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I had a different recipe planned for you today but last week I ate my first apple turnover in years and it changed everything*, so now I have to share a recipe with you and it could not wait.
We’ve just come home from a vacation in one of those little beach towns which seems stuck in the 80’s. Stuck in the best possible ways, with no chain restaurants, no high rise developments, just sleepy streets, little family businesses and long stretches of pristine beaches where the kids can run and play all day long.
The little bakery in town was displaying a tray of apple turnovers, and they looked promising. Puffy, light pastry and a good amount of apple filling flecked with cinnamon, the whole thing covered in a good dusting of powdered sugar and ready to make a mess of whatever holiday attire you happened to be wearing.
I did what any sane human would do and bought one. And ate it.
This is the point where I wish I could tell you it set off some kind of ecstatic, delicious joy, but instead it made me a little sad. The filling tasted of nothing but sugar, and the pastry, though light, left that weird greasy aftertaste which definitely does not come from butter.
A few days later when we came home, I still hadn’t stopped thinking about how much better that turnover should have been (you know where this is going, right?). So I went down the rabbit hole of internet and cookbook research and recipe testing, and today I bring you a much improved version of the sad bakery apple turnover, made more apple-y, more flaky and puffier that just about any you can buy, thanks to a steam oven.
*Maybe not everything. But it did put a dent in my carefully planned recipe testing and scheduling, and I am not sorry.
What are turnovers?
For the uninitiated, a turnover, sometimes also called a hand pie, is made by putting filling onto a piece of round or square pastry, folding (turning!) the pastry over to enclose, then sealing and baking it. Turnovers are usually made with fruit, but sometimes contain other sweet or even savory fillings.
Apple turnovers are the most common type, but almost any kind of fruit can be made into a turnover. If you wanted to get fancy, try turnovers with bananas or berries and a certain Italian chocolate nut spread, or explore the world of savory turnovers using vegetable, meat or cheese fillings.
Why bake turnovers in a steam oven?
I have one word for you here: pastry.
I’ve talked a lot about pastry, especially puff pastry, being a steam oven’s best friend. The combination of a relatively high oven heat and a big whack of humidity mean pastry gets crispy and golden all over the outside, while the inside gets flaky and tender without drying out.
There are a couple of other great reasons to bake turnovers using combi steam. One is that whatever filling you add to them doesn’t dry out, so rather than a half-empty turnover, which can happen when the liquid in a filling evaporates during cooking, you get nicely plump and full turnovers.
The final winning reason to bake turnovers in a steam oven? Speed. When I baked these in a regular oven, they took almost 40 minutes to cook, while in my steam oven I could get that down to 20. Less time means you get to eat them faster!
Filling for turnovers
I mentioned above that apple is the most common filling I’ve seen for turnovers, and that’s what we’re sticking with today.
The ideal filling for me is one that’s chunky but saucy. To achieve this you need to thicken the apple mixture with cornstarch so the sauce has enough body to be sealed inside the pastry. Too thick and it becomes a bit gloopy, too thin and all the liquid leaks out of the pastry during cooking.
The filling below is a happy medium, where just a little of the filling leaks out during cooking and leaves you with shards of burnt apple flavored toffee once the turnovers have cooled.
When you cook the filling and taste it, it may seem a little too sweet. Remember, though, that your pastry will be unsweetened, so that sweetness will be much less obvious in the finished product. If you feel the need to reduce the sugar, do your thing, but know that I made a batch with around a third less sugar and they actually tasted less of apple and a little bland (what can I say, sweet really does equal delicious).
You could make this apple turnover filling in a combi steam oven, but I use a saucepan because it’s easier to keep an eye on, especially one you’ve added the cornstarch and are waiting for it to thicken.
If you aren’t fussy about having a thickened, saucy apple filling, feel free to use a more simple stewed fruit as your turnover filling.
The best pastry to use for turnovers
In a perfect world, home made puff pastry would be the best pastry to use for a turnover.
If, like me, you don’t live in such a world, there are other pastry options which don’t require hours of careful folding, rolling and resting to give you a flaky and delicious result.
This time I made my own rough puff pastry, which still needs a few turns of rolling and resting but is nowhere near as laborious as traditional puff. It was worth the effort and rose beautifully into multitudes of layers in the steam oven.
If you aren’t confident making your own, or you just don’t have time, the simplest option is to buy a good quality all-butter puff pastry, ready rolled for easy cutting and baking. I actually think this is the best option for most of us, most of the time. If you don’t have a good local store bought option, many French patisseries will sell you a block of their own puff pastry if you ask.
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How to make apple turnovers
Let’s get down to the actual making, shall we?
These turnovers aren’t difficult to make, but you do need to allow some time to make and chill the filling before you start, and to chill the turnovers again prior to baking. If you’re patient they’ll reward you with the most fantastic airy pastry, and everyone you feed them to will think you’re a master baker.
Before you start with pastry and preheating your oven, you’ll want to get all your ingredients ready. If your pastry was frozen, make sure it’s defrosted and chilled. Then turn your attention to making the apple filling.
Peel, core and dice your apples into even pieces.
Put the apples into a pan with the sugar, apple juice and spices, then cook until soft. Add cornflour and water and cook a little more to thicken the starch.
Mash half of the cooked apples to give extra body to the filling, then mix it back into the rest of the apple and chill thoroughly.
Once the filling is chilled, roll out and cut the pastry into circles.
Add a spoonful of filling to each circle of pastry. You may find you’ve got a little extra filling. Don’t be tempted to try to cram it into the turnovers, as they’ll explode in the oven (I speak from experience)! Just save any leftovers for serving with yoghurt or ice cream as a cook’s treat.
Seal up the turnovers using egg wash and crimp the edges with a fork, brush the tops with more egg and sprinkle with a little demerara sugar if you like.
Chill the prepared turnovers for about an hour (longer is fine). I know you’ll want to bake them straightaway but try to hold off. This chilling time allows the pastry to rest and cool down again after you’ve handled it, which makes the gluten relax and the butter form distinct flaky layers in the oven later.
Time to bake at last! Preheat your oven and bake the turnovers until they’re golden all over, then allow them to cool until they’re just warm. Or, you know, burn your mouth on the filling because you just can’t wait to get stuck in. Either way they’re glorious.
Happy cooking, see you here again soon.
Recipe: Steam Oven Apple Turnovers
You’ll need 4 large or 5 smaller apples for this dish. I like Granny Smiths because they hold their shape well for cooking and have a deep apple-y flavour rather than just sweetness.
The filling should be a touch too sweet when it’s cooked. There’s no sugar in the pastry, so once the two elements are combined the sweetness of the filling will be tempered somewhat.
Omit the ginger if you don’t like it. It’s a very small amount overall, just enough to give a little depth but definitely not spicy.
I made my own rough puff pastry for these. It was amazing, flaky and buttery and delicious, but it’s not fast to make. Use bought puff if you want to bake and eat these today.
5 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ½ inch (1.5cm) pieces
¾ cup (185ml) apple juice (use 100% juice with no added sugar)
½ cup, lightly packed (90g) brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
2 tbs cornstarch
1lb (450g) puff or flaky pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp demerara sugar (optional)
1. Make the apple filling. Put apples, juice, sugar, cinnamon and ginger into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and the liquid has reduced a little, around 10-15 minutes.
2. Mix the cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of water to dissolve, then pour this into the pan, stirring quickly and well so there are no lumps. Simmer, stirring, for a couple more minutes to cook the starch and thicken the mixture.
3. Remove from heat, then remove and roughly mash half of the apples with a fork. Add the unmashed apples and liquid, stir well, then place in the fridge to chill.
4. Make the turnovers. Line a cookie sheet or shallow baking tray with parchment (baking) paper and set aside.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry to about 1/8 inch (3mm) thickness. Cut into eight 5 inch (12½ cm) circles using a large round cutter or a small plate as a size guide.
6. Working quickly so the pastry doesn’t get warm, divide the chilled apple filling between the pastry discs, placing it over one half of each circle and leaving a ¼ inch (1½ cm) border. Brush the border lightly with egg, then fold the pastry over to make semi-circle shapes. I find it easiest to do this by carefully lifting up the pastry with the filling on it, then bringing the sides upwards and pinching closed all the way around. As you make each turnover, move it to the lined tray and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
7. Once all the turnovers are made, brush the tops with a little extra egg and sprinkle with sugar (optional). Put the tray in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
8. Bake the turnovers. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C, combination steam setting. If your oven has variable steam, use 50% (if not, don’t worry! Just set to combination or convection steam and the oven will figure out the steam level for you).
9. When the oven is hot, put the turnovers in and bake until they’re golden brown and puffed all over, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. Serve the turnovers warm or at room temperature. They’re brilliant as they are, but if you want to turn them into a special dessert, serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or custard.
Over to you – if you try this recipe I’d love to know about it! Share your comments below or on Facebook, tag @steamandbake on Instagram, or pin all your favourite Steam and Bake recipes over on Pinterest!
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