Why are family recipes so important? Memories, of course. Memories of the person who made those special dishes and the times you spent together. I’ve come to the conclusion that, even if my version of my Grandmother’s turnovers isn’t exactly like hers, the goal is still the same. And, that is to nourish those precious memories, of her and the good times we all spent as a large extended family.
My paternal grandmother was my father’s stepmother. She was much younger than my maternal grandmother, and she did things that other grandmothers didn’t seem to do: she had a part-time job at a downtown department store, and she and my mother, together, belonged to a women’s bowling league. She was an energetic, hard-working woman who kept a neat and organized home. And, she was an excellent cook. I can’t begin to describe her many specialties, but these little turnovers are high on the list. This is a delicate and buttery pastry, that, with the addition of sharp cheddar cheese, brings the combination of savory and sweet to these turnovers. Think apple pie, with a slice of good cheddar. This is a similar experience, but the pastry is more cookie-like, with the texture of shortbread. With the help of my cousins, I spent some time trying to perfect these little gems. One batch was too much like pie pastry, the second was more true to my memory of the original turnovers. There were challenges: how do you keep the jam from leaking out? was there an egg wash? what kind of jam was best for the filling? It was as much fun conferring with various family members on the recipe as it was doing the actual baking. Some of their comments were: “I think you should roll them thicker, cook them less, and allow them to rest longer. Like I know anything!”, “They were flaky and cheesy and yummy”, “Think shortbread”, “I remember them almost falling apart when you picked them up, and, they were a rare treat”, “I have the recipe, but I never had any luck with them”, and this one, my favorite, “Love you and thank you”. That’s what it’s all about.
Jam-Filled Cheese Turnovers
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, 65°F to 70°F
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- A pinch of salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Thick fruit jam , for the filling
Cut the butter into 8 pieces and place, along with the cheese and cream, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to blend. Add the flour and a pinch of salt to the work bowl. Pulse again until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough. Remove the dough from the processor and shape into a slightly flattened disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F, with the rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness a little less than 1/4-inch. Cut circles with a 3 1/2 or 4-inch cutter and place on the prepared sheet. Gather the dough scraps together gently and continue to roll and cut circles of the pastry. If the dough starts to soften, replace it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Place a scant teaspoonful of jam in the middle of each dough circle and moisten the edges with a little water. Fold the dough over to form a half-round shape, and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Make a couple of steam vents with the fork in the top of each pastry turnover.
Place in the preheated oven and bake, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until set and handsomely golden in color. Allow to cool before enjoying as the jam filling will be very hot!