Chicken turnovers – also overflowing with leeks, carrots, celery and kale – baked in my oven while my husband and son raked leaves in the yard on Sunday afternoon. It’s autumn, now. The aspen leaves have abandoned their perch and lay in blissful, crisp piles around the yard and along the stone path to our door.
My little boy waited patiently as the first hints of autumn arrived. He watched as the green leaves turned to yellow, and then to a rich gold and then to brown. He and his father spent the better part of the afternoon raking leaves together, piling them high in the center of the lawn so that my elated boy can jump in, falling against the crackly, crunchy brown leaves who crumple under his little (but strong) 50-pound frame.
After their time outside, I wanted to feed them well – something satisfying, but also portable so that dinner might not interfere with leaf play and what could be, perhaps, the last of the temperate, mild-weathered afternoons of the year. Winter will set in shortly, and we’ll have plenty of time then to snuggle inside, in front of the fire. Chicken turnovers, brimming with autumn vegetables, seemed appropriate. Turnovers and also warm milk with a touch of molasses and cinnamon – it’s sure to warm bellies against the bracing chill of an autumn evening.
We’ll take a walk later, chicken turnover and mug of warm milk in hand, to our plot in the community garden. We’ll see if our cabbages are ready, if there’s any carrots left and what must be done this week to prepare the plot for winter.
Chicken Turnovers with Sourdough Einkorn Crust
For these turnovers (and most of my other pastries – like red currant pie), I favor a sourdough crust made from einkorn flour. Einkorn is an ancient grain – the first wheat. It is rich in flavor, and, as is the case with most older and heirloom varieties, it is also richer in vitamins and minerals than its modern cousin. Unlike modern wheat, the gluten molecule found in traditional, old-world einkorn flour is often well-tolerated by people who are otherwise gluten-intolerant. Indeed, it works well for my family. We typically purchase it online in bulk.
The process of sourdough fermentation, as called for in this recipe, also increases the flavor of the turnovers – where the crusts mild tartness helps to balance the sweetness of leeks and carrots. Just as the souring process helps to increase the flavor of grains, it also helps to make improve the availability of trace minerals in those grains as well. Even further, grains and flours prepared according to traditional sourdough methods are also richer in folate than grains, flours, doughs and batters not subject to sourdough fermentation.
I always keep a jar of sourdough starter bubbling away on my kitchen counter. It’s easier to maintain than you might think and its uses extend far beyond bread baking to tarts, pancakes, pies and these chicken turnovers.
Where to Buy Einkorn (and how to get your sourdough started)
Einkorn berries and einkorn flour are not yet widely available (it’s much more difficult to grow, process and mill than modern wheat), but you can purchase it online at affordable rates and often with free shipping (see sources).
- 3 cups einkorn flour
- 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt, (divided)
- ¼ cup chilled butter, (cut into ¼-inch dice)
- ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sourdough starter
- ¼ to ⅓ cup cold water
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter
- 1 leek , (white and light-green parts only, sliced thin)
- 4 medium carrots, (scraped and chopped into ¼-inch dice)
- 3 ribs celery, (finely chopped)
- 1 small bunch kale, (trimmed and sliced very thin)
- 1½ cups cooked, shredded chicken
- 1 cup chicken stock
- ½ cup cream cheese
- 1 egg, (beaten)
- In a stand mixer, or by hand, stir flour and 1 teaspoon salt together, then beat in butter until the flour resembles corn meal. Beat in cheddar cheese and sourdough starter. Slowly add cold water, bit by bit, until the dough forms a ball and becomes pliable.
- Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 8 hours, then remove from fridge and allow it to warm at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Cut the dough into four equal quarters. Place each ball of dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll it out until it forms a circle about ⅛-inch thick.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter froths, stir in vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and cook them gently for 6 to 8 minutes or until they release their fragrance. Stir in chicken and broth. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has largely evaporated.
- Take a disc of dough, and spoon approximately ¼ of the chicken and vegetable filling and 2 tablespoons cream cheese onto ½ half of the disc. Fold the other half of the dough over the filling and seal with a fork or by crimping the edges. Continue working until all 4 turnovers have been filled.
- Whisk beaten egg with a tablespoon or two of water to make an egg wash, then brush each pastry with egg wash.
- Cut a small slit in the top crust of each turnover to allow for escaping steam, then bake at 375 F about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Allow turnovers to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.