When I tell people that I lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a mission worker for two years, I nearly always get the same response: “Belfast, huh? Is it safe there?” And I nearly always give the same response, “Sure it is, as safe as any other large city if you practice a bit of self-awareness.” I adored my time in Belfast, and found it to be a place of surprising beauty, creativity and humor. Sure, they’ve had their “Troubles,” but who hasn’t?
We all have complicated histories, but what matters is who we decide to be today. Okay a bit preachy, that, I’ll admit. What I’m saying is that wee Northern Irish city was a lovely little piece of my own history. Perhaps my favorite thing about that place was where I lived — in a three-story flat with friends, right in the heart of the city.
I could leave my door and walk about thirty feet to a “green grocer” (local produce stand). Next to that was the butcher, and just down the street was the baker. I did not find a candlestick maker, in case you were wondering. Today, I’m paying homage to that wonderful little bakery, so local it didn’t need anything but “Bakery” on its sign. If I was fortunate enough to have to wait on the bus, I would have a few minutes to pop in that sugary spot for a treat. Often, on a rainy, chilly morning, I would peer through that door and look to one particular place in the display case, desperately hoping that there would still be some apple turnovers. Sugary and crispy outside, warm and appley (I’m declaring that a word) inside. For a mere 65 pence, they were mine.
Noticing that apples are in season, I wanted to celebrate them a bit, and the first recipe that came to mind was re-creating my Belfast apple turnover experience. The day was not particularly cold or rainy in Cameron, but fresh-out-of-the-oven apple turnovers made our weekly staff meeting at Cameron Presbyterian Church a bit more special than usual. Delicious homemade apple turnovers have a way of doing that — making your day right at its very beginning. Whatever complicated history you might have experienced yesterday is gone. Today is going to be a great day — with warm, crispy and appley turnovers, how can it not be fantastic?
Makes 9 mini turnovers.
1 sheet of thawed puff pastry (remove from freezer the day before and thaw in the refrigerator)
1/4 cup water
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more for topping
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer apples, cinnamon, sugars, 1/4 cup water and vanilla in a small saucepan on medium heat until the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and cornstarch and stir well to thicken the juices slightly. Place in a bowl to cool.
On a floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 12-inch square. Cut into 9 smaller squares by cutting into thirds and thirds again the other direction. Place a teaspoon full of the apple mixture in the center of each square. Whisk together the egg and a splash of water. Brush two adjacent edges of each square with the egg wash and fold in half to form a triangle. Using a fork, crimp the edges together. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before enjoying.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.