Thursday 15 November 2007

One good turn deserves another

I had my first chausson aux pommes just 2 years ago when we were taught to make it during pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu. I remember thinking at that time that these were great, but for some reason, I haven't made any of my own since then. I guess that's mostly because it involves making puff pastry from scratch which is a hard thing to do properly in the heat of Singapore. Now that I'm in London, however, I figured it was high time that I got reacquainted with the pleasures of homemade puff pastry.

Since I've been reading so much about Pierre Herme's inside-out puff pastry, I decided to give it a try. Apparently, its supposed to be much easier to handle than regular puff pastry even though the bulk of the butter is on the outside of the dough. Sounds counterintuitive, right? I was a little skeptical when I embarked on this mission but I reasoned that the man whom some hail as the Picasso of pastry can't be wrong.

Of course, he wasn't. Even though most of the butter was on the outside, the dough was surprisingly easy to handle, probably because its a relatively sturdy dough. The hardest part of making it was really just planning your day around the time that the dough is required to rest in between turns.

Once the dough was completed, making the turnovers was a cinch. Were they as good as I remembered? Absolutely! In fact, its impossible to stop at just one. So, at least in this context, the old adage, one good turn(over) deserves another, holds true.

Chausson aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers)
Adapted from The Secrets of Baking

For the apple filling:
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp unsalted butter

1 recipe puff pastry (I used Pierre Herme's inside-out puff pastry)

For the egg wash:
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp water

1/2 cup sugar

Toss together the apples, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla seeds, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until it turns a light nutty colour, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the apple mixture and saute until the apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cooked apples to a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the turnovers. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the Puff Pastry out to 1/4 inch thick. Using a large, round, fluted cutter, cut out circles of dough. Use a rolling pin and lightly press down on the cutter of each circle, creating an oval shape.

Egg wash
Whisk together the egg, salt, and water in a small bowl.

Place a spoonful of filling into the center of each oval (amount depends on the size of your cutter). Using a pastry brush, apply a thin coat of water to the lower half of the oval. Fold the top of the dough down and press to seal the edges together. At this point, the turnovers can be frozen, wrapped tightly, for up to 1 week.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Carefully transfer the turnovers to the prepared baking sheet, placing them 1 inch apart. Brush a light coat of egg wash onto each turnover, then sprinkle each with a pinch of sugar.

Bake the turnovers for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan from back to front, turn the oven temperature down to 350F, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve the turnovers warm or cool and store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.