Saturday, October 06, 2007

Turnover toast

It's amazing, but I have not been able to find a photo online of a loaf of turnover bread! [But you can now see one here.] For those who don't know it, it's an Irish bread which is not one of the pieces of floor-sweepings and turf sods that the Diaspora earnestly bakes in an earthenware dish and chokes down in the name of ethnic authenticity. Turnover is unashamedly a doughy white bread. The baker takes a long piece of raw dough and folds two-thirds of it back over along its length. The result is a bread which has a distinctive shape -- one end is narrow, the other (the turnover) is rounded. The crust is crispy, and sometimes blackened slightly in the larger end.

I don't know if maybe turnover is confined to the Pale, and perhaps this is why it hasn't made it into the recipe books of other "traditional" Irish breads on the Internet. Whatever the reason, it's a wonderful bread to eat fresh, or, as we used to do as children for fun and for practical reasons if it had become a little old, toasted on a twisted wire coathanger in front of the coals of an open fire.

Toast has become a larger part of my diet recently than I have been used to. My father has now the habit of calling to visit each Saturday mid-morning for an hour or two. I know he tends to rise very early, so I offer him tea and toast to bolster him against the possibility that his breakfast was at 6.00am, or maybe not at all. He has no qualms about scoffing down factory-sliced pan loaf that has taken a trip through the toaster and is dripping with butter and marmalade. He had always complained about the quality of modern convenience bread like this, but I think the necessities of tending to himself and the practicalities involved have educated him to the notion that such foods rarely cause poisoning. There's also a lot to be said for having food handed up to you.

Turnover, sliced from the loaf with an old, almost toothless breadknife, tasted best when piping hot and speckled just a little with coal ash that had accidentally trickled from the hot grate. It was a delicate juggling act to reverse the slice on the prongs of the toasting fork, unless you had managed to skewer the bread in such a way that it could simply be flipped over. I always preferred the simplest two-prong, hanging method, rather than the trickier embedded through the flesh of the bread way of doing things. This latter art, though handy for getting both sides done, could leave the bread untoasted in some small bits, or cause it to warp on toasting. Of course, whatever the method it didn't do to let the mind's eye wander for a mis-spent moment or the toast would blacken and have to have the worst of the burnt bits scraped off with the scratch-scratch-scratching of the edge of the butter knife. And trouble would surely follow from the mother if you let any black bits stray into the butter dish!

It's funny that now I've taken my eye off the toast again, so to speak, the turnover has all but disappeared from the shelves of the local supermarkets. It's true that a factory-sliced version can be got in some places, but it's unhappily wrapped in cellophane and really doesn't give the full satisfaction of sawing off the shorter end and practising the skill of the breadknife slicing sideways through the crumbling white bread. One of my earliest memories is of breadcrumbs left over from an evening meal on the oilskin tablecloth of the kitchen table at home. I associated the word "hungry" with it. Not that we were hungry -- my mother put food on the table every day and followed it with slices of turnover spread with butter and blackberry jam. It's more just the picture I conjure when the word reaches my ears.

When I was very small, I was weaned on warm milk and bread mixed together. And later on I would dip fingers of turnover in my cup of sweetened tea, a habit I grew out of.

We had a good few rounds of toast this morning with Herself home convalescing from her recent hospital tests (all clear, T.G.), the father on his weekly visit, Herself's brother dropping off a birthday present to her, and me, the "toast cook", riffling through the sliced pan and tossing slices into the modern toasting machine. I must find out who still sells the uncut turnover I remember. We don't have an open fire any more in the house, but I can toast slices under the grille -- they wouldn't fit in the square slots of the toaster. And I promise to take a picture when I get one too.


Fitz said...

living in the US in the early-mid 90s I craved turnover. toasted turnover especially the end/heel where you could peel off wafer thin pieces of bread that would melt in your mouth

I tried to find a stock photo for this online a while back when doing my own blog but buggered if I could find anything.

I suspect it's a distinctly Pale bread

kids these days bah grumble grumble mutter

Willie_W said...

...don't know what side their toast is buttered on?

I saw turnover in Dunnes Stores, The Square, this afternoon, but it was ready sliced. Not the same thing at all.

Fitz said...


What gobshite thought that would be a good idea ?

I demand his bollocks on plate

To have with my turnover of course.

Just reminded herself that if she's in the shops tomorrow that some turnover with pasta tomorrow would be infinitely better than Ciabatta...

She's from the Northside and didn't get it. < sigh >

Anonymous said...

Did I tell you I asked for a turnover in our bakery here in England ? The young fella looked at me with a "duh" expression on his face. I laughed out loud and as my memory was blank as to what the bread was actually called I pointed to the shelf and told him I wanted it unsliced. By the way, the name of the bread is called a "Bloomer", wonder who made that up ?

Glad herself is ok Willie.
Happy Birthday to herself from me *S*................. Joan

Willie_W said...

Nah. A Bloomer is a different type of bread, crusty all over. A turnover usually shows off an outer crust but each long end has white bread on display where it was torn off its companion loaf at the bakery. They're shaped like a snail and its shell.

Herself is still quite zonked after the sedative and is finding it tough to get the old energy levels going again. I'm sure she'll come back to normal in a day or two. She's also well enough to get her order in for what she wants as a present for her birthday, so that can't be too bad...!

Willie_W said...

Fitz >> A Turnover pasta sandwich? Why not?