Tavern Favorites: Ham & White Cheddar Turnovers


Recipe Level: Beginner

These crispy, cheesy turnovers are perfect for a fall evening. I love to serve these with a hearty soup, like my Sausage Potato Soup or Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup. These delicate morsels make a great addition to the table and feel like they are right out of a tavern oven.

If you are new at baking, these are a perfect entry point to the art. They require little skill and no special equipment and yet look as though you spent hours preparing them. The full flavors of ham paired perfectly with rustic sage make this a fantasy dish fit for any adventuring party.

Working with Puff Pastry

Puff pastry can be found at any grocery store in the frozen dessert section. My personal preference is Pepperidge Farms, but any brand should work just fine.

You will need to take your puff pastry out of the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature at least 45 minutes before you plan to start making your turnovers. However, DO NOT leave it out for longer than an hour. Puff pastry gets very sticky and hard to work with when it is warm. Make sure your dough is thawed but still cold when you start handling it.

Puff pastry is a dough with lots of layers to it. As it bakes these layers being to pull apart making for a fluffy and delicious texture. The dough is packaged in thick sheets (normally 2 sheets per box) and you will need to roll it out to the right thickness.

Make sure your work surface is lightly floured. To do this, just take a handful of regular flour and lightly sprinkle it on your counter. Then place the dough onto the floured surface. I like to then sprinkle a little flour on the dough itself and gently rub it over the surface. I also make sure my rolling pin has flour on it as well. Remember, you need to work quickly while the dough is still cold, or it will get difficult to work with.

This recipe requires you to cut the puff pastry into 9 squares per sheet (a total of 18 squares between the two sheets). But if you are like me and can’t make squares to save your life, don’t worry, here’s a trick my grandma taught me:

Take your rectangle and fold one corner to the opposite corner. You will notice how the sides don’t line up at all. Simply cut from corner to corner and discard the offending dough. And there you have a perfect square!

Because of the layers in the puff pastry, it doesn’t like to stick together. This is why the egg wash is important. Not only will it give your turnovers a gorgeous color, it is necessary to seal the edges to keep all the goodies inside the turnover and not all over your baking sheet. DO NOT SKIP THE EGG WASH. If you do, your turnover will look like it is vomiting souls of the tortured undead.

Let’s Talk Cheese

What kind of a halfling would I be if I didn’t take a minute (or 10) to talk about cheese. Cheese is the life blood of a hearty meal. Whether it is served on the side or in the dish itself, NEVER forget the cheese! In case you didn’t already know, there are a lot of cheeses…A LOT. While you can change the kind of cheese in these turnovers, you should stick to a semi-hard to hard cheese. Let me explain.

Cheeses are sorted into categories based on the density and “hardness” of the cheese. This depends on a variety of factors, like the aging process, fat content and type of dairy used. Soft cheeses can almost be spread like butter. They have a low melting temperature and are very gooey when warm. These include Brie, goat cheese, feta, and gorgonzola. I would not suggest using a soft cheese in your turnovers because they melt very quickly, have a high moisture content and are more likely to spill out of the turnovers. If you do want to try using a soft cheese, then omit the light cream/half-and-half in the filling.

Soft cheeses melt at a low temperature because they contain high amounts of moisture. This is great if you are using them in a sauce or fondue, but not great for baking. Soft cheeses will add moisture to your turnovers preventing them from browning properly and making the bottoms soggy. The low melting temperature also means the cheese will melt long before the edges of the turnovers have cooked enough to hold in the contents, making a leaky mess while baking.

The better option is to go with a semi-hard to hard cheese, like aged cheddar, gouda, gruyere or Havarti. These cheeses melt at a higher temperature and have less moisture thanks to the aging process. The aged white cheddar I used was great, but I would also recommend Gruyere or Havarti if you can find it.


The better your ingredients are, the better the end product will be, but this doesn’t mean you have to shell out for specialty ham and cheese. Chopped deli meat and bagged shredded cheddar will work fine for this recipe.

I used farm fresh, cured ham (because my dad raises pigs) and Aldi’s Aged White Cheddar cheese ($5.49 for 10 ounces).  You don’t have to go all organic and pricy for this recipe, I promise it is a show stopper no matter what.

The Recipe

Ok, enough jabbering, let’s get cooking! Here is what you will need:

1 cup finely shredded Aged White Cheddar Cheese

(or semi-hard cheese of your choice)

¾ cup chopped cooked ham

3 tablespoons half-and-half or light cream

1 ½ teaspoon of dried sage, crushed or rubbed

Dash of black pepper

1( 17.3 -ounce) package of frozen puff pastry (both sheets) Thawed

1 egg lightly beaten (for egg wash)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. For the filling: In a medium bowl stir together cheese, ham, half-and-half, sage and ground pepper. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface roll the puff pastry (one sheet at a time) into 12 by 12-inch square; cut each sheet into 9 squares. Working with one square at a time, brush the edges with egg. Place 1 Tablespoon of the filling in the center of the square. Fold together opposite corners of the square, forming a triangle. Seal edges by pressing together with a fork and prick the tops to let steam escape. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Repeat with all 18 turnovers  
  5. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg wash. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees F., then turn the heat down to 375. Bake an additional 15 minutes, or until the turnovers are puffed and a rich brown all over.
  6. Serve warm with soup or as a snack with fruit and cheese

These turnovers are so light and tasty you might want to make a double batch! I promise they won’t last long. Nothing quite feels as warm and inviting as a batch of these turnovers. They are sure to get your party into the adventuring mood!

Ham & White Cheddar Turnovers pair perfectly with apple ale or spiced honey mead. If you are looking for something sweet to serve with these turnovers, check out these posts as well!

Until next time,

May your game have advantage, my friends!

-Halfling Hannah

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