Phyllo dough is a strange and wonderous thing. It’s a huge pain, pre-cooked looks like you should never ingest it, but post-baked: yum, yum, yummmyyyyy. If you’ve ever worked with phyllo you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t, it’s sort of like baking with really bad, really thin toilet paper. When it turns out right though, it’s such a nice change from heavy, thick crusts: This strudel got wrapped in 9 layers of phyllo sheets and I can proudly say I ripped not a single sheet. It was the first time I was patient enough to let the dough thaw instead of rip it to shreds from it’s frozen roll, trying to force it into some recipe I left myself 20 minutes to prepare instead of the required 2 hours. This time though, I took my time, let the sheets thaw, left them under plastic and a damp towel to keep them from cracking while I worked, and carefully added sheet by sheet, layering in butter and sugared nuts in between each layer and it turned out fantastic.
- 1 cup apple juice
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tbls. brandy
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Boil juice in saucepan until it reduces to 1/2 cup (about 6 min.). Remove from heat, add chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until melted then stir in brandy and vanilla. Cover and chill until ready to use.
**this is pretty much my new favorite chocolate sauce, who knew brandy was so awesome??**
- 1 cup plus 2 tbls. apple juice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 whole star anise (or 1 tsp. ground cloves)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 2 cups apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 tbls. cornstarch
Mix juice, wine, anise (or cloves) and cinnamon in a new saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add bean (or extract). Simmer and remove from head, let stand 10 minutes. Add cherries and cover and simmer until fruit is plump. Remove anise, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Mix in apples and sugar until apples are tender and liquid is reduced to about 3 tbls. (this took about 50 minutes for me). Mix in cornstarch to the filling and stir over heat until it thickens and boils (about 3 to 4 minutes. Cool, cover, and chill.
- 2/3 cup hazelnuts (toasted, husked)
- 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tbls. sugar (white)
- 9 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large baking sheet and set aside. Blend nuts, graham cracker, and sugar together in a processor until the mixture is finely ground. On a dry kitchen towel, place a sheet of parchment and then 1 phyllo sheet. Cover remaining phyllo with another piece of parchment and a damp towel overtop that (to keep the thawed phyllo from drying out and cracking). Brush phyllo with melted butter. Top with another sheet and brush this one with butter PLUS sprinkle the second one with the nut mixture. Repeat this process with 6 more phyllo sheets, buttering in between each sheet but only sprinkling the nut mixture every two sheets. Top with one last phyllo sheet, brush with butter and then spoon filling on top of the sheets starting 2 inches from one long side and 2 and 1/2 inches from each short side. Then, fold over each short side and starting at the long side closest to the filling, start rolling up the strudel. Put the log seam-down on the buttered baking sheet. Finally, brush with butter and bake until golden brown. I baked mine for 25 minutes and then covered the log with a piece of foil and baked it for another 10 because the crust was getting too brown but I wanted the inside to cook and it turned out perfect:
A few Novembers ago, i started getting a little tired of apple pie. Sometimes a big ‘ol slice just kinda makes you sick after a similarly huge meal, but apples have to be eaten in the fall and this lovely little strudel log is my new apple-baby this year I think. It’s got so many more flavors than normal apple pie…plus, it has chocolate, brandy, fruit, spices, and perfectly, perfectly layered phyllo sheets that crunched and flaked like I’d been phyllo sheetin’ for years. It’s going in the recipe box for sure.
– <3 A.