My mother used to describe her grandmother’s strudel as being so big and so thick that she rolled it on a huge linen tablecloth. In this strudel, I paste 12 sheets of filo dough together to make a 30 inch square of dough to fill and roll. Unlike my great-grandmother, I use olive oil instead of melted butter to paint the strudel leaves. I particularly like The Fillo Factory’s organic filo; they also make filo of spelt and whole wheat. You’ll need a pastry brush for painting the sheets of dough with oil
Don’t be daunted by this recipe — it’s really pretty easy. Just remember to thaw the frozen filo overnight in the refrigerator, then bring it to room temperature, still in the box, for an hour or two.—Deborah Krasner
For the filling
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 tablespoons kirschwasser (cherry-flavored liqueur) or dark rum
3 pounds cooking apples (such as Cortlands), washed, cored, peeled, and quartered
1 tablespoon fresh orange or lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup almond meal or unflavored bread crumbs
3 teaspoons grated orange zest
For the pastry
12 sheets filo (phyllo) dough, defrosted and covered according to the manufacturer’s directions
1/2 cup delicate and mild olive oil
1 cup almond meal
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
1. Soak the dried cherries in the kirschwasser for 20 to 30 minutes. If the cherries are very dry, combine them in a small saucepan and heat the two together before setting aside to soak.
2. Using a food processor or a hand grater, shred the apple with the orange juice to prevent browning. Mix in the sugar, salt, cardamom, almond meal, and orange zest. Drain the cherries and add them to the apple mixture. Set aside while you assemble the pastry. (Do not prepare the apple mixture ahead of time; if it sits too long, it will get too watery. If that happens, drain the apple quarters and place them in a bowl. Immediately sprinkle mixture in a colander before using it).
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a cookie sheet, and line it with greased parchment paper if desired.
4. Lay a large sheet of parchment paper or cloth on a large work surface, such as a kitchen island or table, to cover an area 30 x 30 inches in size. Take out the first sheet of filo from the package; reroll the rest and keep the dough covered with a tea towel, waxed paper, or plastic wrap Lay the first sheet of dough with the long edge facing you. Using a pastry brush, paint the whole sheet with olive oil. Lay the second sheet of filo next to the first sheet, again with the long edge facing you, with a 2-inch overlap on the short edges. Paint this sheet with oil. Now you have a long skinny rectangle.
5. Repeat with the next two sheets, placing them so that the long edges over-lap by 2 inches. Now you have a large rectangle that’s twice as long and twice as wide as a single filo sheet.
6. Repeat this process with the next 2 sheets, adding them to the rectangle to make a square. Every sheet should be coated with oil, and you should be able to see 6 connected sheets in front of you, forming a 30-inch square. Do the same thing all over again to form a second layer on top of the first, so that you end up with a two-layer 30-inch square of filo that is painted with olive oil.
7. Sprinkle the almond meal over the first third of the dough, leaving an empty 2-inch border on the bottom and sides. Using a spoon, place the apple filling on the almond meal, leaving a 3-inch border along the whole long side. Fold in the two side edges of the dough, using the parchment or cloth to help you handle the fragile dough. Now, again using the parchment or cloth, start rolling the dough around the filling, pulling the paper away as you roll to prevent it from rolling into the strudel. Keep rolling until all the dough is wrapped around the filling. Paint the strudel with olive oil. Roll the strudel on the prepared baking sheet so it is seam side down, bending the ends to form a horseshoe shape (since the roll will be longer than the baking sheet). Don’t worry if the strudel cracks when you curve it — once you slice it, these cracks will not be apparent.
8. Bake the strudel for 1 hour or until golden and crisp. Let it cool on the pan. Then carefully remove it from the pan, using a long spatula, and dust it well with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into slices and serve at room temperature.
Note: Leftover strudel can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated. Before serving, bake it, uncovered, at 400°F (200°C) for about 10 minutes to recrisp the pastry.
Recipe © 2002 Deborah Krasner. All rights reserved.