High-Altitude Baking: Tender pastries filled with summer fruit and hints of cinnamon.
We moved last weekend to a new rental condo in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever lived, Lake Tahoe. Tahoe personifies summer: a deep azure-blue lake dotted with boats, idyllic white sandy beaches, and heavily forested mountains laced with hiking trails. As a special treat, we now have a deck that backs up to tall pine trees close enough to reach out and touch, and a stream that meanders down to the Lake. All day long, squirrels and chipmunks chase each other up and down long trunks just a few feet from us, and compete with birds for birdseed in little dramas almost as entertaining as watching Downton Abbey. Every morning now, as I replenish our bird feeders, I think: “let the games begin.” So far, the scrub jays are totally winning, and the squirrels are in desperate need of some coaching. I promise to post some photos of them once I can get them to slow down long enough.
But no matter how fun it is to explore a new place, there’s always a transition. A letting go of a former home that was comfortable and known. Wonderful neighbors for spontaneous dinners and friendship you might not now see as often; a daily rhythm of living that morphs into something new. As I sat on the floor unpacking boxes a few days ago, I suddenly realized this new condo started to feel like home the moment the kitchen was settled and I made my first dinner. There’s something about the familiar motions of opening the refrigerator for some fresh corn, stripping off their protective husks, and sliding a sharp knife out of a heavy wood block to slice off milky kernels that grounds me, settles me. For dessert, I made these rustic little turnovers with fresh cherries and blackberries to complete my immersion. Any berries, nectarines and peaches also work wonderfully.
Blackberry - Cherry Turnovers
- 10 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and sliced into little slabs
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (any vinegar can be substituted)
- 5 - 6 tablespoons ice water
Blackberry - Cherry Filling
- 10 ounces fresh fat blackberries
- 8 ounces fresh bing cherries
- 4 ounces brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Pulse a couple of times to distribute the salt through the flour. Add the butter all at once, and pulse the processor until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Add the vinegar and 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the mixture just starts to come together into a dough. Add additional water as needed. At 6000+ feet above sea level, I needed a little over 5 tablespoons.
Spill the mixture out of the bowl onto a workspace. With the heel of your hand, schmear the dough across the workspace three times. This creates layers of butter that translate into a flaky crust. Divide the dough in half and form two disks. Wrap in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for one hour, while you put together the Blackberry - Cherry Filling.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator and roll to a large circle, 1/8" thick. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough circle into eight even pizza slices. I do this by first cutting the circle in half, rotating the circle 90 degrees and cutting it in half again. I then divide each of the quadrants into halves.
For step - by - step instructions for making a pie crust, complete with photographs, go here .
Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place four of the 'pizza' slices of dough on the parchment paper.
Place 2 - 3 tablespoons Filling in the middle of each of the 'pizza' slices. Dampen the edges of the 'pizza' slices with water, and take each of the other four 'pizza' slices and place them over the filling, slightly stretching the dough to meet the edge of the bottom layer of dough.
Press the edges of the dough together and crimp with the tines of a fork.
Brush the tops of the turnovers with water and sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon turbinado, raw or coarse sugar over the tops. Slice two small vents into the tops of each.
Place the baking sheet with the turnovers in the refrigerator while you roll out the second dough disk. Repeat the above instructions and remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator when you're ready to build the next four turnovers. Return the baking sheet to the refrigerator for 15 minutes to slightly chill.
Slip the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is a light golden brown. At sea level, you may only need to bake them for 15 - 17 minutes.
Let rest for 10 minutes and dig in!
Blackberry - Cherry Filling
Combine all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Let sit on the counter at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
If you have filling left over, pour it into a small pot with a little water and simmer over medium heat until the blackberries completely break down and the cherries are soft enough to easily smash open. The liquid should be syrupy. This makes a great syrup for ice cream, pancakes, waffles or in a smoothie with some yogurt.