I recently explained how formative my first-ever bite of spanakopita was for me and how the Greek pie’s savory filling inspired my weeknight-friendly, spinach and feta pasta dish. This week, the recipe is driven by that unforgettable pie’s shatteringly crisp, flaky exterior, made from layers of paper-thin phyllo dough, but taken in a sweet direction for swoon-worthy, fruit-filled dessert.

Brushed with healthful olive oil, the dough is a lighter, better-for-you alternative to puff pastry or other pie doughs. It can be used with any fruit filling you can think of, but with cherries in their prime season, they are an irresistible choice. They are so inherently sweet, simmering them with just a little honey is all the added sugar needed to shuttle the filling into dessert territory, while a dash of ground cardamom brings out their flavor in a heavenly, fragrant way. (Cinnamon is also nice, if you prefer it to cardamom.)

If you haven’t worked with phyllo dough before, don’t be intimidated; it’s not difficult once you know the tricks. The sheets of dough are typically sold frozen, so be sure to thaw the package of it overnight in the refrigerator. (You won’t need the whole box for this recipe but you can refreeze what you don’t use.) Once your filling has cooled and you are ready to make the pies, lay the stack of phyllo onto a clean surface and immediately cover it completely with a damp kitchen towel or paper towels so it doesn’t dry out. Replace the towel(s) each time you remove a phyllo layer.

When brushing the dough with oil, do it gently, dabbing and brushing very lightly so you don’t pull the dough and tear it. You’ll have plenty of extra sheets to work with so you can toss out a couple as you are getting the hang of it. The recipe is more forgiving than it seems – and it’s OK if the dough tears little, if the oil isn’t totally evenly distributed, or the layers don’t align absolutely perfectly on top of each other.

For these sweet, handheld pies, a little coarse sugar is sprinkled between each layer of the dough, the stack is cut into four strips before the filling is piled on, and each is folded into triangles, turnover style. They emerge from the oven after about 20 minutes, golden, puffed and crisp outside, fragrant and warm inside, and ready to be devoured, which they surely will be.

Cherry Phyllo Turnovers in progress. Photo by Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post

Cherry Phyllo Turnovers

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Active time: 35 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes, plus 1 hour cooling time

8 servings; makes 8 turnovers

Phyllo dough brushed with healthful olive oil and sprinkled with a little coarse sugar make these golden, flaky turnovers a lighter, better-for-you alternative to puff pastry or other pie doughs. Here, they are stuffed with a heady, cardamom-seasoned cherry filling that is ideal for summer when cherries are in season, but can be made any time of year using frozen fruit.

Storage Notes: The turnovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days, then reheated in a 300-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until warm and re-crisped.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups (300 grams) pitted sweet cherries, halved, fresh or frozen, thawed

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3 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon

2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

8 (13-by-18-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen

1/3 cup (80 milliliters) olive oil

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3 tablespoons demerara sugar or raw coarse sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cherries, honey, lemon juice and cardamom, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the cherries release their juices and come to a simmer. Remove the lid, stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook, stirring, until the juices thicken, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, transfer to a lidded container and refrigerate until completely cool, about 1 hour.

When ready to bake, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Place the stack of phyllo on a clean surface and keep it covered with a clean, damp kitchen towel or paper towels so it doesn’t dry out. Lay one sheet of phyllo on a large cutting board, wider side facing you, and use a pastry brush to dab/gently brush it with the olive oil, then sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Top with a second sheet of phyllo, brushing it with oil and sprinkling with sugar, then repeat this process with 2 more sheets of phyllo, so you wind up with a stack of 4 layers. (Don’t worry if the phyllo sheets don’t line up perfectly; just try to get them close enough. If the sheets tear slightly, that’s OK, just proceed.)

Working from top to bottom, cut the layered phyllo into 4 strips. Put a small mound (about 2 heaping tablespoons) of the cherry mixture about 1 inch from the bottom of one strip and fold the phyllo over the mixture into a triangle-shaped pocket. Continue to fold the strip up to maintain the triangle shape, much as you would fold a flag, forming a triangular turnover. Repeat with the other three strips.

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Repeat the process again with the remaining four sheets of phyllo, oil, sugar and filling so that you wind up with 8 turnovers. Place the turnovers on a large, rimmed baking sheet and brush the top of each with the oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned and crisp. Let cool slightly, about 20 minutes, then serve warm.

Nutrition per serving (1 turnover) | Calories: 209; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 93 mg; Carbohydrates: 29 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 16 g; Protein: 2 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From cookbook author and registered nutritionist Ellie Krieger.


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