Curried Apple and Butternut Turnovers


I brought these to a dinner party the other week, and they were called names. Kind of like a cleverly mischievous Halloween costume hinging on a play on words or current event everyone finds familiar but can't quite put a finger on, these snacks/sides/appetizers could possibly be on the verge of an identity crisis. That said, they're great. Plain on the surface, but enticing in the manner of freshly baked bread, they were referred to as rolls, turnovers, mini calzones, and empanadas (see the end of this post, by the way, beyond the included recipe, for afterthoughts on empanadas). Inside, they were bursting with flavor, and included two of my favorite fall foods, apples and butternut squash, as well as onions, raisins, and a dash of curry and cumin. Needless to say, they disappeared (along with the rest of the delectably amazing array of foods provided by our wonderful hosts!). I personally thought of these as turnovers, but that may be because the inspiration was an apple and butternut turnover included in this month's issue of Cooking Light. The CL recipe is seasoned with thyme and honey mustard (on the dough), and uses refrigerated dinner roll dough. I wanted to make something curried, and used my favorite new tool/toy, the beloved bread maker, to make whole wheat pizza dough as a wrapping instead. This was time-consuming, all-in-all, but at the same time it was easy. The bread machine did the trickiest work, and I stuck the butternut in the oven whole a few days previous while I was baking, for about 30 to 4o minutes. That left  preparing the filling a simple and straightforward task, and spooning it onto dough circles, which were folded over and pressed on the edges with a fork. This could be one of those "recipe unnecessary" recipes, where the fun is in just throwing things in in the quantities you have. I confess I didn't measure meticulously, but will give my best estimate. I made the pizza dough beforehand (though you could always make it even easier and pick up dough balls from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's...yielding about 10 turnovers per dough ball), and stretched to 20 turnovers, leaving some extra filling for lunch another day. Which reminds me, the filling tastes great on its own, so even if you're not interested in making quite so many turnovers, it may still be just as easy to follow the quantities below halving only the amount of dough!

Curried Apple and Butternut Turnovers/Empanadas

For the dough (per ball, using a bread maker):

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water

For the filling:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 apples (I used
  • 1 medium butternut squash, cooked, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used mild)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins

*Optional: 1 beaten egg or milk for brushing the dough (I used leftover butternut squash soup!) 1. Prepare 2 balls of dough in advance. Place all ingredients into bread maker in the order suggested by the manufacturer.  Select Dough setting, and press Start. Remove dough from bread machine when cycle is complete. *I prepared the dough twice rather than doubling in the bread machine...your bread maker (if you're using) may have the capacity to handle more!

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add apples and squash, and continue to saute 10 minutes. Halfway through, stir in seasonings and raisins. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

3. Separate the dough into approximately 10 pieces per batch. Press into a circle (approximately 5 inches). Spoon about 1/4 cup filling onto half of the circle, leaving a slight border. Fold dough over filling, pressing edges with a fork to seal. If using, brush milk or egg over top. Place turnovers approximately 1 inch apart on a prepared baking sheet.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown.

So, I don't usually keep rambling in posts once the recipe is written, but for anyone who might be interested, I can't resist sharing my insignificant but enjoyable new knowledge about empanadas. This I owe to Artie, for asking me what the difference between an empanada and a turnover is, to which I think I stammered something to the effect of an empanada being a turnover that is Spanish. Well, now I know that I was on the right track, at least. Empanadas are Spanish and Portuguese stuffed breads or pastries, derived from the word empanar, meaning to bake in pastry. That's what my trusted sources at Wikipedia say, anyway. Actually, I have in fact found other reputable sources drawing high acclaim to the empanada. According to an article on QSR,  empanadas  are a valued inclusion in culinary curriculum at Miami's Johnson & Wales University. Chef-instructor Patricia Wilson, PhD, notes attractive characteristics such as portability, flavor, and versatility. She highlights how the empanada has influenced, and been influenced by, its local culture. Read the details at QSR Magazine: Wanna Empanada?.

After reading a condensed evolution of empanadas, I had to rethink whether or not my butternut and apple turnovers were entitled to the term as well. I'd been used to think empanadas are typically filled with savory meats, and more like a flaky British pastie than a smooth whole wheat pizza crusted roll. But apparently the humble empanada, which has transcended its street food roots, has branched into many forms and variations. It even has a place at Taco Bell as a dessert, that chains answer to the McDonald's apple "pie" no doubt. That said, I'm not sure the mental association with Taco Bell is good for our confused squash creation. I'm leaning a bit more towards pastellillo (the Puerto Rican name for empanada).

Photo credit: Flikr user jimsideas