Easy apple turnovers recipe with a cinnamon filling and flaky crust. A delicious breakfast or dessert that is ready in just 30-minutes!
Table of Contents
I’ll show you how to achieve bakery-style treats by transforming store-bought puff pastry, crisp apples, and warm spices into a lovely breakfast or dessert. These individual pastries are a delicious alternative if you fancy apple pie but don’t want to wait for a slice. It’s easy to make these hand pies on a whim.
To make the apple filling burst with caramel flavor, I find that taking a few minutes to saute the pieces with sugar, spice, and cornstarch has a significant impact on taste. The triangle-shaped pastries are dusted with cinnamon and sugar and baked until warm and crispy!
Using both Granny Smith and Honeycrisp apples gives the apple filling a balanced sweet and tart flavor. They both hold their shape after baking. Honeycrisp apples are juicier, adding more moisture to create a delicious sauce that coats the fruit. If you prefer to use one type, go for it, but I like the depth of flavor that mixing adds.
Alternatively, you can use other types of baking apples. Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji (for Honeycrisp), or McIntosh are tasty swaps. Try your favorite variety to experiment.
Prepare the apples
Peel and cut the apples into bite-sized pieces, about 1/2-inch dice. This size helps the fruit soften quickly when cooked on the stovetop and in the oven, plus it helps it retain its shape. I like little bursts of fruit in the baked turnovers, not a mushy apple sauce consistency.
You can add the apples to a bowl of cold water to prevent browning as you dice each apple. Just make sure to drain well.
Make the apple filling
I use a handful of everyday kitchen staples to create a filling with warm spice flavor coated in a syrupy glaze. Mix everything in a bowl before it gets cooked. Super easy!
- Sweetener: Dark brown sugar adds a molasses note, and granulated sugar gives a straightforward sweetness.
- Flour: A small amount of starch helps thicken the juice from the apple released during cooking. The flour helps the sauce cling to the apples.
- Spices: A mixture of ground cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the baked notes. Try cardamom or cloves for a spicier taste.
- Salt: Helps to enhance the taste of the sugar and lemon juice.
- Lemon juice: A small amount of citric acid balances the sugars in the apple filling. Add some lemon zest for a more robust citrus aroma.
Precook the Apples
We start with 4 ½ cups of diced apples, which reduces by about half the volume after cooking. When mixed with sugar, the sweetener draws out the water from the cell walls of the cut apple. This could cause a watery filling. The apple filling is sauteed in melted butter over medium heat to concentrate the flavorful juices into a thicker sauce. This helps to soften the crisp texture, lightly caramelize the sugars, thicken the flour, and create a syrupy coating.
It only takes about 5 minutes. You do not want the apple mixture to break down and lose its structure. Don’t add hot apples to the puff pastry; they will melt the butter, making the pastry less puffy when baked. Cool it down in the freezer while preparing the puff pastry.
Puff pastry selection
For convenience, I use frozen sheets of puff pastry, which you can find in the freezer section at most major grocery stores. I use the Pepperidge Farm product. They come two per pack, about 1.1 pounds in weight, and 9-inches per sheet.
Other brands can be used, but make sure they are around the same dough weight and size. I’ve also seen gluten-free puff pastry. Defrost them in their package in the refrigerator the night before or for about 40 to 60 minutes at room temperature. I keep them in their wrapping because they dry out quickly.
How to make apple turnovers
The sweetened apple pastry gets its name from the action of folding or turning over the dough to enclose the filling inside. Once the filling is cooled, add a generous amount in the center of the puff pastry, about 3 tablespoons. For the characteristic triangle shape, brush the tops with egg wash, then fold over the dough, sealing the edges from corner to corner.
Crimp the edges with a fork, cut some small slits to vent, then brush with egg wash on the surface. Sprinkle on sugar for extra sweetness and crunch. I use coarse decorating sugar, just like bakeries. Bake at 400ºF (200ºC) until golden brown and crisp, about 20 to 22 minutes.
Make a glaze (optional)
I love to drizzle a vanilla glaze on top to add extra sweetness to the apple turnovers. I make mine by mixing powdered sugar, milk, and pure vanilla extract in a small bowl. You could also use vanilla bean paste if you like the little black speckles of the bean.
For a shinier glaze, check out my cookie icing recipe. It has corn syrup to prevent the sugar from becoming grainy and dries glossy. When added to the warm turnovers, the glaze dries within minutes.
Serve this with
- Homemade whipped cream
- Ice cream with pumpkin pie spice sprinkled on top
- A drizzle of caramel sauce
- A 5-minute tea latte
Both are individually sized portable pastries. Turnovers use puff pastry folded and crimped into triangles. The hundreds of buttery dough layers create a light, airy, and flaky texture. Hand pies use pie dough, which is more dense, tender, and crumbly. They can be shaped into circles, semi-circles, or other festive cutouts.
You don’t have to pre-cook the apples. However, the filling will be runnier, potentially causing a soggy texture if it seeps out. It will not be as concentrated in caramel flavor. The apples may be crisper in texture since they did not have a chance to soften on the stovetop. As the apples shrink, you will also have more space left in the center of the pastry.
It’s normal for turnovers to release some liquid as it bakes, but not a soggy mess. Precooking apples helps to reduce the amount of water seeping out. Give the edges a good crimp to lock in the juice. Chill the turnovers for 20 to 30 minutes before baking to firm up the dough and filling.
The benefit of precooking the apples
Nobody likes a soggy apple turnover! Apple contains about 85% percent moisture. The juice releases as it cooks. If not precooked for several minutes to force the liquid out and concentrate the juices, it will run out of the crimped edges of the turnover when baking. The apples will lose over 50% of their volume when baked. Cooking helps to shrink it down so that you get more apple filling in each turnover.
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- 2 puff pastry sheets, 1.1 pounds, defrosted
- 1 ½ pounds apples, Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, or a mixture, about 3 large, 4 ½ cups diced
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 ½ teaspoon all-purpose flour , plus as needed for dusting
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 large egg, plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk, heavy cream, or water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Thaw Puff Pastry – Remove the frozen pastry from the box, but leave it in its packaging. Defrost on a sheet tray until it is cool but pliable, about 40 minutes. Alternatively, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
- Heat Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat to 400ºF (204ºC). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Prepare Apples – Peel, core, and cut the apples into about ½" dice. Measure 4 ½ cups for the filling.
- Make Apple Filling – In a large bowl, combine diced apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, nutmeg, and salt.
- Pre-cook Apples – In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple mixture and saute until crisp-tender and coated with a syrupy sauce, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer apples to a bowl, scraping out the sauce. Freeze until cooled down, or refrigerate if not using right away.
- Prepare Puff Pastry – Place defrosted puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. If the surface feels sticky, lightly dust it with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll out into a 10×10-inch rectangle or about ⅛" thick. Cut into four equal 5" squares. Repeat the process with the other sheet.
- Fill the Pastry – Place about 3 tablespoons of cooled filling in each square. It should be in a triangular mound on one half of the pastry. Leave a ½" edge around the pastry.
- Crimp the Pastry – In a small bowl, mix together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the edge of each square. Fold the pastry in half from corner to corner, gently pressing around the apples to remove air pockets. Use a fork to crimp and seal the outer ½" edge of the triangle. Use a paring knife to create three small slits, about ½" apart in the center of the turnover. If the shaped puffed pastry gets too warm, refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking.
- Bake the Turnover – Transfer apple turnovers to the lined baking sheet, at least 1" apart. Lightly brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 20 to 22 minutes.
- Glaze (Optional) – In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Adjust with more powdered sugar or milk as needed. Drizzle over warm turnovers. It will take a few minutes to harden. Transfer turnovers to a wire rack to cool if not eating right away to prevent the bottoms from becoming soggy.
- Baking Sheet
- Glaze Yield: About ¼ cup
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Reheating: Warm in a 375ºF (191ºC) oven until crisp, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Make ahead: Unbaked turnovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. To freeze, place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Once hardened, individually wrap, store in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen, it will require a few extra minutes.
- Sugar Topping Options: For larger sugar granules on top of the turnovers like at bakeries, use coarse sugar like white sparkling sugar, sanding sugar, or turbinado sugar.
- Cinnamon Sugar Topping: For a churro-like topping, combine ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle on top of turnovers after egg washing.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free puff pastry. Substitute the flour with cornstarch or omit it. Make a cornstarch slurry mixing ¾ teaspoon cornstarch with 1 ½ teaspoons water. Add after apples have softened, and cook until thickened, about 30 to 60 seconds.
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