Turnovers in Phyllo

melting pot adventures in food

While fully aware of the fact that I might be running the risk of alienating quite a few people out there when I say this, I am just going to admit it: I cannot wait for the holiday season to begin. As soon I woke up the day after Halloween, something clicked deep within my brain. Now, with November bearing down upon us, I can feel myself becoming more and more excited as the heart of the holidays draws nearer. I don’t know what is happening to me, but I’ve decided to put this excitement to good use.

Over time, my family, as in the case of most families, I imagine, has worked out the basic rhythm of what Christmas morning looks like. We wake up early-ish (earlier, now that we are being prodded to life by the Santa Claus-induced hyperventilating of an enthusiastic child), we drink some coffee, we have a light snack, we open presents, and then, several hours after waking up, we eat our first meal of the day. It’s a schedule that works for us, as it encourages the lackadaisical feeling of the holidays that serves as a great counterbalance to the hustle that seems to permeate the preceding weeks.

Our choice of early morning snacks changes, sometimes leaning towards the totally indulgent (pecan sticky buns, I love you), and other times towards the modest and reasonable (tiny scones, English muffins with jam). This year, I’ve been working on coming up with something we could eat that is simple to prepare, but still special, and falls somewhere squarely in between the indulgent and the modest. These turnovers, crisp, buttery envelopes concealing pockets of lightly sweetened fruit, seem like a surefire winner.

A lot of people dislike working with phyllo, and I completely understand why. If not prepared to deal with the properties of phyllo, the process of separating, brushing, and wrapping it seem quite cumbersome. If you are prepared, however, the process could not be simpler. Thankfully, preparing yourself is a simple job that can be broken down into three easy steps that, if followed, guarantee a smooth and aggravation-free phyllo experience:

1) Always make sure your phyllo is completely thawed before attempting to unroll it from its package and separate it. You should thaw your phyllo in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before attempting to work with it, and leave it at room temperature for at least half an hour before starting to unwrap and unroll it.

2) Keep your unrolled, waiting phyllo sheets covered with a lightly damp towel while wrapping and preparing your turnovers. This will keep your waiting phyllo sheets slightly moist, and prevent them from drying out, which makes them difficult, oftentimes even impossible, to work with.

3) Have all your ingredients at the ready. Have your fruit in bowls, your melted butter in a pan or bowl that will allow it to be quickly and easily reheated if it starts to harden, and your baking sheets lined with parchment and sitting next to you. Once you wrap these fellows, it’s best to lay them down and leave them alone until they are ready to bake. Fuss with them, and they may leak.

Besides the obvious pluses of being satisfying, not to sweet, and utterly delicious, these turnovers make a fantastic holiday treat on account of that fact that they can be made ahead, frozen, then simply removed from the freezer and baked whenever you desire a flaky, fresh turnover. There is no need to thaw, no need to fuss, and no need to rush. Essentially, they exist as a mirror to what one hopes a holiday morning can represent: calm, casual, and comforting.

Turnovers in Phyllo

As mentioned, these turnovers can be made ahead of time, flash frozen, and then kept in the freezer for up to 2 weeks before baking. To do this, simply assemble the turnovers and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the turnovers on the baking sheet in the freezer for at least one hour, until they are frozen through. Place frozen turnovers in an airtight container or bag (if you stack the turnovers in a container, remember to place a piece of wax or parchment paper in between each layer), then store as flat as possible. When you are ready to bake your turnovers, bake them exactly as you would if they were not frozen, adding only 2 or 3 minutes total to their cooking time if they appear to be taking longer to brown.

1 package of phyllo, defrosted and at room temperature, any size (mine were 9”x14”)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and then cooled slightly
2 cups of fruit of your choice, chopped into ½-inch chunks (I used pears and sour cherries—the cherries don’t have to be chopped, obviously—but you can use any fresh or frozen fruit you like, such as apples, peaches, raspberries, blueberries etc., and you needn’t defrost the fruit, should you choose to use frozen fruit)
3 to 4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, adjusted to the sweetness of your fruit (sour cherries needed 4 tablespoons of sugar, pears needed only 2)
the juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or, if you are using sour cherries, 1/8 teaspoon almond extract)

Peaheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set near you when wrapping the turnovers.

In a small bowl, combine fruit of your choice, dark brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, pinch of salt, pinch of cinnamon, and vanilla. Toss to combine evenly.

Lay a sheet of phyllo in front of you with the long end facing you. Brush the sheet lightly with butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo over the first, and lightly brush with butter. Keep your waiting phyllo sheets covered with a damp dishtowel while you work. Fold the short end of the sheet in half, so the phyllo sheet remains long, but is now narrower (for example, my sheet that was 9”x14” was then 4.5”x14”). Place a scant 1/3 cup of filling on one end of your phyllo sheet, then fold one corner of your phyllo over the filling, making a triangle shape. Continue folding the phyllo over itself in this manner (as you would fold a flag), until you reach the end of your phyllo sheet and now have a fully-wrapped, triangle-shaped turnover.

Place turnover on parchment-lined baking sheet, and continue making remaining turnovers. When you have completed wrapping all of the turnovers, you can either freeze then at the point or bake them. To bake them, slice 2 or 3 tiny slits in the top of each turnover to allow steam to escape. Bake turnovers for 22-25 minutes, until they are golden brown and you can see the insides bubbling ever so slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 turnovers, depending on how scant your 1/3 cup scoops were.

About the contributor:

Elizabeth Miller is a freelance writer who runs Savory Salty Sweet, a food and kitchen appreciation website. She also writes the Melting Pot column here on Indie Fixx, which appears bimonthly on Fridays. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.

One thought on “Turnovers in Phyllo

  • January 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm
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    I feel so stupid asking this – but when you say 1 package do you mean 1 package of the 2 that come in a box? I have not had good luck trying to make something with phyllo – but your instructions above seem simple. Thanksw!

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