Wednesday, May 19, 2010

recipe: pizza pockets for lunch boxes

homemade pizza pockets

You asked for it! How to make homemade pizza pockets. Or, as my little girl calls them, "pizza sandwiches". :)

There are several variations to this recipe/technique to make homemade pizza pockets. You can take shortcuts to make the process easier and faster, or do it all from scratch - whatever suits your tastes (and time frame!) best.

Items needed to make your own homemade pizza pockets:
- pizza dough
- sauce
- your choice of toppings (or in the case of pockets, "fillings")

This is the (very!) easy pizza crust recipe that I use most of the time (for all homemade pizza, not just pockets). It's simple, cooks up nicely, and is pretty forgiving.

Ingredients for pizza crust:
• 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
• 1 tablespoon white sugar
• 1 packet active dry yeast (.25 oz)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 1/2 cups flour (you can use All Purpose flour or wheat flour or a combination of those two)
• Optional - Season to taste. (I like to add in a tablespoon (or two!) of garlic powder,  Italian seasoning is great too!)

1. Stir warm water, sugar and yeast together until dissolved. Let sit for a few minutes so the yeast has a chance to get bubbly and happy.  Add the olive oil and the salt. Stir in the flour until well blended. Dough should be smooth and not overly sticky. You can knead the dough at this point, adding in small amounts of flour if needed to achieve a smooth dough. Leave dough to rest for 10 minutes.

2. lightly dust your working space with cornmeal to prevent sticking (you can use flour, but the cornmeal gives a nice crunch to the crust. I've found that sometimes too much flour residue leaves an icky floury taste to the crust). Gently, using a rolling pin (and your hands!) work the dough out until it is quite thin. The thinner the better!

I am not the best roller-outer. I tend to shy away from a lot of recipes that require the use of a rolling pin. But pizza dough is, as I said before, very forgiving. It's okay if it's not rolled out perfectly. You can use the parts of your rolled out dough that are rolled out well and then re-knead it and roll out again as you go. The dough will become more firm and result in a chewier crust the more you work it, but in my opinion that is not a bad thing when it comes to pizza crust! (unlike, say, sugar cookies!)

* If you have a bread machine you can also make a pizza dough in that. I just follow the basic recipe that is printed in our bread machine manual/cookbook.

** If you don't want to mess with making your own dough or crust at all you may check with your local bakery for dough. Even our Publix will sell fresh pizza dough out of the bakery department. You just have to ask for it and they bag it right up for you!

*** If you want a really super short-cut you can buy pizza dough from the ready-to-go tubes. I'm happy that this pizza crust is free of trans fats.

For my last batch of homemade pizza pockets these are the products I used:
makings of a pizza pocket

Of course you can use any sauce you like. I happen to love this one. My husband and I have been attempting to make our own marinara sauce for years and have been disappointed with the outcome time and time again. This one is my fall-back. I think it's great.

Use whatever cheese you prefer. I usually buy large blocks of mozzarella from Costco or the bags of shredded Italian blend cheese with parmesan, romano and other yummy flavors (my fave). But this one was on a super sale so I deviated from my norm.

For other toppings I used turkey pepperoni and (not pictured) diced mushrooms and I snuck in some broccoli too (which my son spied while eating. I had to feign ignorance and say it must just come in the sauce...LOL). Use whatever you like here! I would normally have used olives too, but forgot. My son reminded me as he was eating them later. ;-)

Assembling the pizza pockets:

There were two things I did differently this time that I think helped the pizza pockets turn out well. The first thing was I drained out some of the excess moisture from the marinara sauce. I just folded up a paper towel into four layers on a plate and them scooped about a 1/2 cup of sauce on top. After a few minutes the paper towels were soaking wet and the sauce was much thicker. Because the sauce wasn't so wet it didn't saturate the dough - allowing the crust to get a lot more crusty than I had before, also, none of the sauce ran out of the pockets!

The other thing I did (though I'm thinking this was secondary to draining the sauce) - but instead of putting the sauce down on the dough first (as you would when making regular pizza), I put down a cheese layer first and the sauce on top. I'm thinking maybe as the cheese melted it helped create a barrier so that the sauce didn't soggy up the crust. That's just me guessing. ;-)


So with the dough laid out I gently pressed my outline of the pockets into the dough to give me a border to make sure the toppings were in the middle. I used my sandwich sealer for this (you can find the same one on JList), but you could use anything for it - a large cookie cutter, a glass, etc.
The sandwich sealer worked great for me because it sealed all the edges easily and in one motion. If you are using a regular cookie cutter you will need to press all the edges firmly with your fingers to seal closed. Poke a couple small holes in the top. I'm not exactly certain you need to do this, but I do anyway.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. KEEP AN EYE ON THEM!!! I set the timer for 6 minutes and then peaked in on them obsessively until they were golden brown. All ovens vary and depending on the temperature of your dough when it went in, the placement of them in the oven, what you are baking them on and the direction the wind is blowing outside, your cooking results may differ from mine!

I baked mine on a pizza stone (our stone always lives on the bottom of our oven), but you can use a baking sheet too.  Because I use cornmeal on the dough there is no sticking issues at all. But if you are making these without cornmeal you might want to use parchment paper or a very light spritz of baking spray on your baking sheet...I'd hate to think of the pizza pocket bottom being stuck to the tray!

From that one tube of pizza crust I made these 7 pizza pockets and there was a small amount of dough left to make a small personal-sized regular pizza. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the sizes of pizza pockets you make. I made some that were more square, and others I made more narrow. You might want to size and shape yours to fit the size lunchbox you are fitting it into.


I can't tell you how many pizza pockets you'd be able to get out of the pizza dough recipe I posted above. What happens at my house is that we make the dough to make a big regular pizza for the whole family and I save back some of the dough to make pizza pockets out of for later.

These keep in the fridge for a week or so (I've never kept them longer than a week), or you can freeze them too. To reheat I heat in the microwave until they are soft. If they have moisture on them after microwaving you can put them in a hot pan (no oil or spray) and flip over a few times until nice and crispy again. This extra step I will do for my son, but my daughter could care less. ;-)


Top photo shows pizza pockets in a Laptop Lunches box. :)
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The Planet Pink said... [Reply to comment]

Yum! Can't wait to try these! And thanks for the pizza dough recipe too! I've been looking for a good one.

Astrid said... [Reply to comment]

Those look great! Maybe I'll make them when school is out - because I don't know that she would eat them cold, and putting them in a thermos might be a pain...

Wendy said... [Reply to comment]

Mmmmmmmmmm...those look really good! I'll definitely have to make some of those for my pizza loving boy. I bet they freeze well, too.

Kristen said... [Reply to comment]

I am definitely going to give these a try!

I love your blog! My 6-year-old and I have been reading all the posts together, and I've been inspired to make his lunches much more interesting.

One technical question for you: Have your kids had any trouble putting the lid back on the Goodbyn? My son saw it on your blog and wants one, but a lot of the Amazon reviews indicate that kids and adults have trouble with the lid. How have you found it?

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Kristen! Um, yes, the Goodbyn lid is difficult. My older (8yo) son *can* get it on securely by himself when he *tries* to. Unfortunately, it's when he's leaving the cafeteria that he doesn't bother to secure it all the way. Luckily he finishes his food, so when he puts it in his backpack it's not dripping food out, but I have found picks and swizzle sticks in the bottom of his backpack after they all fell out of the not-closed 'byn.

Short's not the easiest container to deal with. I've found every container has pros and cons and that lid on the 'byn is definitely a con.

I hope that helps. I'm always happy to answer questions. :)

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

This looks so easy and yummy! My kids love pizza and they are getting tired of what I have been fixing for lunch (and dinner) so I am always looking for something new. This looks great because it will be easier to "sneak" an extra ingredient or two into onto their pizza and have them try it without making waves about it first.

Thanks for all of the great ideas you are always posting! I love reading your blog.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

When sneaking extra ingredients, remember if you get busted by your kids you can always blame "the sauce!". ;-) ROFL Ethan doesn't think he likes mushrooms, but I've been putting them on his pizza for years. With regular pizza I just hide them under the cheese and other toppings. :P

Amber said... [Reply to comment]

YUM! That looks good. I will try those pizza pockets.

RoseMamie said... [Reply to comment]

Tried these today and even my super extra picky 6 year old declared them Yummy! I'll be linking to you on my blog....thanks for sharing the recipe!!!

RoseMamie said... [Reply to comment]

I tried this out today and wow, delicious! I linked to you in my blog...thanks for sharing!


Cris said... [Reply to comment]

Do your kiddos take these to school? If so do they eat them cold or do they have access to a microwave at school? My oldest is starting 1st grade and I'm trying to figure this whole lunch thing out. Thanks for your help!

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Hey Cris! My daughter does take these to school. She's not picky about the temperature of her food and is happy to gobble them up at room temp (or a little on the chilly side since her lunchbag has an icepack in it). My son, on the other hand, is very picky about the temperature of food. He LOVES pizza but won't take pizza to school at all because he only likes it warm. I've tried to send it (cut up, obviously) in a thermos so it would be warm at lunchtime, but he has balked at that too. He's my trickier kid to pack lunches for because he has more issues to contend with.

Cate Proudfoot said... [Reply to comment]

Just stumbled upon your blog and love it! Thank you. My daughter is just starting school this year, so is going to my first time I will have to make her a packed lunch. I do have question on this pizza pocket and some other "typical warm things". I don't think she will be able to warm up, so would you just send this cold from the fridge or do you pre-heat and send in a thermos. Is there a rule of thumb you follow for how you decide if something is OK to be sent in a lunch box where on some days she will be leaving the house at 7:30 am and not getting to her lunch until after noon?

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Cate!
My daughter eats 99% of her packed food cold, including these pizza pockets. I'm sure she'd prefer it to be warmed and in a thermos, but I haven't done that for pizza pockets (yet). :)

If your daughter would eat it cold, that's what I would recommend because it's a lot easier (LOL).

As far as food safety goes and would would be "OK"...well, I'm not an expert. All I can say is we have never had an issue with the kids (or us) getting sick from food packing. I use good icepacks and I try to arrange the food in a way that I can have the icepacks in their lunchbox on the side closest to the foods that need to be cold, and so far that has worked just fine for us. :)

L said... [Reply to comment]

This is probably a silly question, but I'm new at this. When you add broccoli to it, do you add it raw or already cooked?

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

L, I used raw broccoli. It was just the florets, so they have no problem cooking thoroughly during the course of baking. Though if you wanted to add broccoli that was already cooked, that would probably be fine too! :)

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said... [Reply to comment]

Yum! This would be the perfect lunch for my hubby to take to work too. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for a great idea! I made these Sunday for dinner, planning to use the left overs for my 5 yo's lunch. Well there weren't any left overs!! Our family loves them and no one noticed the broccoli, carrots and mushrooms I added. I made another batch for lunch after my kids went to bed. Thanks for your great site.

Caitlin said... [Reply to comment]

These sound great. I'd love to make a huge batch and keep them in my freezer. I'm not crazy about the microwave idea though and I like myself a fresh crust.
Have you ever tried freezing them before baking? Or do you think the freezing and thawing process would make the sauce all runny?

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Caitlin, I haven't tried freezing them before baking. I'm not sure how that would affect the viscosity of the sauce...though I think as long as you drain away the excess liquid prior to assembly that it would help prevent it being too runny. ??

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

You can also make this with (paper towel-drained) tuna salad or hot dogs and American cheese. They're both fine to eat cold. Don't use the hot dogs too often b/c they're not very healthy, but they work in a pinch. I haven't tried it, but I would think that you could make a ham-and-cheese version too.

It won't help your kids at school, but if you want to take these on a picnic after church, put them in a slow cooker on low while you're in the service, and they'll be ready when you are. And in the meantime, they will make your fellow worshipers very envious!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

If you also spray the crust with your EVOO sprayer before adding toppings, it will keep the dough from getting soggy :) I had this problem on pizza pockets and even normal pizza for the longest time till i found this trick.

rachaelblarson said... [Reply to comment]

I'd love to be able to pin this so I can remember it for school lunches this year. I noticed none of your photos can be pinned. If you reconsider, please let me know!

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Rachael! I'm not sure why this isn't being pin-able. It seems as though a lot of my older photos are coming up that way, but I don't see that being an issue with newer photos. I've seen this very post Pinned a lot on Pinterest, so I'm have no idea why it's suddenly being problematic. I'm sorry for the trouble! If you really want to pin it you might try searching in the Pinterest search box " pizza pockets" and when you see it pop up then repin it from there?

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Hi - do you fold the dough over the ingredients or cut another piece the same size and lay it over top?

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Anonymous #25, I fold over the dough. It's just faster only having to seal half the shape, rather than around the whole perimeter.

Sara said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks so much for this idea! I pop them in the freezer, warm them in the morning and my kid couldn't be happier!

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