"Edible Pockets for Every Meal: Dumplings, Turnovers and Pasties," Donna Rathmell German

Pros: Delicious, easy little pocket-foods for every occasion
Cons: The recipes could use a little tweaking; page-flipping
Rating: 4 out of 5

First published 7/23/2003

My husband and I both have a fondness for little individual filled foods, whether they’re dim sum dishes, ravioli, or pockets of bread or pastry filled with who-knows-what. We didn’t really expect this cookbook to be that great–it looks like one of those quick, cheap books put out as a companion to some random kitchen gadget (in this case, a turnover or dumpling press or ravioli forms), and I don’t tend to expect much out of those cookbooks.

This one, however, exceeded my expectations.

The range of possibilities

The book can be used to make quite a range of pocket-type foods. The equipment section at the front has a brief bit of information on using “pocket makers” (also called turnover presses or dumpling presses), pierogi or ravioli makers, and cutting and sealing gadgets. There’s a section on “simple pairings” (things you can throw into a pocket dough as a filling without needing a recipe–many leftovers work well).

There are yeast dough wrappers, pastry dough wrappers, and “ready-made” wrappers. Fillings include poultry, meat, seafood, cheese, vegetable, herb, and sweet. So you can already see that this little booklet covers a wide range of possibilities.

Instructions

Each dough section has a detailed list of instructions at the front. Then each actual dough recipe covers ingredients, oven temperature and baking time, and expected yields for different sizes of pockets. This way each recipe can fit on one small page, and a great number of recipes can fit into a relatively short space. You do need to remember to flip back to the instructions with every recipe, however, which is mildly annoying (once you’re used to making these, though, you may not need to flip around–doughs are pretty simple things). The yeast dough section includes bread machine, food processor, and hand instructions. The pastry dough section includes instructions for making the doughs by hand or in a food processor.

The filling recipes are extremely simple. There’s a short list of ingredients (most recipes make one to two cups of filling, which actually goes quite far) and usually a brief paragraph of instructions. Then there’s a quick list of suggested wrappers for the filling and the pages you’ll find them on.

Recipes

There are 14 yeast dough recipes, from basic savory and sweet doughs to potato, rye, tomato basil, Mexican, garlic herb, and orange ginger. Maybe it’s just our taste buds, but we usually found the doughs to be a little short on either salt or sugar, depending on whether they were meant to be savory or sweet. Also, it can be tough to roll yeast doughs out to the required thickness of 1/8th inch. We swear by the wonderful “dough relaxer” that you can get from the King Arthur Flour Company for this purpose.

There are 11 pastry dough recipes, including a wonderful cream cheese pastry dough, coconut ginger pastry dough, tortilla dough, egg pasta dough, Chinese dumpling dough, and more. Ready-made wrappers include refrigerated pie crust, egg roll wrappers, biscuits (yes, refrigerator biscuit dough!), pizza crust or French bread dough, frozen phyllo or puff pastry, and flour tortillas. So even if you don’t feel like making a dough yourself, you can still have delicious filled pockets! Which is a good thing, because it does take a little time to roll out lumps of dough to 1/8th inch think, cut them into rounds, put filling on them, and seal them. Make sure you have a good set of biscuit cutters, or at least round cookie cutters, before getting this cookbook!

It’s worth it, though, because the recipes in this cookbook are awfully good. What about a chicken curry filling, or a Moroccan chicken filling? How about an Italian ham filling, Asian pork filling, sausage eggplant filling, or bacon and cheese filling? There are meat pie recipes from various countries, a Chinese orange beef filling, tuna and cheese, crab and cream cheese, crab and cheddar, and ginger shrimp.

Or maybe you’d prefer herbed feta and walnut, cheese calzone, three cheese, tomato rice, spicy tomato cheese, mushroom, mushroom and cheese, broccoli cheddar, or similar cheese and vegetable fillings. (We loved the mushroom and cheese filling–very healthy and delicious!)

And finally there’s a wonderful simple dessert section. We found some of these weren’t sweet enough, but it’s easy to add a little extra sugar. There are plenty of fruit fillings (apple, cranberry, lemon cream, coconut cream(!), almond apricot, cream cheese fruit and nut). There’s a fabulous pumpkin walnut filling that, paired with a pastry crust, tastes a lot like mini-pumpkin pies. The chocolate nut filling is surprisingly delicious for something so starkly simple. And roughly half of the fillings are cream cheese-based.

For a cookbook that’s so incredibly simple, and fillings that take so little time to make, this is a delicious resource. The only real problems we noted were some amounts of salt and/or sugar that seemed low, and it’s easy to fix those.

For those of you on a diet, don’t despair too much. Most of these are meant to be baked, not fried. And if you stick with the yeast doughs rather than the pastry doughs, pick your fillings carefully, and do a little judicious substitution of cheeses and reduction of oils, they can be pretty healthy. Besides, by packaging the fillings in such small wrappers, it’s easy to make sure you don’t eat too much!

The ingredients are pretty common and easy-to-find, and until you start playing with the one or two recipes that call for things like crab, they’re cheap too. We even found that a good handful of the recipes can be made from the ingredients already found in a well-stocked kitchen and pantry, so you can do some of this stuff on the spur of the moment.

All in all, we’re surprisingly pleased with this cookbook, and we certainly intend to keep using it!


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