One of the most fun parts of being a part of a baking group is that eventually you get to choose the recipe that the group bakes. I was really fortunate to be among the first few people to join the Sweet Melissa Sundays group, so my turn to choose the recipe came around quickly! After flipping through the book several times, I found that I kept coming back to the caramel apple turnovers with sweet ricotta filling. For one, I enjoy baked apple desserts (and when you add puff pastry to the mix it’s a recipe for true love). Also, I was curious about whether I’d like ricotta in a sweet application. Finally, I still struggle to make caramel so I figured it’d give me a chance to challenge myself with that part of the recipe.

I started by making the sweet ricotta filling. I drained my ricotta as the recipe instructed but even after almost 24 hours, it didn’t really seem to release any liquid. I wasn’t too worried and figured that the flour added to the filling would help absorb any excess liquid. I thought the sweetened ricotta was delicious!

Next, I made the caramel apples, which were definitely the most stressful part of the recipe for me. I have never successfully made caramel so I wasn’t sure how this would go. I got the sugar and water boiling and everything seemed to be going well until I added the apples. At that point, the caramel sort of seized and turned into several hard lumps. Since I didn’t have any more apples, I kept going to try to save it. After some more time on the heat, the caramel clumps dissolved and things seemed to get back on track. Though the recipe calls for low heat, I boiled the caramel and cooked the apples on medium heat because it just seemed like it would take forever on low. The apples honestly didn’t smell as appetizing as I’d expected while they cooked, but I snuck a taste and they were dangerously good – very sweet though from the caramel.

Finally, I assembled the turnovers. The puff pastry got a little warm during the process so I stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes at one point, but otherwise assembly was a breeze. I put the assembled turnovers back in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes before baking them. I deviated from the recipe and baked at 400 F for about 25 minutes based on a few other turnover recipes I’d seen and they puffed up nicely and got some good color. They smelled so good I could barely wait for these guys to cool off a bit before trying them! All I have to say is wow, these are amazing! Definitely in my top few desserts I’ve ever had. That said, while I enjoyed the ricotta filling before it went in the oven, I wasn’t crazy about it in the turnovers. I’d probably leave it out next time. I had one turnover and I gave one to my mailman in an attempt to get these out of the house so I wouldn’t eat all 4. Shane doesn’t eat apples so there are still 2 more sitting in my kitchen…. I might have to hit the gym a few extra times this week to justify eating one more of them.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that the individual components can be made in advance. The assembled turnovers can even be frozen for weeks. I think this would make them a great dessert for company. I know I’d be thrilled to be served a warm apple turnover if I were at someone’s house :) I will definitely be making these again – but only if others are around to help me eat them!

Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, by Melissa Murphy

Caramel Apple Filling
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
pinch salt

Sweet Ricotta Filling
1/2 cup ricotta, drained overnight (see Note below)
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (I used lemon zest)

Note: To drain the cheese, line a strainer with one to two layers of cheesecloth. Set over a deep bowl, making sure the strainer does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Place the ricotta in the lined strainer. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the cheese and place a plate on top of the plastic wrap to act as a weight on the cheese. (I drained my cheese for close to 24 hours and it really didn’t really release much liquid at all.)

Turnovers
1 large egg
2 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
one 12-inch square puff pastry, 1/4-inch thick, chilled

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 F (I baked mine at 400 F).

To make the caramel apple filling: In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, heat the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the water until amber (I used medium heat and the process took about 20-25 minutes).

Add the apples and stir to combine. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Once the apples begin to soften, add the remaining 2 tablespoons water and the salt and cook until they are a tender, chunky sauce consistency (Again, I used medium heat here and the process took close to 30 minutes). Set aside to cool. (The caramel apple filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

To make the sweet ricotta filling: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg yolk, sugar, flour, vanilla, salt and zest and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The sweet ricotta filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

To assemble the turnovers: In a small bowl, combine the egg and heavy cream with a fork and set aside. This is your egg wash.

In another small bowl, combine the cinnamon with the sugar and set aside. This is your cinnamon sugar.

Place the chilled puff pastry on a lightly floured board. With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into four 6-inch squares. Place one-quarter of the ricotta filling just off center on each of the 4 squares. Place one quarter of the caramel apple filling on top of the ricotta.

Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash around the edges of each square. Fold each pastry in half, corner to corner, to form 4 triangles. Gently press together the washed edges of the turnover to seal, and gently pat down each mound of filling so that it fills the pocket of each triangle. Chill the pastries until firm. (The pastries may be assembled to this point and frozen wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks.)

Using the pastry brush, brush the tops of the turnovers with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar. Cut three steam vents in the top of each turnover. Bake for 45 minutes, or until deep golden brown (At 400 F, mine were golden after 25 minutes). Remove to a wire rack to cool.

The turnovers are best served warm the day they are made.