Pear turnovers are a serve-and-grab, handheld dessert that tastes like autumn. Sweetened with dates and no sugar, all the spices take center stage.
The pear compote is gently sweetened with dates and spices, and they infuse the pear turnovers with their heady scent; the puff bakes flaky and buttery, and you’ll not only impress your family and friends but also yourself at how divine these pastries are.–Joanne Chang
CAN I FREEZE TURNOVERS?
You sure can. You can do this in 2 ways. Freeze them before baking and store them for up to 3 months. They can be baked from frozen but keep in mind that they’ll take a few more minutes in the oven. You can also freeze baked turnovers. They’ll also keep for up to 3 months. Let them thaw, wrap in foil, and give them a few minutes in the oven to warm.
For the filling
- 6 to 8 pitted and finely chopped Medjool dates
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
- 5 or 6 ripe medium Bosc pears peeled, cored, and chopped into small dice
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the turnovers
- About 1 pound store-bought or homemade puff pastry
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Make the fillings
- Put the dates and baking soda in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover the dates. Stir to dissolve the baking soda, which will soften the skins of the dates and allow them to blend more easily into the pears. Let the dates soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the dates and, using a spoon or a fork, mash them slightly until they’re smooth and soft.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the mashed dates, pears, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the dates and pears are starting to soften and the spices are well distributed. If the pears seem dry, add up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water.
- Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more. You want the dates to dissolve into the pears and the pears to soften somewhat, so keep cooking until you have a soft pear compote. Remove from the heat and let cool. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. (The compote can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)
Make the turnovers
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a well-floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a thin rectangle. The dough may seem pretty tough and difficult to roll out at first. Don’t be afraid to be firm with the dough: flip it upside down, turn it side to side, and pound it with the rolling pin to flatten it as you roll it into a long rectangle. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the rectangle to get rid of any rough edges.
- Cut the dough into 8 equal squares. (It’s easiest if you first halve the dough lengthwise into 2 strips and then cut each strip into 4 squares. If desired, use a ruler or a straight edge to measure the squares exactly so that the turnovers are easier to fill and the final pastry is uniform in size and appearance.)
- Place about 1/3 cup (80 grams) pear compote off to the side in each square. (You’ll probably have some extra pear compote. Enjoy it stirred into yogurt or dolloped alongside cheese.) Use the back of a spoon to spread the compote a little so it fills half the square diagonally and leave a little empty lip around the filling to allow for the sealing of the dough triangle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the empty pastry dough with the egg wash.
- Carefully fold the egg-washed dough over the compote and use your fingers to pinch the turnover triangle together. Use the tines of the fork to firmly press the edges of the turnover together and make sure the turnover is well sealed. Repeat with the remaining dough and pear compote. Reserve any remaining egg wash. (At this point the unbaked turnovers can be stored in the freezer, individually wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks. You can bake them directly from the freezer—just add 5 to 8 minutes to the baking time and proceed as directed.)
- Carefully move the turnovers to the prepared baking sheet. Add the cream to the remaining egg wash and whisk with a fork. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg-cream mixture. Bake until the dough is entirely browned and baked through, 50 to 60 minutes. Look at the sides of the turnovers where the puff pastry has puffed up to make sure this part of the turnover is golden brown as well.
- Remove from the oven and let the pear turnovers cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the filling to cool. The turnovers are best enjoyed the same day you bake them, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days; refresh them in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 6 minutes.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These are turnovers for grown-ups. The filling is very subtly sweet—the dates are the sole sweetener here—and the allspice and ginger really come through. The amount of filling for each turnover is perfect, too, as you’ll get some in each bite. You can skip mashing the dates after soaking since they’ll turn mushy on their own as you cook them with the pears. Do taste the filling about halfway into cooking it. If you want it sweeter, I think it’s perfectly fine to add a little brown sugar or chop up a few more dates and throw them in (no need to soak).
When handling the puff pastry, RELAX AND CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK. Be very gentle when folding the dough over the filling, as the puff pastry is quite flimsy at this point. (I used a bench scraper to lift the corner and guide it over the filling and also to transfer the folded turnovers to the baking sheet.) I initially baked 4 turnovers for 50 minutes, which was long enough, and I froze the rest. The frozen turnovers were baked in 1 hour a few days later. I finished the leftover filling by adding it to plain yogurt—a good mid-morning snack. The directions to refresh leftover baked turnovers the next day worked well.
With a bumper crop of pears from my dad’s garden, I was excited to try making these pear turnovers. I haven’t had turnovers since I was a kid. Well, these lovely pastries are much more sophisticated than the turnovers from my childhood. I really like that they don’t contain any refined sugar, as the sweetness comes from the dates and pears themselves. The natural sweetness partnered quite well with the buttery crunch of the puff pastry. Oh, and the best part? Eating them while still slightly warm and adding a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top! A lovely dessert.
I used a variety of pears rather than all Bosc, as that’s what I had available. Making the compote was very straightforward, and I found that I didn’t need to add any water. Because my pears were on the small side, I used 8 pears and 8 dates, which yielded more than enough compote for 10 turnovers.
I used store-bought puff pastry that came in a box containing 2 rolled-out squares of dough. The recipe called for about 1 pound, which equaled 2 boxes. Just a note regarding the dough, make sure your dough is chilled. I made the mistake of allowing the dough to reach room temperature, and handling it was very challenging. I ventured on, and instead of triangles, the dough morphed into free-form parcels. Not exactly the desired result, but it worked all the same. I did try chilling some of the dough, and that made all the difference. I was then able to form triangles with ease.
Originally published October 3, 2015