In most areas of the country, the leaves have fallen, temperatures feel closer to winter, and most importantly, the orchards have been cleared of their fruit before the frost and measurable snow sweeps in. Perhaps the two most significant fruits which remind me of fall are the apple and orange. Having already covered oranges in my previous post, I move on to apples. Since it is the holidays and time is certainly limited for all, finding a formula which is quick and simple to make is dire. These apple turnovers are sure to please with their comforting sweetness, warming spice, and short preparation time.
Although I enjoy the better flavor and texture of homemade puff pastry, who honestly has the time or patience these days to do such a laborous task. Certainly not I!!! For those never have attempted making homemade puff pastry, I will give you a word of wisdom. For the average home baker, the frozen stuff is just as good 😉 I say this because I have personally done the homemade version of puff pastry in my Bread’s class at Le Cordon Bleu, and I know what goes into this process. Believe me, it is not fun. Of course once those turnovers come out of the oven they certainly are worthwhile having known the process it took to get to that point but then you forgo your waistline as you feel compelled to eat every last one of those suckers knowing you worked so hard at them. Up you go 10 pounds like that. I will describe the process of making homemade puff pastry so those who have no idea what I’m talking about can get a better understanding of its complexity. First step of the process is to mix up your dough. Next it is rolled thin and into a large rectangle then spread with heaping amounts of butter. *Another quick word of wisdom…if you make this homemade you will never want to eat a turnover again because the amounts of butter which go into puff pastry can be nauseating. Continuing on with the process, the dough is folded over itself to cover the dough. This is called the puff pastries first turn. There need to be at least four turns in this process before you can move on to cutting the shapes for turnovers and after each turn the dough must rest in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. It is a time consuming and especially aggravating process when your dough decides to tear on the last turn exposing your butter pack in the center as did mine in class. That is why I choose use the trusty and reliable frozen puff pastry from Pepperidge Farm for this formula.
So with all of that said, we will begin this formula by thawing our frozen puff pastry sheets. Besides, even the greatest pastry chefs take shortcuts sometimes. It’s nonsense to believe they don’t. Bakery profits can double with little tricks such as these. Another trick of this formula is making use of all the apple has to offer. Not only will I use the apple for the filling, but also the juice it excretes. Less waste = more profits for businesses and the better the home cook feels about baking at home more often. It is important when buying apples to select a variety which can hold up to the harsh heat without turning to mush. The best choice for this formula is Granny Smith Apples. This variety is firm enough to hold it’s shape and also provides a tartness which compliments the sweetness added later. Now that we have the correct apple variety, let’s make sure it’s prepared properly. If left sliced, the apple would not cook all the way through before the puff pastry would essentially burn. Well unless the apple is sliced extremely thin but who has the patience or fingers to spare??? I certainly don’t and refuse to subject my stubby yet precious fingers to knicks with each knife slice trying to achieve such a silly feat. So instead the food processor is yet again a trusty reliable friend. With a few pulses, the apples come out a rough small dice. The perfect size for filling to give that slight crispness we love about apples but also making sure they soften in the short cooking time.
Once the apples are chopped, it is important to strain them for a few minutes. This rids the filling of excess juice which would make the filling runny and the puff pastry soggy. Both no good. And don’t throw out that excess juice. We will need it later. Make use of anything and everything. Remember the pastry chef can make or break a restaurant. Same applies to a household. Can make or break you. If it breaks you to bake at home you wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. So conserve and get creative. That juice will be our glue to hold the turnovers together and be a low-fat alternative to spread on the top for color, flavor and again glue for the sugar and spice topping as opposed to the typical choice of butter/margarine. Now apples alone wasn’t going to cut it for the sole component of the filling, especially in their smaller state. The ultimate staple I use for toast came in handy for this formula. It gives the apples a much desired flavor boost and brings all the pieces together into a thick and delightful filling. What is this secret ingredient you ask??? Why Apple butter of course. But as always if you don’t have apple butter on hand as I do or it’s difficult to find at your local grocer, you can certainly use applesauce as a suitable substitute. If using applesauce I prefer the spiced variety over plain. It will usually state on the box somewhere that it contains cinnamon. Musselmanns being my preferred brand although any will give great results.
*A few quick notes before I present the formula: If you don’t have a food processor, don’t result to slicing the apples or chopping them by hand. Run them across the coarse side of a grater. The recipe can easily be doubled or cut in half for your desired amount. If you need to make these ahead of time, go ahead and follow the formula as directed, filling the puff pastry, folding them over and freezing them on a baking sheet. Once completely frozen you can transfer them to a more space friendly airtight container or freezer bag. They can be stored up to 1 month. When ready to bake, thaw the turnovers at room temperature for about 20 minutes then proceed with the formula.
Sugar & Spice Apple Turnovers
- 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- Pinch of Ground Cloves
- 2 Granny Smith Apples; peeled, cored, & chopped
- 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 1/8 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 cup Apple Butter
- 1 pkg. (2 sheets) Frozen Puff Pastry; thawed
- All-Purpose Flour; For dusting
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle & lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 400°. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Pulse the apples, remaining sugar, lemon juice, and salt in food processor until roughly chopped. Set a fine mesh sieve/strainer over a small bowl. Place apple mixture in sieve. Allow the apple mixture to rest/strain for 5 minutes in sieve. Reserve juice. Transfer apple mixture to a bowl and stir in apple butter.
- Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 10 in. square. Cut the dough into four 5-inch squares. Fill each turnover with strained apple mixture. Brush the edges of each turnover with the reserved apple juice, then fold and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Place turnovers on a plate and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining sheet of puff pastry and apple filling.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Before transferring turnovers from the plate, brush the tops with reserved apple juice and sprinkle with cinnamon spiced sugar. Place turnovers on sheet pan and bake until evenly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time to prevent oven hotspots and promote even baking. Transfer finished turnovers to a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly. Turnovers are best served warm but can be eaten at room temperature as well.
Special Thanks to: Peter Mendoros & Jeremy Sauer
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