Hello again! It has been far too long since I last posted, and for that I am sincerely sorry. But here I am again—baking, writing and art-partaking. Will you join me for more fun sweets in the New Year? I hope so! But before we get to 2015’s sweet treats, let’s end 2014 on a bang, shall we? These apple turnovers are perfect for this time of year, and you can easily substitute any fruit in season—I look forward to trying these with pears next, and peaches and berries in the spring and summer.
These apple beauties are inspired by one of the most celebrated artists of Britain, John Mallord William Turner, sometimes referred to as the “painter of light.” Born in London, Turner was very accomplished in drawing, painting and watercolor, and his significant skills earned him admission to the Royal Academy of the Arts at the age of 14. Living up to his nickname, Turner was a master at depicting light in natural settings, and was especially proficient in his portrayals of the many “moods” of Mother Nature: whether it be severe sea storms, dramatic lighting or calm, beautiful landscapes. Take for example his early work of 1812: Snowstorm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps—here, Turner connects the contemporary events of the Napoleonic Wars to the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome (264-146 BC), and focuses on Carthaginian general Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with his army (certainly no small feat, says the girl who thinks running a 5k once a year is a huge accomplishment). Though the historical background of the picture is important, the painting itself is largely a landscape, with a main focus on man’s (here, Hannibal and his army) vulnerability at the mercy of nature. In fact, we can barely even see Hannibal (on elephant)—the viewer is instead invited to focus on the dramatic avalanche, with sunlight peaking through the composition-demanding storm.
Years later, Turner painted a much calmer scene, with his 1838 work The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up. Here, we see the Temeraire, a real-life ship used in the Battle of Trafalgar (another nod to the Napoleonic Wars), being towed to be broken up for scrap wood. The scene is quiet, peaceful and balanced, with the old warship to the left, and a beautiful sunset to the right—the end of a boat’s era naturally coinciding with the end of a day. Turner’s skilled rendering of the sunset and reflection on the water almost overshadows the events taking place.
In both of these prolific works, Turner successfully displays the importance and overwhelming aspect of nature, and emphasizes man’s small role within it. Which brings me back to these turnovers—the emphasis here is the fruit, and the pastry (and sugar) just adds a little “oomph!” Feel free to tweak the recipe to your taste; the best thing about these is that they are so simple, that no matter what you change, the sweetness of the apple (or pear, peach or berries) will still shine through—you can’t compete with nature.
For the Apples:
1 apple of your choice (I used gala), peeled, cored, and sliced very thin
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
For the Biscuits:
2 cups flour (I used ½ white + ½ whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
¾ cup plain yogurt of your choice (can be Greek!)
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Make your apples first: In a small saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, apples and salt over low heat until the butter is completely melted. Stir occasionally for 2 minutes more, then remove from heat and let cool.
For the biscuits:
Mix together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and then add the butter. Pulse until the butter is incorporated pretty evenly, with some small pebble-sized pieces throughout. Add the yogurt and salt, and mix just until combined.
Pour the dough out onto a flour-covered surface, and smooth into a ball. Roll out completely, and then fold in half twice. Roll out and repeat. Roll the dough out once more, this time until the dough is about ¼ inch thick, around 8 x 12 inches in size. Spoon the apple mixture onto one long half of the dough, and then fold the bare dough onto the filled dough. Pinch the sides all the way around, and then using a sharp knife, slice the dough into approximately 2 inch slices.
Arrange the slices on the baking sheet, a couple of inches apart from each other, and prepare the topping. Brush beaten egg over each pastry and then sprinkle on a mixture of the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Bake for about 12-13 minutes, and then let cool. Enjoy!
If you are as intrigued by the eccentric J.M.W. Turner as I am, be sure to check out the new movie out on him now, Mr. Turner:
Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath
J.M.W. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838, oil on canvas
J.M.W. Turner, Snowstorm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812, oil on canvas