Forget Dorothy’s slippers. Take a look at these ruby beauties! Fresh sour cherries. Also known as tart cherries – and with good reason. Unlike sweet cherries, such as Bings and Rainiers, these glassy red orbs are too tart for eating out of hand, at least for me.
Some call them pie cherries, because that’s how they’re most often used. While a sour cherry pie might be good, I wanted something better, something sassier, something with a higher crust-to-filling ratio. (Crust-to-filling ratio is surprisingly important. A classic sour cherry pie with lattice crust would be overwhelming…) But a turnover… a turnover could be perfect.
Finding fresh sour cherries, though, is definitely not easy. You won’t find them in your grocery store. You won’t find them in April, or August. Your best bet is to check out your local farmers’ market on a June morning (here in Tennessee), and get there early. Sour cherry season is brief but you can extend it in your icebox. Pit and arrange the cherries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Pop the pan into your freezer, and once they’re frozen hard, transfer into a freezer bag for longer storage. Frozen, they’ll stay good for up to one year, which will bring you round to next June – when it’s time to restock your supply.
Sour Cherry Turnovers
crust adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
Cream Cheese Crust
- 1½ cups (7½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 (8-ounce) package cold cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
Sour Cherry Filling
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 2½ cups (14½ ounces) unpitted sour cherries (to end up with 2¼ cups or 12 ounces once pitted)
- squeeze of lemon juice
- splash of vanilla extract
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the food processor and process until blended. Add the diced cold butter and process for 8-10 seconds, until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the cream cheese and pulse about 30 times or until large, shaggy clumps of dough form.
2. Turn the shaggy dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 2 or 3 times to create a cohesive dough. Flatten into a 7-inch square (about ¾-inch thick) and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough back onto a lightly floured board and roll into a square about 1/8-inch thick. Trim to a 15-inch square. Using a ruler, lightly score 5-inch increments along all sides of the dough. Cut the dough into 9 (5-inch) squares and chill them while preparing the filling.
4. Pit the sour cherries. You may use your fingers only, a knife, a cherry pitter, or my personal favorite tool for this task – a paper clip. Unbend a paper clip to a long S-shaped wire with two curved ends. Gently push the smaller curved end into the cherry through the stem end until you reach the pit; then scoop it out. Easy as pie, I mean, turnovers!
5. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl to blend. Stir in sour cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Toss until the sour cherries are evenly coated.
6. Retrieve the crusts from the chill chest and divide the filling evenly among one-half of each of the squares, as shown below, leaving a narrow border along the edges.
7. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the milk to create an egg wash. Brush a thin coat of egg wash on the outside border around the fruit. Fold the dough in half over the fruit and press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Trim with a bench scraper or knife to make the edges nice and neat.
8. Transfer all the turnovers to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat and refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking.
9. While turnovers are chilling, preheat oven to 375°F.
10. Brush the top of each turnover with a thin coat of egg wash and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut several slits in the top of each to allow steam to escape during baking.
11. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate front to back, and bake 10-15 minutes longer, until the pastry is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve the turnovers warm or at room temperature. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.
Storing: The turnovers keep at room temperature, wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container, for 2 days. To recrisp and rewarm, heat in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes. For longer storage, wrap airtight and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving.
Make Ahead Options:
- Through step 2 – The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or slipped inside a freezer bag and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.
- Through step 3 – Place rolled-out squares between sheets of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. You may also freeze them, layered between sheets of parchment, wrapped in plastic and sealed in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 2 months.
- Through step 8 – The turnovers may be chilled for up to 1 hour before baking. Any longer and the sugar melts and blends in with the cherry juice, causing the dough to become soggy. (And who likes a turnover with a soggy bottom?) Or they may be frozen, double wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 month. Apply the egg wash and sugar just before baking. No need to thaw – just bake the frozen turnovers as directed, adding 5-10 minutes to the baking time.