Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sweet Melissa's Caramel Apple Turnovers


When I was back in grade school, I used to see articles - in the Weekly Reader or the National Geographic - with pictures of mammoth fruits and vegetables that were grown in Alaska. Strawberries like my fist, cucumbers that resembled baseball bats, and watermelons the size of small cars. Surely you've seen those pictures? Anyway, when I hit the Publix produce section this week I was transported to Alaska. The Granny Smith apples were enormous! Honestly, they looked like green grapefruits. I knew that I needed 4 apples for a double batch of this week's Sweet Melissa recipe, Caramel Apple Turnovers, but that's all the detail Melissa provides. No volume or weight measures. I was pretty sure Melissa didn't intend for us to use mutant-sized apples, but I was stumped as to how many of these babies to buy. After I spent a ridiculous amount of time debating with myself what the equivalent amount of Alaska-type Granny Smith apples to Lower-48 apples would be, I turned around and spied a pile of already-bagged Granny Smith apples. No Alaska effect here: these looked smaller than usual Granny Smiths. (Why did I suddenly feel that the Three Bears were about to jump out from behind the lettuce display?) I finally gave up on "just right" apples and grabbed the pre-bagged apples. I figured I could deal with too small easier than with the mondo ones.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Sweet Melissa's turnovers are squares of puff pastry folded around two fillings, one a sweetened ricotta mixture and the other a caramelized apple concoction.

- Apple Caramel filling:
Melissa says to cook the sugar over low heat until it caramelizes. It took forever for the sugar to turn amber, even after I turned the heat up to a strong medium. If I'd left it on low, I think it might still be simmering away. Finally it was the proper deep golden brown color. When I added the apples the molten sugar immediately seized into a hardened ball. With continued heating and stirring, the caramel eventually dissolved into the apple liquid.

- I used 4 1/2 quite petite apples, but I think 4 would have been better.

- As I cooked the apples I remembered a conversation that I'd had with JT, a member of our book group, about apple pie. "I just hate it when apples are still crunchy in a pie," he'd said. I wanted these apples to be nice and tender; after half an hour the apple mixture was appropriately saucy. I sampled a little spoonful, and what I tasted was... apple. To me the caramel flavor didn't carry through to the cooked apples. That's discouraging. If I'm going to brave the molten sugar process, I want to taste it in the finished product!

- Ricotta filling:
We had to put the ricotta in cheesecloth in a sieve, weight it and leave it overnight to drain. About a tablespoon or two of liquid came out (for my cup of ricotta). I thought
the ricotta filling was very tasty - the orange zest is quite prominent. I wasn't sure how that would pair with the (caramel scented) apples.


- There is almost too much filling for the turnovers. The ricotta kept trying to leak out and even though I crimped them with a fork, they didn't want to stay closed.

- I made a double recipe, but only baked off 4 of the turnovers, freezing the other four for later. I only mixed up enough egg wash for a single recipe, but there was a ton of egg wash left over after sealing 8 turnovers and brushing the tops of 4.

- I forgot all about the cinnamon sugar that was supposed to go on top.

ready for a stint in the freezer!
- My turnovers stayed in the coldest part of my fridge for at least an hour. They were chilled solid when they were ready to bake. I put them on a layer of baking parchment on top of a cookie sheet. They cooked faster than 45 minutes; turning very dark brown in less than 40 minutes. The edges stayed sealed, thank goodness.

the verdict:

I baked up four of the turnovers and served them at book group (along with a chocolate cream tart that will be posted a week from Tuesday) I cut each of the turnovers in three pieces so that everyone could get a little serving (or two). They were a huge hit with the group!

My corner piece of turnover was mostly puff pastry and not much filling. From the little bit I could taste I liked the way the ricotta tasted with the apple more than I thought I would. But for the life of me I could not taste the caramel in the apples. And I'm not sure my tasters could either.

I wish I had a video of all of us chewing bites of turnover and concentrating; trying to see if we could detect any caramel! A few of the group said that they thought they caught some caramel flavor.

My husband said he liked them even better than apple pie, which if you know the man at all, is saying something serious. He had the leftover pieces of turnover the next morning for breakfast.

I'm glad I doubled the recipe so there will be more available for him when I'm baking some form of chocolate (which he can't eat). I thought the recipe was pretty time consuming, especially making the caramel that couldn't really be tasted. I'd personally much rather have a pie. But I was in the minority here; the book group really seemed to like these. Next time I might skip the caramelization step and just cook the apples in some cinnamon sugar, and mix up the ricotta with a bit of lemon zest in place of the orange. Alternatively, I think fantastic turnovers could be made with the orange-ricotta filling and caramelized peaches.

best version?

Since I've never made turnovers, these are by default the best version I've baked! As for all apple desserts, although I'd choose a pie or a crisp first, my husband and the book group folks would no doubt grab one of these!!


Thanks, Tracey, for choosing this recipe; it made my tasters - and my husband - very happy! If you'd like to see what all the fuss is about, you can find the recipe on Tracey's blog post. Or you could purchase the Sweet Melissa Baking Book and join in the weekly fun.

29 comments:

Flourchild said...

Im glad you and your family liked them.

Audrey said...

No, no, no...don't save these for the husband. Or for the book group. Put them in the mail for the rest of us. One each. We'll pay you back for the postage! Really, we will. We promise.

Sorry about the disappearing caramel...but they look wonderful and I'm sure they taste wonderful too!

Pam said...

Well, they look amazing! I can just see in the produce aisle debating which size apples to get! Too funny!

Fit Chick said...

These were so good!!! I used lemon because that what I had at home and it was very good. DH agrees, no caramel flavor and he would have prefered more apple. Great recipe, will make again.

Pamela said...

The recipe sounded fantastic when I saw it in the book and it looks wonderful here. I agree with you about the caramel, too. If you're going to work that hard at it, I'd want to taste it, too! Sounds like it was a success, though!

karen said...

Yours look very good! I loved them too.

The Bahens said...

I couldn't taste any caramel either. Mine just tasted like really good chunky applesauce. Your turnovers look very pretty!

Reeni♥ said...

They look delicious! Love the Ricotta filling! I'm thinking of joining your book group...how lucky they are!

Megan said...

I thought it was just me that didn't taste "caramel apple". It was just sugary apple!

Anyways - it sounds like your husband really liked these, so I guess they'll go on his favorite desserts list?

margot said...

Okay, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was wondering about the caramel. I'm glad they were a hit for your husband and the book group.

Cate said...

Wow, those look gorgeous!

Tracey said...

Wow, those are gorgeous! So golden and perfect! I'm incredibly jealous that you've got 4 of them sitting in the freezer just waiting to be baked :) Sorry they weren't your favorite, but I'm glad your husband and the book group were fans. Thanks for baking with me this week!

Natashya said...

I agree, for all the flavour that the caramelization process imparted, we could just have easily sauteed the apples in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Yours do look perfect though, lucky book club! PS, what are you reading?

Michele said...

I'm so glad that the turnovers were popular! I think the caramel is a very subtle background flavor, but I'm sure you could leave it out and these would still be delicious!

Elyse said...

Hey Nancy!! Wow, your turnovers look so professional!! I'm uber-impressed. Can I just apologize for being absent from the blog scene for the past week. I have about 4 of your posts that I still have to read--have no fear, I'm getting to them, slowly but surely! Yes, yes, yes the caramel flavor came through! I think adding that bit of cream really helped. I had no idea you were in Atlanta!! That's so exciting. Yep, I was born and raised there. I went to UNC undergrad and then did one year at UGA law before I transferred out to a school in San Fran to be with my boyfriend. I'm coming home for my little sister's graduation in May, so I'll definitely let you know the dates as soon as they're firm!! My mom lives in Sandy Springs and my Dad and his wife are in Buckhead. Okay, not to make this post waaaay too long, but have you ever had the Bongo Cake at Murphy's in VA Highlands? I've been really wanting to try out that recipe!

Cristine said...

Absolutely beautiful turnovers!!!

pinkstripes said...

Your turnovers look perfect! I'm glad they were a big hit with your husband and the book group. I loved the ease to delicious ratio of this recipe.

RuthWells said...

Those look absolutely fabulous! As for the weak caramel flavor -- does the recipe use any butter in the caramel? A bit of fat added might carry that flavor more strongly.

Thanks for coming by my blog and for your nice comment!

Katiecakes said...

The look fab, glad they were such a hit :)

Katie xox

Cathy said...

I am so glad that you brought up mutant fruit. I am seeing more and more of it in Publix. It is sort of disturbing, at least when it's not labeled "Genuine Alaskan Mondo Apples" - at least then we would know that they are that big because they're Alaskan, rather than because they are genetically engineered in a lab somewhere.

Anyway, your turnovers look great! Sorry the caramel taste wasn't as prominent as you would have liked, but it sounds like these were very well received by your tasters. I love the addition of ricotta to these!

Jules Someone said...

These look amazing! This is another cookbook I own and have yet to use. Get on it, Jules!

The Blonde Duck said...

Better than apple pie? I have a challenge...

Stephanie said...

yours look so pretty & PERFECT! simply gorgeous

Laura said...

I've been seeing these turnovers around the 'net and they lok great.

Your comments on apples though both cracked me up and perfectly expressed an ongoing frustration of mine. That has happened to me before and I hate it! Those granny smiths in the store can be HUGE!

Di said...

Your turnovers look great! It's too bad you couldn't taste the caramel--it sounds like a really great idea with the apples. The first recipe I made with TWD was the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake. We didn't make caramel though. The recipe calls for sauteing the apples in some butter and then adding brown sugar and cooking until it gets syrupy and coats the apples. It worked pretty well, from what I can recall.

Katrina said...

Darn the turnovers look good. Love the flakiness of puff pastry. I'd be torn--apple pie is one of my favorite pies and I love crisps. Hmmm. :)
Yours look great!

Eliana said...

I actually prefer these over apple pie. I too had issues with too much filling and ended up having to take some off. Once I sealed mine I made sure to pat them out to spread the filling as easily as I could.

Jessica said...

Your turnovers look wonderful and I'm glad that they were a huge hit. I love how beautiful your crimping is on the pastry. I had problems with my ricotta leaking out before it was baked too. I could taste the caramel in the apples before they were baked but not afterwards. I think that the flavor was too subtle to compete with the cheese and puff pastry. That's my assessment of the caramel flavor if it helps at all.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sounds like the mystery of the disappearing caramel.
I really am tempted by these. They look great.