Doing the Julie thing: Apple Turnovers

Hi! This post is a little different from what you’re used to seeing here. It’s actually not from Ruth and Marc but from one of their tenants. If you’ve been to the Bistro within the past year, you may have met me, because I do go there quite a bit. Make that a lot.

What I’m going to do today, with Ruth and Marc’s consent, is provide a little bit of the “Julie” portion of the equation by posting here about my experience trying to make the Apple Turnover recipe from the News-Herald article. After all, part of the purpose of this blog is to serve as inspiration to their patrons. So, let’s see if I can get inspired!

The first thing you should know is that I admit it: I am not a chef like Ruth or Todd. The closest I’ve been to France is five years of studying the language and a trip to Québec City in 1994. I do most of my cooking with convenience food. Every once in a while I get a little deeper into things and cook up a batch of my mother’s (originally my grandfather’s) spaghetti sauce with meatballs, or try something from a cookbook (I figured out how to bake some pretty good bread lately, without a bread machine), but I don’t know anything near as much about food as Ruth and Marc do, which is probably why I don’t run a restaurant. But, thanks to them, I do have a great big kitchen to cook in now, and it seems a shame sometimes that I don’t use it better. So I’m going to try today.

A chronicling of my “Julie” end of the Julia Project follows…

Around noon: I remove my two boxes of frozen puff pastry from the fridge, where they’ve been thawing since this morning, really, not overnight like the recipe says. Which is just as well, because I forgot that you need to UNROLL them and let them thaw out flat. I really don’t want the sheets to break, and right now they’re looking kind of creaky around the two folds on each one. Without sufficient room to lay them all out separately in the fridge, I decide to stack them with sheets of wax paper between.

Around 3 p.m.: I start cutting up, peeling and coring apples. The apples I’ve chosen aren’t local, I admit. They’re a fairly new variety called Cripps Pink, from western Australia, developed as a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Lady Williams. I was attracted to them in the supermarket because of their unique yellow-and-rosy-pink skins. Checking the Internet later, I discover that they’re supposed to be good cooking apples, with a sweet and tangy taste, so they would seem to be ideal for this project. Some of these apples are sold under the trademark “Pink Lady.” I wonder whether Jeff ever got his own apple. (And if you got that reference, you watched way too much bad TV in the early ’80s.) Then again, maybe these apples are more like the girls from Grease? Well, they may not be greasy, but they do get slippery after a while of cutting and peeling. Too bad I don’t have my own automatic apple corer and peeler. I also don’t have a lemon zester, which means I can’t really get much peel off my lemon, but I’m using the juice and the lemon is optional anyway so I figure that won’t matter so much to the flavor. The lemon I use is a bit old without being rotten, which means it’s easier to get juice from. I drop all the apple slices into the lemon juice-sugar-cinnamon mix as soon as they’re cut, and swirl them around to get them well covered in lemon juice and prevent them from turning brown.

It takes me about an hour to get Sandy, Frenchie, Rizzo, Marty and Jan cut up, peeled, cored and sliced and into their sugary bath. Now I’ll let them steep for a while.

4:30: Time to make the turnovers. I lay parchment paper down on my big cookie sheet, remove the first sheet of puff pastry from the fridge, dust it floury, slice it in half, and transfer the slices to the sheet. As I suspected, they’re even weaker at the folded joints and it’s hard to keep them from collapsing. I paint the edges with water, pile in apple filling, sprinkle on more sugar, spoon on some melted butter, and flop the top half over to close. I press and seal and crimp with the fork, making fairly nice little squares. I’m going to think of these as giant apple raviolis, I decide, because that’s what they look like. When I draw the top flap of dough over the bottom half to seal, if they weaken from the strain of the apple stuffing, it’s at that crease. Obviously the crease at the bottom may prove problematic as well, but I hope the puffing and expansion of the pastry as it bakes will help. Even so, I try to seal the creases and make a mental note that this only means cutting the steam holes in them before they go in the oven will be all the more important. With big enough holes elsewhere, they may be less inclined to split along the seams.

It becomes pretty clear to me as I go along that even my big baking sheet is going to accommodate only six of these babies. Luckily, I have a pizza pan that should be able to handle the other two. I place parchment paper on the pizza pan and manage to finish the last two turnovers on it. Altogether, this step too takes about an hour.

After some shuffling around of things in the fridge to make space, both the baking sheet and the pizza pan go inside. I’m in no hurry and if these will bake up better with some time to sit around in the chill, that’s fine with me. I’m just hoping maybe I’ll have a nice dessert to eat after dinner while watching the season opener of Mad Men.

Of course, it made sense to place only as much apple mixture in each turnover as I thought it could reasonably hold, rather than trying to get rid of the whole bowlful in eight turnovers, and as a result, I have a LOT of apple mixture left over. If you use smaller apples, this may not be the case for you, but Pink Ladies are pretty big, and it turns out I could probably have done fine with just Frenchie, Rizzo and maybe Sandy, without bringing Marty and Jan into it. I also had a lot of melted butter left over, as I nuked a whole stick just to be sure I had enough. I poured the leftover butter over the leftover apples, transferred them to a sealed container and popped them in the fridge, for now. I can think of worse things in life than having an oversupply of apple slices marinated in lemon juice, melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Might be able to throw them into one of those easy pie crusts in my Amish cookbook and make a sort of pie out of them. If all else fails, they’ll make a great topping for vanilla ice cream, right?

Looking back, I wish I’d separated the frozen pastry sheets with parchment paper in the fridge, because sometimes, when I tried to peel them off the waxed paper, they stuck like the devil. I made it through this step, though, so that’s good.

8:45 p.m.: After dinner, I take the turnovers out of the fridge, cut the steam holes and paint on the egg-wash glaze. The holes aren’t particuarly pretty but I’m just cutting them with a knife; a small round tube might make a better cutter. At 9 p.m., with the oven hot and ready, in the first tray of 6 goes.

9:20 p.m.: Mmm, the turnovers are puffing up nicely and they smell great. They’re not browning too quickly, so I leave them as they are to get a little darker near the bottoms. The edges look as if they may have leaked a tiny bit, but not so much that all the sugary syrupy goodness has seeped out. Boy, I’m going to be ticked now that I didn’t think to buy ice cream or whipped cream. Drat! Oh well, there is such a thing as reheating tomorrow.

9:32 p.m.: The big sheet of 6 is ready to come out of the oven, to be replaced by the pizza pan with the last 2. As I pry them loose from the parchment paper, there’s a mini-casualty: one of the corner turnovers refuses to come up. Ultimately I can pull it away, but most of the bottom remains stubbornly behind. Too much leakage? Overpainted? Heating differences amongst oven spots? I don’t know. All I know is, it still looks good, as do the rest of them: golden-brown, flaky and fabulous. And they smell divine. I lack a baking rack, so I slide them lightly onto plates and put them in a cupboard while the others bake.

9:57 p.m.: The others look ready, so I take them out. Bad news: they don’t want to surrender their bottoms either. I do manage to get most of them up and off the paper (after considerable struggling, and holding the paper doesn’t help much; it just flakes away) and onto plates and into the cupboard. Next time, I think, either be more patient or don’t be so generous with the egg wash, which seems to be dripping over the sides and gluing them to the paper.

10:15 p.m.: Ate two of the turnovers: one with a bottom and one without much of one. Both tasted fine. The pastry is nice and flaky (no thanks to me, of course) and the apples are very thin and very rich with flavor. They did turn out to be good apples for this purpose. Altogether, not a bad outcome to this little experiment. And I’ll be eating turnovers for a while to come, with plenty to share.

So, there you have it. Even I, with a little help, could cook like Julia and blog like Julie. Try it!…the cooking part, anyway.

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