Thursday, October 30, 2014

#TBT - Apple, Pear and Peach Strudel

Inspired by a pie, only better. This recipe yields four medium sized strudel rolls.  This is such a good idea for Thanksgiving dessert, I expect there to be a run on frozen fillo!

Come to think of it, I haven't seen strudel on a dessert menu for many, many years.  Creme brulees and bread puddings galore, molten chocolate cakes, tiramisu, cobblers ... but no strudel.  I also just checked a couple of celebrity chef cookbooks, and no strudel, not even in my much-loved Emeril's Potluck.  We used to serve apple strudel at the kosher catering hall in New Hyde Park, but that was over 20 years ago.  The strudel came from a kosher bakery, and it was, in my opinion, just "all right."

A search of the Food Network site pulled up only 57 recipes for strudel, more than half of those for savory versions.  Of the sweet variety, a number used puff pastry instead of fillo.  The most recent entry is from 2008, a pear and pineapple strudel courtesy of Guy Fieri, which he makes with puff pastry.  In 2007, Paula Deen prepared a rather delicious sounding apple strudel on an episode of Paula's Home Cooking, and she did use fillo (phyllo) leaves.  I don't recall ever seeing any sort of strudel on the menus at The Lady and Sons Restaurant, nor at Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, which is a shame.  Banana pudding and Gooey Butter Cakes and Key Lime Pie are undoubtedly sweet Southern treasures, but I'm betting that a lot of diners would really enjoy a slice of sweet and crispy strudel. (This is a #TBT entry, and since I wrote it, Uncle Bubba's has been closed.  Now that's a real shame - his chargrilled oysters were to die for!)

Apple, Pear and Peach Strudel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or with a silpat.

Ingredients for the Filling:
1 lemon
6 medium to large apples, Golden Delicious, or Granny Smith
3 pears, Anjou or Bartlett 
2 ripe peaches
1/4 cup zante currents
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked in a little Grand Marnier or other liquor of your choice
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon fine salt (table salt, not kosher salt)
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Prepare the filling:
Finely grate the lemon zest and set aside. Place the dried cranberries in a 1-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup.  Pour over just enough Grand Marnier to reach about 3/4 up the cranberries.  Heat in the microwave for just 30 seconds.  Remove and set aside.  Peel the peaches:  bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  In a bowl place cold water with some ice in it.  Cut a small "X" in the bottom of the peach.  Using a long fork, carefully place the peach in the boiling water for 1 minute, then immediately place into the ice water.  Repeat for the second peach.  Using a small paring knife, remove the skin from each peach starting at the "X".  The skin will come off very easily.  You cannot core a peach, and it is now too slippery to safely cut in half to get at the pit, so with a chef knife, carefully cut off the peach flesh on either side of the pit, similar to how the flesh is removed from a mango.  Once all the peach flesh is removed from around the pit, slice into 1/2-inch slices.  Core, peel and then slice both the apple and pear into 1/2-inch slices. Place all the cut fruit into a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit, then toss fruit with the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, salt and nutmeg.

Melt the butter in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fruit and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves and juices simmer, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crystallized ginger, the zante currents, and the cranberries with any remaining liquid. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until the fruit softens and the juices evaporate some, about 10 minutes. Evenly mix the flour into the fruit (I recommend putting the flour into a small wire strainer and gently shaking it over the fruit, this will minimize clumping); then cook about a minute more to thicken the juices slightly. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest; and remove from the heat. When it has cooled slightly, taste and adjust the spices, if desired.  I liked a bit more cinnamon, but do not go overboard.  No one spice should dominate.  Cool completely. This can be made and kept covered in the refrigerator up to 2 days before completing the strudels.

Ingredients for the strudel leaves
1-1 pound box of fillo (phyllo, filo) leaves, defrosted in refrigerator overnight
1/4 cup cornflake crumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted for brushing
Granulated sugar

Make the first strudel: remove the fillo dough from the box, unfold, and cover with a damp towel. Place a large piece of wax paper on the work surface, then place 2 sheets of fillo on the wax paper and brush lightly with melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with cornflake crumbs.  Now using single sheets only, repeat 4 times for a total of six stacked leaves, brushing each addition with melted butter and sprinkling with crumbs.  Be sure to keep the unused fillo covered.  (It occurred to me, while editing this to publish, that using additional layers of fillo leaves might alleviate the problem with the leaking filling.  Next time I make this, I plan on repeating the layering of fillo leaves at least 2 more times, so that I have a total of 8 or possible even ten stacked leaves. )

Place one-quarter of the fruit mixture along the long edge of the fillo stack, being sure to leave a 2-inch border. Using the wax paper as needed to help roll and fold the fillo, gently lift the bottom edge of the  stack to cover the filling and fold the side edges over. Continue to roll the stack away from you until the filling is completely sealed in and the seam is on the bottom. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, leaving room for the second strudel. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Repeat with the second quarter of the remaining fruit and six more fillo leaves.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Watch it carefully for the last 10 minutes (which I did not do) and if the filling is starting to bubble and leak, take it out of the oven, it is done.   Let the strudel cool down on the baking sheet, then remove from the baking sheet using a long spatula.   Let cool before slicing. While the first two strudels are baking, prepare the remaining two strudels, then bake as directed.  Any remaining strudel should be refrigerated, and a slice can be reheated briefly in the microwave to get that just-baked experience.  You can serve this beauty au naturel, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, or go whole hog with vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream on the side.

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