We hope you enjoy learning new baking skills (or honing existing ones) as we explore how basic ingredients and techniques come together to create foods that don’t depend on a package, a bakery or a culinary degree.
All of which brings us to puff pastry.
Puff pastry is an ethereal delicacy that, at first bite, seems like something best left to the professionals to prepare. Flakes of butter lurk between innumerable layers of dough, waiting for a blast of oven heat to convert just enough moisture into steam to create crisp strata of pastry.
Classic recipes are time-consuming and a bit intimidating, calling for chilled butter being added to chilled dough, then rolling, folding and chilling that for 30 minutes. Then repeating this process again. And again. And once more. Oh, did we mention the importance of keeping everything chilled?
Fortunately, there is an easier way to make puff pastry that delivers scrumptious results with about 10 minutes of mixing. Let the dough chill a few hours, or overnight, then use it to make those hallmarks of a summer picnic, cherry turnovers.
We cobbled together the best ideas from several sources to create this pastry. The basic recipe is from “Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts,” although we liked the tip from the folks at King Arthur Flour to add a bit of baking powder to give to the dough “some added oomph in the oven,” given that we’re taking a few shortcuts.
The method comes from “The Modern Baker,” by Nick Malgieri, which uses an ingenious technique of rolling folded dough into a spiral to create countless layers in one fell swoop.
While cherries are a classic filling, fruit preserves are an easy option, and a good bet because the best fillings are quite thick. Because there’s no sugar in this dough, it also can be used to make savory turnovers filled with mushrooms, leeks, sauteed greens, a mix of cheeses — whatever strikes your fancy as the farmers markets open.
Turnovers make some of the best handheld meals or desserts, and with a batch of dough stashed in your freezer (pulled out to thaw overnight), you can make a delectable picnic lunch in less than an hour.
You know the drill: Oh, this is so easy ... Anyone can make this ... You can’t beat homemade.
Note: This recipe was adapted from “Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts,” “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion,” and “The Modern Baker” by Nick Malgieri. For a variation on the topping, skip the sprinkling sugar and instead drizzle turnovers with a powdered sugar glaze after they’ve cooled.
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 2 cups pitted cherries, fresh or frozen (12-ounce package)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 egg white, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Decorative sugar (also called sparkling sugar)
To make dough: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and baking powder. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour. With a pastry blender or fingers, quickly work butter into the dough until it’s in pea-sized pieces. Add 1/2 cup ice water and mix with a spoon until the dough comes together in a shaggy mass. Turn dough out onto counter and knead a few times until it holds together.
Generously flour work surface then roll dough into a rectangle about 9 inches wide and 18 inches long, reaching under dough every so often to make sure it’s not sticking. From the long sides, fold the dough like a business letter, bringing one third over the middle third, then the remaining third over that.
From one short end, roll the dough into a tight package, then press down with your hand to make a rough square. Wrap well in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 2 hours before using.
(You can keep the dough refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. If you freeze it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator.)
To make filling: Cut cherries in half, then combine with granulated sugar, cornstarch, pinch of salt and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until filling thickens, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, or leave ungreased.
To make turnovers: Place dough on a well-floured work surface and roll into rectangle a little larger than 12 inches by 16 inches. With a ruler, mark dough into 4-inch increments, then with a knife or pizza cutter, cut into 12 (4-inch) squares, making a clean cut along the rough edges.
Place a rounded tablespoon of cherry filling in the center of a pastry square. With a finger, moisten two sides of the dough and fold the dough over the filling, using a fork to crimp the edges. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining squares.
Brush each turnover with beaten egg white, careful not to spill over the edges, which could prevent the turnovers from rising. Sprinkle generously with decorative sugar. With a small knife, prick pastry to make three steam vents.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire rack. Makes 12.
Nutrition information per serving: 242 calories, 16 grams fat, 140 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams saturated fat, 22 milligrams calcium, 3 grams protein, 41 milligrams cholestero, 1 gram dietary fiber.
KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN
Don’t stop at cherries. Fruit, nuts and cheeses work well for a sweet turnover. And then there are the savory options.
- Blueberries or blackberries
- Apple with cinnamon
- Date or fig
- Lemon curd
- Nutella (hazelnut spread)
- Flavored cream cheese
- Caramelized onions and blue cheese
- Pesto and goat cheese