Not-So-Sloppy Joe

Picture 9The Sloppy Joe has become an American staple. Sloppy Joes are messy meat sandwiches with ground beef filling smothered with sweet tomato flavors. The ease of its preparation and its various spices make the Sloppy Joe a delicious dinner for people of all ages.

It is still a mystery as to how the Sloppy Joe came about. Some say that it evolved from a loose meat sandwich that was invented by a restaurateur in Iowa in the 1920s. Others believe that the Sloppy Joe was created during WWII when households had to imaginatively reinvent their limited supply of food. Hunt’s capitalized on the idea and launched the Manwich Sloppy Joe Mix in 1969. Today some individuals make specialty Sloppy Joes with beef roasts and poultry (1).

If you have never eaten a Sloppy Joe, then let me assure you that it is named appropriately. Usually compiled in the center of a bun, the ground beef oozes onto your fingers with every bite. It’s one of the messiest sandwiches around, making it a popular spoof item in the movies.

Untidy meals, while fun, can sometimes be a bit of a pain. Sticky fingers, stained clothing, and spills on the table may prevent some parents from making Sloppy Joes for their kids. I’ve figured out a way to obtain the deliciously sweet and tangy flavors of a Sloppy Joe while avoiding dinner disarray.

Put the Sloppy Joe inside a calzone!

A calzone is a half-moon shaped bread pocket from Naples that is stuffed with various cheeses, meats, and/or vegetables. Think of a calzone as a pizza that is folded in half and sealed shut.

My calzone recipe is an adaptation of my pizza dough recipe from my previous post. Instead of using all-purpose flour to make the calzone, I decided to use bread flour. Why choose bread flour for the calzone?

Bread flour has a higher protein content.

Remember that the main protein in wheat is gluten, which is a mixture of two components known as glutenin and gliadin. Glutenin is responsible for the elasticity of the dough, while gliadin lends extensibility that enables the dough to stretch (2).

The difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour comes down to gluten, or protein, content. A flour with more protein will contain more air bubbles, because the carbon dioxide formed by yeast will be tucked into additional dough pockets (3).

All-purpose flour is a mixture of low-protein, soft wheat and high-protein, hard wheat. This flour can be incorporated into many baked goods because it has a medium amount of gluten. All-purpose flour is generally used in pancakes, quick breads, cookies, and cakes.

Bread flour is usually used for bread baking because a chewier, heartier bread will appear from the additional gas bubbles that can form in the dough.

The following gives a general guideline of the protein content in flours:

Protein content by wheat flour.

Protein content by wheat flour (4).

Whole-wheat flour, while high in protein content, is not the best choice for wholesome bread baking. Whole-wheat flour is less refined than white flour, and the bran from the grain is left on the wheat. Whole-wheat flour has a higher fiber content than white flour, and this bran will interact with gluten development.

As you can see, a 1:1 replacement of flours is not always possible. However, since I wanted a similar consistency to my original pizza dough, I used a 1:1 replacement for bread flour to all-purpose flour. This maintained the flour while allowing for a chewier dough.

Let’s put the bread flour to the test.

For the calzone: 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 bread flour, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tbsp salt, 1 tsp black ground pepper, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast.

For the Sloppy Joe filling: 1 average package (1 to 1 1/2 lbs) of lean ground beef 90/10, 2 tbsp olive oil, 3 small onions, 1/2 cup water, 3 cloves garlic, 3/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1 tsp ground mustard, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp freeze-dried chives (optional), 1 tsp salt (optional)

Make sure to check the ingredients of the ketchup. Many of the major companies incorporate high fructose corn syrup into their products. The flavor will be the same, but the quality of the ketchup brands will vary. Make sure to purchase a ketchup that has tomatoes, vinegar, and spices. Skip the excess sugar.

I am fortunate enough to have a bread machine. When forming the dough with the bread machine, place the ingredients into the bread machine in the order that the manufacturer described and hit the Dough cycle. Keep an eye on the dough for five minutes to see if the dough is too wet or dry. f the dough seems too sticky, then sprinkle some flour onto the dough until it gets drier (you will hear a squishy sound as it kneads when it’s too wet). If the dough is too dry, add a bit of water (you will hear a sandpaper quality as it kneads when it’s too dry).

If you don’t have a bread machine, then I’ve found some fairly easy steps for you in this link. PLEASE NOTE that their recipe is not the same as my calzone, but the process should still work well. Follow steps 1 through 4 from this website.

While the dough is rising, cook the Sloppy Joe filling. Add the olive oil and ground beef to a large sauté pan and let it begin browning. Dice the onions and mince the garlic as the meat is cooking. Add them to the large skillet with the meat. Then pour 1/2 cup water into the skillet to prevent the meat and onions from burning while allowing moisture retention.

Finished Sloppy Joe filling.

Finished Sloppy Joe filling.

Once the meat has browned, drain the contents of the pan to remove most of the liquid. Leave enough liquid to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the ketchup, tomato sauce, mustard, cumin, basil, black pepper, and chives to the pan. Let all of the contents cook until most of the liquid has disappeared. This will take 10-15 minutes.

Taste the Sloppy Joe filling. It will be sweet, but the calzone will lend a salty flavor. If you prefer a saltier filling, add up to 1 tsp salt. Set the Sloppy Joe mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the finished dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it into two pieces. Put the two pieces onto separate, lightly floured baking sheets and roll them out until they are flat.

Picture 6Place the Sloppy Joe filling towards the middle of one of the flattened doughs. Leave at least 2 inches between the end of the dough and the filling.

Picture 7Fold the dough over the filling until a half-moon shape is formed.

Seal the sides shut by folding the bottom layer over the top layer. This will give the calzone a gorgeous crease. Repeat this procedure for the second dough.

Golden-brown, finished calzone.

Wipe off any excess flour from the pans.

Bake the calzones in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough looks golden brown. Remove from the oven when finished and let it cool for 10 minutes.

Cut and enjoy your first mess-free Sloppy Joe!

Nutrition Facts for 1/4 of one Not-So-Sloppy Joe based on the USDA Nutrient Database.

Nutrition Facts for 1/4 of one Not-So-Sloppy Joe based on the USDA Nutrient Database.


1. Joseph, Chris. “The History of Sloppy Joe’s.” EHow. 04 Sept. 2009. Accessed 31 Mar. 2014. Available at

2. Brady, John W. Introductory Food Chemistry. Ithaca: Comstock Associates, 2013. Print.

3. :Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Gluten!” The Science of Cooking. Accessed 31 March 2014. Available at

4. Masibay, Kimberly Y. “Taking Control of Gluten.” Fine Cooking. Accessed 31 March 2014. Available at

© The Baking Tour Guide, 2014.

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