February needs all the help it can get. Really, it’s a pretty dreadful month, when you think about it- the holidays are long gone and a stretch of cold bleak winter sits between you and any whisper of spring breezes. So we stuff February with a bunch of holidays: Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s, President’s Day! Depending on your outlook, some of these holidays are just as bleak as February itself, and few will make it to your list of favorite celebrations.
Which is why February needs a little leg up: a few pancakes on Fat Tuesday, a bite of chocolate on the fourteenth, countless tortilla chips popped into your mouth while watching the Superbowl. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of pancakes, but I do like a little breakfast pastry now and again, a well deserved respite from the usual cycle of cereal and oatmeal and yogurt.
This is a breakfast pastry I came up with for those less adventurous eaters in your life. We all have them- the uncle who’s eaten the same thing for lunch for an entire decade, the friend who doesn’t want any funky sauces or unfamiliar ingredients on his plate. They’ve got other traits that make you love them, but when it comes to feeding them, you better shelve that new recipe for olive jam you want to try. I am however, a strong believer that one’s boundaries can be pushed and prodded a bit. Take a recipe for Middle Eastern sweet cream turnovers (sambousek ‘ashta), and translate it- swap the pastry dough for a buttermilk biscuit dough, instead of Arab-style cream use a bit of cream cheese, add a touch of honey, and make sure to keep the pistachios and rose water for that slightly (but not too!) foreign air.
Before you know it that person who would have run screaming at the word “sambousek” is reaching for another turnover, and chances are you will, too. I know for sure it’s a lot better than a groundhog telling you winter has six more weeks to go. February’s extra long this year, so make yourself a treat and give the month a little help. It really needs it.
Sweet Cream and Pistachio Turnovers
4 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
several drops rose water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (or half butter half shortening)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, stir the cream cheese until smooth, add the remaining filling ingredients, but only add one drop of rose water. Stir together until very well combined, set aside.
2. Combine the flour, salt, and leavenings in a bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and rub the mixture into the flour (using your fingers or a pastry cutter) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the buttermilk until everything is encorporated.
3. Dust a board well with flour. Turn the dough out onto the board and knead the dough gently just for a minute or two. The dough should be firm enough to be rolled out but don’t overwork it, add a touch more flour if necessary. Gently roll or pat te dough out to 1/2” thickness. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps only once.
4. Roll each biscuit out slightly so it is an oval, pressing slightly on the edges so that the edges are thinner than the center. Place a dollop of cream cheese filling in the center of each biscuit, then fold over and crimp the edges to seal.
5. Place turnovers on a baking sheet. Bake 14-18 minutes, until golden brown. They may ooze a bit on the edges, that’s ok. When you take them out of the oven, sprinkle a drop or two of rose water over each turnover. Let cool slightly before eating.