Caraway-Cognac Apple Turnovers

#RecipeUpTop (Details below):

  • Puff pastry (recipe here);
  • 3 small apples;
  • 1 egg;
  • 1 tablespoon cognac;
  • 1 tablespoon whole caraway seed;
  • 1 teaspoon grains of paradise;
  • Salt (to taste);
  • Sugar (to coat)

Method: Peel and dice your apples, and add to a medium mixing bowl with a pinch of salt. Crack the spices with a mortar and pestle (or grind), and add to the apples with the cognac. Sprinkle enough sugar to barely coat the apples, then toss together and let sit for at least an hour. Roll out the pastry and cut into squares. Dock half of each square, and fill with the apple mixture. Egg wash to seal, then egg wash the closed turnovers and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400F on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet for twenty (20) to thirty (30) minutes, or slightly longer, until browned. Cool before serving.

The Details

Yes, this is a lot of pastry and turnover content in a short period of time, but this is sort of how things go here at the 10Chickens fort. The truth is, after we made the pot roast turnovers, I still had some puff pastry squares leftover, as well as a few apples I’d been meaning to use up, so I made and baked these at the same time.

These freeze surprisingly well, due to the relatively low moisture content, and we’ve been known to keep them on hand for a short-notice snack if someone drops by for coffee.

These are also comparatively low-sugar, relying mostly on the sweetness of the apples themselves. The end result is less like a cloying, fake-thickened apple pie, and more like a pastry wrapped around a compote. This makes for a really fantastic breakfast treat, or a nice desert with a slice of New England cheddar and a little bit of tawny port.

Step one: Peel and dice your apples, and get them into a medium-sized bowl:

I’ll detail my secret, super-easy apple cutting method at some point soon

Step two: add a sprinkling of salt, the cognac, and enough sugar to barely coat the apples. For this amount, you’re looking at maybe 1.5 to 2 tablespoons.

So, what are we doing with the cognac here? All kinds of foods (and spices) have specific flavors locked up inside them. Some are unlocked just by eating them. Some are unlocked with heat (like grilling pineapple), or by soaking in hot water (like coffee), or by heating in oil or other fat (like vanilla into ice cream or yogurt). Likewise, they key to some of these flavor compounds is alcohol. Take tomatoes, for example. My tomato sauce recipe (soon!) has a good quarter cup of vodka, and it sure isn’t there to make the everything taste like Jame’s Bond’s tonsils. No, there are very specific tomato flavors for which alcohol holds the keys, and vodka (being flavor neutral) is a great way to unlock those compounds without adding any unwanted extras. But, more on that later.

So, why cognac then, instead of vodka or dark beer or red wine? Because I have it around, and it goes well with the whole application. However, if you are so inclined, you could probably use apple jack, bourbon, or brandy as well. (Of note, I do have a demented experiment to try this fall with cinnamon whisky, but I can’t recommend that… yet).

Step three: the spices. My all-time favorite spice with apple is caraway, and I use it here in freshly-cracked form. I don’t grind it into a powder because the seeds actually provide a poppy-like crispy crunch in the final product that’s really fantastic, and discovered completely by accident.

As for the grains of paradise, they’re not absolutely necessary, but I find they add a peppery brightness that’s hard to reproduce. If you’re using them, grind them in a mortar and pestle before you add the caraway:

Get the spices into the bowl with the apples, toss, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Something magical will happen: you’ll get a syrup.

Before
After

As you can see from the picture above, the apples have given up a bunch of their moisture due to the sugar addition, but have also absorbed some of the spices and cognac. The whole thing is pretty indecent.

Step four: roll your dough out, cut it, and dock the bottom half. If you’ve read the pot roast dinner turnover post, it’s the same drill:

Add your apples, making sure to not over-syrup. Beat up an egg with a little water, and brush the bottom two sides of the turnover, then fold over the top and crimp with a fork. Egg wash the tops, and sprinkle with extra sugar. Move to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, snip the tops with kitchen shears for venting, and bake at 400F for twenty (20) to thirty (30) minutes, and potentially more if extra browning is needed. Move to a wire rack to cool.

Where’s my ice cream?

As you can see from the photos, these turnovers aren’t soupy or goopy, or full of corn-starched sugar slurry. They’re slightly sweetened fresh fruit inside a flaky, buttery crust, and that’s just fine by me.

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