My mother's friend Leah was known for her scrumptious strudels. You could count on her to show up carrying a tray of apple, cheese, or sour cherry strudel to any social gathering. Her friends always remarked they were the best strudels they had ever tasted. Leah is long gone, but her legendary strudels are still fresh in my memory. I am so thankful that I pulled her aside one day and asked exactly how they were made. It's these heirloom recipes that I treasure the most.
Apple is the fruit most people identify with strudel, but sour cherry has always been my favorite. Their season is extremely short, so imagine my surprise when I found them at the farmers market last week. And they were beauties. If you cannot find them fresh, frozen will work well too. Defrost and drain them before using. You can also substitute canned tart or Morello cherries, but do not use cherry pie filling.
Hungarian style strudel consists of about 6 layers of phyllo dough. Melted butter, ground walnuts, and bread crumbs are sprinkled lightly onto each layer. This keeps the dough very light and crisp, never soggy.
- 1 package frozen phyllo dough, defrosted according to pkg. directions
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup walnuts, ground
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
- 3 cups sour cherries, pitted and stemmed
- 2 dampened tea towels, excess water squeezed out
- pastry brush
- baking sheet
- sharp knife
Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a baking pan. Toss the cherries with the sugar in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes. When you are ready to assemble the strudel, line up the walnuts, bread crumbs, melted butter, and cherries in separate bowls. Carefully unwrap the phyllo dough, leaving it to sit on its wrapper, covered in the dampened tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Lay the other tea towel in front of you. Place 1 leaf of the phyllo dough on the towel. Using the pastry brush, sprinkle, do not brush, a little butter over the dough. Go light. You don't want to cover the entire surface. Sprinkle lightly with the bread crumbs and the walnuts. Repeat with 5-6 layers. Add about 1-1/2 cups cherries to the top layer. Make sure you've squeezed out some of their liquid. You don't want them to be too wet. Using the towel as a guide, roll it up into a log. Brush the entire loaf with melted butter. Using your knife, cut diagonal slices, being careful not to cut all the way through. Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool in the pan on a rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, slice, and enjoy!
Makes 2 strudels
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