Summer has come and gone, school is back in session and here we are cozying up to fall. So what have I been up to these last couple months? Besides getting the kids to school and soccer, I’ve been recipe testing for a friend who is writing a cookbook. Once given the dizzying list of recipes, I get to pick out whichever ones I want to test. I tried to push myself and make foods that are not in my comfort zone. One of the last recipes I tried out was homemade puff pastry. Boy did I need some help on this. Until seeing this recipe, I hadn’t actually realized the making it myself was even an option. I’m so used to grabbing a package in the freezer section. I make my own scones, biscuits and pie crust so why not pastry puff?
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t usually have a problem making scones and biscuits but pie crust is always a little unpredictable. Sometimes its too crumbly, other times it is overworked. Making puff pastry has made me realize that my pastry intuition is the opposite of what makes for a successful bake. I fiddle with the dough (and of course end up warming up the butter) and then rush the chilling part (also a big pastry no no). My kitchen is also the warmest room in the house – no wonder I’m in there so much! To make a long story short, it took me 3 or 4 tries and a few lessons to get the perfect dough. Here’s a tip – remember to add the water. Sigh. Try again. Anyway, thankfully it was worth the extra effort. Homemade pastry puff, with its streaks of butter and luxurious, flaky texture is as different from the store bought version as store bought pie crust is to home made. Either one is completely acceptable but if you have a little extra time, then swing for the home made.
This learning experience was a good reminder about how learning new skills really is a skill unto itself. It is challenging to stay positive and not give up. I expect my kids to be resilient. They are both learning new skills this school year. JP is learning to unicycle (our neighborhood school likes the circus arts) and Kai has started piano lessons. Each new year brings about new challenges for each of them and I want them to face those challenges head on. Yet, when its my turn, it seems a lot more difficult. I think part of the reason learning new skills as adults seems harder than when we were children, is that once we turn to adults we feel like we have learned everything – or should have anyway. It somehow seems like a failure to not be good at something right away. Also, as adults the cheering squad is mostly an internal one – though friends and family can definitely help us keep our chins up. When my son was learning how to ride a bike, I had the experience remembering the act of learning so I was able to whole-heartedly remind him that he would learn it too. Don’t worry – you will get it! Keep trying! As adults, that positive energy has to come from within. Its easy to forget that we need the same skills to learn to ride a bike as we do to get better at making pies. Learn the techniques and practice.
Now, that we have the skills, what should we do with the puff pastry? I suggest apple turnovers. These are the perfect fall dessert/snack/breakfast. Now it truly does feel easy.
Makes 16 small turnovers
A great apple turnover has a slightly tart filling encased in a flaky, buttery shell and is the perfect way to showcase those lovely October apples. This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker. Each sheet makes 8 so feel free to half the recipe if you want.
- 4 medium, about 6 cups, tart apples, chopped. I used fuji
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
- 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed or 1 recipe of the homemade puff
- egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon of water)
Mix apples, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cornstarch mixture in a 2 quart pot. The pot will be full but it cooks down nicely. Bring to a simmer and stir periodically to make sure it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. I wanted my apples to still have a little crunch without being too runny. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least not hot to the touch. The cooled filling will allow the puff pastry to stay nice and chilled (and easier to work with). After chilling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover two baking sheets with parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry puff to 10×13 or unroll your thawed puff pastry sheet and remove backing. Cut puff pastry into four equal squares and then cut each square into two halves. I found rectangles worked really easily but triangles are the more standard shape for a turnover, for a total of 8. Place a spoonful of filling on one side and top with the other side. Use a fork to press the three sides together. This is not the time to be a perfectionist. Transfer to baking sheet. Once all the turnovers are filled, place baking tray in the fridge to firm up the pastry. Continue with second sheet of pastry and then place that one in the fridge as well. Once the turnovers are firm to the touch, then cut a slit on the top of each and brush with egg wash. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.