you might as well. Prepping the pepperoni, however, is critical. My parents have perfected a technique for cooking much of the oil out of pepperoni, and this makes for a crisp and less-greasy filling. Also, it makes for an amazing snacks, so plan to make more than you need. This recipe only makes half of the dough called for in the original recipe, but it is all you need to make the pizza pockets. I usually make a full batch because it is very versatile and can be used for a quick loaf of bread, flatbread or pizza. Note: Your dough will double in size during this process, so make sure that you are holding it in a large enough container. The amount of dough you make may vary depending on how much it rises. The yield of the dough can vary depending on the age of your yeast and the temperature in the room. Purchased dough works too, but what’s the fun in that?
Seasoned Pizza Dough
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
1 ½ cups lukewarm water (use 2 ¾ cups if doubling)
1 packet of quick rise yeast
½ tablespoon of kosher salt
½ tablespoon of sugar
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
Using the bowl of your stand mixer, add all of the ingredients except for the flour. If you are not using a stand mixer, use your largest mixing bowl.
Mix together well using a wooden spoon.
Add flour a bit at a time, mixing with a spoon or with the dough hook attachment of your mixer.
Make sure that everything is well mixed, and drape a clean cloth towel over the top.
Wait approximately 2 hours, or until the dough has risen and then fallen on its own.
Store in the refrigerator and use within 10 days (it gets a yeasty flavor after 10 days). Add extra olive oil to the top if it gets too dry.
Easy Pizza Sauce
1 cup of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning mix
1 teaspoon of granulated garlic
Mix together well.
1 batch of pizza dough
1 batch of pizza sauce
5 sticks of mozzarella string cheese, cut in half lengthwise
10+ slices of pepperoni
Flour for prepping
Cornmeal for sprinkling on the cookie sheet (No cornmeal? Extra flour works too)
Preheat the oven to 450 °.
Line a microwave-safe plate with a sheet of newspaper and a sheet of paper towel. Lay out slices of pepperoni in a single layer. Microwave for 30 seconds, adding 15 seconds as needed until the pepperoni is crispy. This may need to be done in batches, and you will need new newspaper and paper towels for each batch. If you are using giant slices of pepperoni (as pictured,) quarter them once they are crispy.
Take ¼ cup of dough and place on a floured surface.
Using your fingers or a rolling pin, flatten into a round shape until it is about 4 inches in diameter.
Add a spoonful of sauce to the middle, top it with a slice of pepperoni (or 4 quarters) and a piece of string cheese.
Pull all of the sides together until you have made a purse of dough.
Pinch the edges together to seal and place on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, with the pinched part down.
Repeat until you have used up all of your dough, about 10 pizza pockets.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until pockets are lightly browned on top.