Apple picking is an every fall tradition for my family. Growing up, the most apple picking I did happened at the supermarket—so when I moved to New England in the 1990s, I was totally taken with the quaint charm of picking apples. Now that I’m in NYC, I still obsess about where to pick every year, preferably an orchard that’s not too commercial (but commercial enough to have cider donuts) and always far enough away to feel like an adventure and get a dose of restorative fall foliage.
The constant about apple picking is you always come home with an ungodly amount of apples (and if you are one of the oddballs that can show restraint in an apple orchard, well, please tell me how!). This year I went with my boys to two fantastic orchards: Saratoga Apple, where they grow beautiful heirloom varieties like tart Belle De Boscoop and the Empire-Red Spy crossbreed Fortune, and Lawrence Farms in the Hudson Valley where we went for apples (as well as the hay maze and pumpkins) with my son’s classmates.
First on my list to make was Suvir Saran’s incredible gingery-spiced apple butter (the recipe is in our new book, Masala Farm, that comes out in December). I ate it slathered on top of griddled pancakes with homemade crème frâiche at Suvir and his partner Charlie’s farm a few weeks ago and have been obsessing about the apple butter since. The apple butter took care of a clean 10 pounds, but I still had armfuls of apples to go—at this rate, an apple a day would see me through spring. My thoughts turned to a sheet of puff pastry in the fridge. I whipped up some apple turnovers using apple butter and sugared, grated apples as an after school snack for my boys—which, when you use ready-made puff, is a super easy endeavor. The boys ate them with such gusto that I decided to make turnovers again, this time putting more effort into the process by making my own puff pastry.
Puff pastry, also called pâte feuilletée, is like extra super-flaky pie dough. It’s layered with butter like croissant dough, but contains no yeast. Puff is what you use to make the crisp layers in a napoleon mille feuille (by the way, Almondine in Dumbo makes the best napoleons I have ever ever eaten), lanky strips for twisting into cheese straws, or circles topped with rings that puff into vol-au-vent pastry cups (I used to make many pounds of puff a day when I worked as an assistant pastry chef at No. 9 Park in Boston; Barbara Lynch loves her vol-au-vents).
I’m not going to lie—making homemade puff (even a “quicker” version like the recipe below, which believe it or not, is slightly more streamlined than a classic puff pastry) does require a time investment, however, I find it immensely gratifying—like edible Zen. And the superstar treatment you get from friends when they find out you made your own puff is a fabulous ego boost. The downside is then everyone expects more turnovers because they were just so good that time around. So I made a third batch—this time using pie dough as my casing. Homier tasting than store bought puff and infinitely easier than puff from-scratch, pie dough turnovers are a tasty middle line to walk.
Quickest Apple Turnovers (Using Store-Bought Puff Pastry)
Makes 8 turnovers
I like the buttery flavor of Dufour puff pastry, but have made these with Pepperidge Farm puff (which is half the price) and work just fine.
- 2 apples
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- + one of the following: 1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot; zest of 1/2 lemon, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch salt
- 2 sheets store-bought puff pastry (two sheets usually come to a package)
- 1/2 cup apple butter
- 1 large egg
- Cinnamon sugar (2 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon) or coarse demarara sugar for sprinkling
1. Using the large hole side of a box grater, grate the apples into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt, the ginger (or lemon zest or cardamom), and the salt. Set aside.
2. Place one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured worksurface and roll into a large square that is about 1/8-inch thick. Divide the dough into 4 equal squares. Into the center of each square add a scant 1 tablespoon of apple butter. Use a spoon to scoop about 2 tablespoons of grated apple filling from the bowl (you want enough to pack the turnover with apple, but not too much so the filling leaks out when you’re pinching the turnover shut). Squeeze out the extra liquid and set the grated apples on top of the apple butter. Repeat with the remaining squares. (Place a thin slice of butter on top of the apples for extra richness if you like.)
3. In a small bowl, beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Using a pastry brush, dab the bottom and right edges of each square with the egg wash. Fold the top left corner over to meet the bottom right corner creating a triangle. Press the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining squares. Press the tines of a fork into the edges to create a pretty crimp. Brush the tops of the turnovers with more egg wash and then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar or coarse demarara sugar
4. Transfer the turnovers to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate while you repeat the process with the remaining dough, apple butter, and apples. Refrigerate the turnovers while the oven heats to 375°F. Bake the turnovers until golden and crisp, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before eating.
In Between Apple Turnovers (Using Pie Dough Crust)
Roll your favorite pie dough (store bought or homemade) into a 1/8-inch sheet. Follow the instructions above for cutting, filling, and crimping. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Depending on the size of the turnovers, they may need a touch longer to bake.
Weekend Warrior Turnovers (Using Homemade Puff Pastry: be forewarned, you need about 3 hours to make puff)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
- 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter cut into very small cubes
- Juice from 1/4 lemon
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water
1. In a food processor pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until there are only a few pieces about the size of a pea, maybe 6 to 8 1-second pulses. Turn the dry ingredients out into a large bowl.
2. In a liquid measuring cup combine the lemon juice with the ice water. Tablespoon by tablespoon, sprinkle the liquid mixture over the top of the flour-butter mixture. After adding about 1/2 cup, stir and fluff the mixture with your fingers or a fork. Continue to add the rest of the water tablespoon by tablespoon, fluffing the mixture after every few spoonfuls of liquid, until you can squeeze a clump of the dough together and it doesn’t crumble apart easily (if you need to add an extra few tablespoons of water it’s okay! Don’t stress about it–if the dough becomes too tacky, you just add more flour when you’re rolling it). Turn the crumbly, shaggy dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Enclose in plastic, lightly kneading and pressing on the dough to flatten it out into a loosely shaped rectangle that’s about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Flour a cutting board and place the dough on top. Flour the top of the dough and then roll it into a rectangle that’s about 1/4-inch thick. Make a four-fold turn: fold each side into the middle and then fold the dough on top of itself in half. Rewrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Re-flour your board if necessary and place the dough on top with the folded edge at the bottom. Roll the dough into a 1/4-inch thick sheet. This time, do a three-fold turn: fold the dough in thirds like a business letter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Slice the dough in half crosswise. Follow the instructions above (Quickest Apple Turnovers) for making the apple filling, filling the squares, crimping, glazing, and baking.