The reason to eat pie is the crust. A good pastry crust is buttery, flaky, browned but tender, a little salty. Fillings are nice, indispensable in fact, but the crust is harder to get right and much more satisfying than jammy fruits. These apple turnovers showcase the crust.
The last eight years of my life have involved a quest for good pie. One winter night, sitting on the couch, hungry, I was struck with a lightning bolt craving for pie. I searched the city of Boston for a place to satisfy my craving, but the city yielded little. I have since then been making my own pies, trying to fill the void.
Where did that craving come from? It came from memories of apple turnovers made by mom and dad more than twenty years ago. On a Sunday evening, after a long day at church, Dad would ask mom to make a quick batch of pastry dough. Meanwhile, he peeled, cored, and cut crisp Macintosh apples from Roger’s Orchards and seasoned them with cinnamon, sugar, and a pinch of salt. He spooned them into thin triangles of mom’s fresh-made pastry dough, pressed the edges together, and finished them off with a gentle squeeze.
The best part about these turnovers, aside from their simplicity, is the surprise crevice where the pastry dough has been folded over a time or two, where the taste of butter is exquisite and the texture is both flaky and soft.
I’ve made these turnovers my whole life, first helping my parents, then making them on my own for a snack on a cold fall night. They heat up wonderfully for breakfast, if they last til morning at all. The kids in my family take to them much more quickly than they do to slices of fruit pies.
Tip: Prepare the pie crust first. Most people refrigerate the dough for an hour or so, but we never did. Whatever you do, don’t let it sit out in a hot kitchen. If you’re working alone, make it first, pop it in the fridge, and then get your apples ready.
Mom & Dad's Apple Turnovers
Time: 1 - 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 16 turnovers
Mom’s Plain Pastry Crust (from Better Homes & Gardens circa 1980)
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ cup shortening
4-5 tbsp. cold water
1. Sift flour and salt together; cut shortening with pastry blender til pieces are the size of small peas. (For extra tender pastry, cut in half the shortening till like cornmeal. Cut remaining till like small peas.)
2. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over part of mixture. Gently toss with fork, push to side of bowl. Repeat this till all is moistened. Form into a ball.
Alternately, use Stella's Pies Classic Crust Recipe, halved
2 Macintosh apples (Dad’s preference), or a combination of Macintosh and Cortland (my preference), ~2 ½ cups
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 16 chunks
1. Peel and core your apples, then cut them into slices, then into small chunks, 1/8 - 1/4” thick. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and toss together to combine. Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
2. Divide the pastry dough into 2 balls, and roll out the first one as thin as possible, at least 1/8.” Cut in half, then into 4 triangles on each side -- like pie slices, in fact.
3. Spoon a tablespoon or so of filling in the center of one of your triangles. Place a bit of butter on top of the apples. Wet the edges with a few drops of water, and then fold first one edge together, and then the other. Press the edges. Some will be prettier than others. Pierce the turnover once with a fork so that steam can escape. Transfer to a baking sheet and continue with all the others.
4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 17 minutes. They are done when you see a bit of juice oozing and bubbling from a couple turnovers on the tray.
Eat them immediately. You won’t be able to stop yourself.