Breakfast Summer

sour cherry turnovers

sour cherry turnovers | the vanilla bean blog

Text from October 2013

I forgot they were in my freezer. Door County cherries, tucked underneath bags and bags of raspberries the kids and I had gathered every summer afternoon from our backyard bushes. I had to dig through those berries and move them around and curse slightly to get to the bottom of that freezer drawer. But there they were, still glittering and ruby red and perfect.

It seemed the cherries were calling me. They were a memory, a lovely one, and it had been a week filled with bad news from the outside; articles and TV anchors whispering deadly affairs again and again: 92 people who died of thirst and Man kills family and then himself and Funeral workers steals gold teeth from bodies and 5 stabbed to death by relative and You are not safe. You are not safe. You are not safe.

sour cherry turnovers | the vanilla bean blog

I tend to turn to puff pastry when I’m anxious. The rolling, the turns, the soft dough on my hands helps me focus for a moment. And this batch would be filled with those memorable cherries. They were picked this summer, one short weekend when [A] and I got to steal away by ourselves. We made an impromptu stop at a cherry orchard, grabbed an old tin bucket and filled it high.

And now they are here, still, in my hands. Their juices stain my fingertips and my white sweater I shouldn’t be wearing in the kitchen. My thoughts turn to blood: dark red blood running over the earth right now, and all the broken people weeping over that river. But I spent a summer day picking cherries; laughing and stealing kisses under tree branches.

I liked my cherries on the tart side for the turnovers – all the butter and richness of the puff pastry balanced things out nicely. However, you can add more sugar if you’d like. Store bought puff pastry is fine, but look for one that is made with real butter verses palm or soybean oil.

sour cherry turnovers | the vanilla bean blog

Maybe taking up a whole morning to make puff pastry is a waste of time. But when my daughter walks through our backdoor, her hands clapping at the smell of turnovers, I don’t regret the minutes spent. When she bites into the flaky layers and sour cherries, letting the red juice freely trickle down the side of her mouth, I am thankful for the quiet minutes spent turning and rolling.

And when I tell her about the afternoon Daddy and I picked cherries together in Door County, her eyes bright as she connects our memory with the treat in her hand, I somehow feel secure, if only for a moment.


‘I’m all over the place, up and down, scattered, withdrawing, trying to find some elusive sense of serenity.’
‘The world can’t give that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.’
‘I hate that.’
‘I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.’
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

sour cherry turnovers | the vanilla bean blog

sour cherry turnovers on white enamel plate

Flaky Sour Cherry Turnovers

Servings: 8 turnovers
Cook Time: 22 minutes
These delicious homemade turnovers are filled with tart cherries, wrapped with the butter and richness of puff pastry to balance each bite.
Sarah Kieffer
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  • 1 pound sour cherries pitted
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling (see note)
  • 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 1 pound puff pastry, store bought or homemade


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Put the pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl, and toss to combine. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, and then put it into a strainer set over a bowl. Let the cherry juice drain, and set the juice aside for later. Put the strained cherries back in their original bowl.
  • Gently flour your work surface, and roll each piece of the pastry dough into a 10-inch square. Cut each square into four 5-inch squares, for a total of 8 squares.
  • Place 2 tablespoons of the cherry mixture into the center of each square of dough, and then brush the edges of each square with some of the reserved juice. Fold each square of dough to make a triangle, and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Move the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  • Brush the tops of the turnovers with more of the cherry juice and generously sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake the turnovers until golden brown (20-25 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through. Move the turnovers off the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool slightly. Serve warm.
  • Reply
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Your writing is beautiful…. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I turn to rolling dough when I’m anxious, too. But puff pastry makes me nervous so I stick to pie crust. But maybe I should change that because these little turnovers look so pretty and delicious and just like the sort of thing I would be proud to shove into Thom’s face as soon as he wakes up each morning.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Just after I posted I realized I had typed my email address incorrectly. It is correct here.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I just came across your blog and read your “About” section. I so understand your desire to create family memories by documenting foods, traditions, etc. I have none such of those memories/traditions from growing up and now that I have a little one, I’m exploring ways to create them for him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your blog is lovely. I look forward to following it and reading more!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I love that you made the puff pastry, it always makes the food even more gratifying to eat when you put so much effort into it.
    Brilliant .gif by the way! 😉

  • Reply
    Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Something about the rhythmic nature of making puff pastry has always appealed – it’s a good way to focus on the present and forget, for a moment at least, all the other distractions. These are beauties Sarah.

  • Reply
    Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Pastry-making is my medicine too, with puff pastry being the ultimate cure all. The turnovers are beautiful, both the interior and exterior very special.

  • Reply
    Brian @ A Thought For Food
    Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I remember growing up and being so excited when I’d come home to find my mom baking treats. These are just wonderful… I’m always impressed by people’s ability to create pastries like this. I’m not sure I have the skill to do this… but, you know what, you’ve inspired me to consider giving it a try.

  • Reply
    Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Beautiful, lovely words. I read this yesterday and have been thinking about it since.

  • Reply
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    A morning of puff pastry is not at all a waste of time! Especially when it leads to these lovely things. So pretty, as always.

  • Reply
    Sini?my blue&white kitchen
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    This looks so good. Puff pastry truly has the ability to offer comfort when we most need it. I guess I have to get into the kitchen and make a batch. And oh how I wish I had some sour cherries in my freezer too! I’m a little jealous right now.

    Have a sweet weekend,

  • Reply
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 8:26 am

    puff pastry is on my list of things “to-make” one day…and sour cherries are one of my favorite things ever. they are so special! I have a bag stashed in the freezer for a rainy-day emergency.

  • Reply
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 6:33 am

    I just discovered some frozen blueberries….. hmmmm. You are giving me ideas.

  • Reply
    Lindsey (dolly and oatmeal)
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:48 am

    These turnovers are beautiful, and that much more because of the homemade puff pastry – woot! I love your description of your daughter making the connection between you and your husband’s memory, and the turnover in her hand – a lovely sentiment to be had!

  • Reply
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:02 am

    These look delicious. And I love that you have made your own pastry. I have yet to attempt puff,as I am always intimidated by it. But you have inspired me. Cherry turnovers from scratch are my next everest.

  • Reply
    Friday, November 1, 2013 at 2:02 am

    These look delicious. And I love that you have made your own pastry. I have yet to attempt puff,as I am always intimidated by it. But you have inspired me. Cherry turnovers from scratch are my next everest.

  • Reply
    phi @PrincessTofu
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    So I am reading this as I am waiting on my brownies to be ready… and I think, wow, I want sour cherries, never could get them at the market, but alas you picked your own! Which, is even better, of course.

    Since you’ve been sharing some recipes from Cook’s Illustrated… I was wondering: have you tried their apple pie? It’s apple pie season, we are about to go picking, and I am always searching for more apple pie recipes to test. Someone made me their apple pie recipe, but it was not stellar, which makes me think they were really bad at following directions (highly probable in this case). Thoughts?

  • Reply
    Sarah | The Sugar Hit
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    These look and sound wonderful – my mom used to make a similar treat when I was little. A special memory for me.

  • Reply
    Emma Galloway
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Beautiful! I love those kinda freezer discoveries 🙂

  • Reply
    Nora (Buttercream Fanatic)
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I, too, have a freezer full of Door County cherries that I have been saving for something very special. This beautiful recipe might be it.

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    These look absolutely perfect!

  • Reply
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I love the story behind these turnovers! I had a similar story with blackberries a few weeks ago – blackberries me and my boyfriend picked by the side of the road, me very inappropriately dressed in a short summer dress and sandals, my dress catching on one of the branches every few seconds while collecting our blackberries in old water bottles for want of a better container. And every time I took some of the blackberries out of the freezer I thought of that late summer day.

    And no, spending a morning making puff pastry is never a waste of time.

  • Reply
    Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Making homemade pastry (whether it be puff pastry, danish dough, croissant dough, etc.) is NEVER a waste of time in my mind! Especially when you fill it with delicious things like cherries!

  • Reply
    Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    COUNT ME IN! Love the combination of sweet and sour in desserts, and these cherry turnovers look PERFECT!

  • Reply
    molly yeh
    Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    a whole morning making puff pastry? a waste of time? no way no way nooooo wayyy!!!! i used to go to door county… what fun and lovely times! these turnovers are beautiful 🙂

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