Moody days, moody nights. I’d say it’s the sign of summer ending, but, truthfully, summer didn’t really make much of an appearance this year. Each day blurs into the next as the expanse of gray clouds continues its relentless occupation. Last summer seemed so light and though still Alaskan, it was warm and drew me out of the house most days. I figure much of my memory is tainted by the fact that I’d been wearing the rose-colored glasses of new romance during all those months last year. But considering the difficulty most farmers have had this summer with their “greenhouse crops” (tomatoes, pepper, cucumbers, etc.), maybe this gloom really is out of the ordinary.
I will say this though, in favor of the clouds, I’ve had an abundance of soft, natural light that bright summer sun just typically doesn’t allow. And this softness does give a particular sense of coziness. Though not the best foraging weather, it has it’s perks.
Spend much time in Alaska, and it won’t take long for a local to tell you the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment.”.. especially if you’re prone to complaining about the weather. It’s a somewhat true statement; the right gear does makes a difference. Before living here, I’d never owned a raincoat or a pair of rubber boots, as they seemed like a waste of money for how little I’d use them. Now, I can’t go outside without both. This foraging trip was no exception. Berry picking in Alaska is fun, but unless you have “secret spots”, the competition for fruit is fierce. Which usually means wading through chest-high bushes and weeds in order to get to a spot that hasn’t been picked clean. Waterproof clothing is an absolute necessity. And as far as locations go, Chugach and Girdwood are known areas, but you can find various berry bushes just about anywhere. These photos are in Hatcher Pass, not far from Wasilla.
Honestly, it just feels good. To go out and spend hours with nature and then come home with a piece of it, and take that piece and turn it into something warm and delicious. There’s a certain connected-ness that appears when you intentionally slow down and do things “the long way.” Yes, I spent many hours on a treat that I could have purchased in minutes. But what would I have gained from that? Extra calories and a stomach ache? Creating instead of consuming (or creating first… then consuming. 😉 ) allows you to grow. It’s both an opportunity to learn and to meditate. Creating something pretty or something delicious, while not strictly necessary, does something for our minds that can’t be gained any other way. You don’t have to be a genius and you don’t have to make something new. Heaven knows there are probably a million and two other “cream cheese and blueberry turnover” recipes out there, and mine probably isn’t all too different. You don’t have to be “creative” to create.
So, grab a cuppa and make something today. 🙂
Wild Blueberry and Cream Cheese Turnovers
Rough Puff Pastry:
1 c. (2 sticks) frozen butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
2 c. all purpose flour (do not use bread flour)
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. plus 2 T. ice cold water
2 c. fresh blueberries
4 oz. cream cheese, room tempurature
1/4 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 egg, beaten
Icing, for drizzling (optional)
For the rough puff pastry: Sift together flour, salt, and sugar. add frozen butter cubes and mix gently with fingers until all butter pieces are coated in flour. Using a pastry blender or stand mixer, gently crumble the butter until the mixture is well incorporated but there are still visible chunks of butter. (There should be no loose flour at the bottom of the bowl, all dry ingredients should be sticking to butter) Add water a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture can come together in a ball. This amount will vary depending on your humidity and the type of flour you use (even all-purpose flour varies in protein content, especially from country to country.).
Tightly wrap your dough ball in cling film and refrigerate it for about 20-30 minutes. Roll out chilled dough on a well-floured surface into an oblong shape and fold it into thirds, or a “letter”. Cover and refrigerate for another 20 minutes, and then repeat the rolling/folding process, but in the opposite direction, so the ends with visible folds become the short ends of your oblong rectangle. Refrigerate and roll/fold at least two more times, turning the dough 90 degrees each time (4-6 times in total). There should be visible butter streaks in the dough still. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes, and then finally roll out your pastry dough into a 1/4 in. thick square, and divide dough into nine small squares.
For the filling: Combine 1 cup blueberries and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly and mashing berries with the spoon, until the juice becomes a thick syrup. This took me about 25 minutes. Reserve remaining blueberries.
Place cream cheese in a small bowl and add remaining sugar, mix well.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
To assemble: place a small amount (just under a tablespoon) of both cooked blueberries and cream cheese mixtures in the middle of each square, then sprinkle a few fresh blueberries on top, and fold pastry into a triangle, sealing edges with a fork. Brush with beaten egg. Many turnover and other pastry recipes suggest slashing or poking holes in the top of your pastry to prevent over-puffing or over-rising. I don’t do this simply because I like the big puff and I don’t mind the sides splitting a bit! Feel free to add a slash to the top, though, if you want your turnovers to look nice and neat.
Bake on a parchment-covered baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until they reach a dark golden color.
Drizzle cooled pastries with icing, if desired.