13 Dec Cherry Strudel with Lemon Cream
A comforting dessert that will make for a nice festive late afternoon or evening treat.
My friends Boof and Charlie made a version of this at a dinner party many moons ago, when they were just teenagers (sigh!) and I was in my early twenties, and I’ve loved it since. It’s an excellent one to do if you’re not a gifted baker or in a rush because, really, you just have to brush and layer some ready-made filo with butter, roll very simply, put things in it, and stick it in the oven. The other fab thing about it is that you can change up the fruit or even fill it with something savoury.
8 sheets ready-made filo pastry
50 g (13/4 oz) butter, melted
2 pink lady OR granny smith apples, peeled, cored & diced into 1 cm
(1/2 inch) pieces
680 g (1 lb 8 oz) jar pitted morello cherries in light syrup, drained
60 g (21/4 oz/ 1/2 cup) walnuts, toasted (see first paragraph of Basic Nut Praline method below)
40 g (11/2 oz/ 1/4 cup) currants
1 tablespoon Frangelico liqueur OR kirsch
55 g (2 oz/ 1/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar OR soft brown sugar
3 teaspoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1/2–1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Icing (confectioners’) sugar, to dust
1 quantity Lemon Cream OR Vanilla Sour Cream OR Vanilla Crème Fraîche (see below)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) fan-forced.
To make the strudel, lay a sheet of the filo pastry on a large baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper, and brush with a generous amount of the melted butter. Lay another sheet on top, and repeat. Continue in this way until all the filo has been used. Set aside.
Combine the apples, cherries, walnuts, currants, Frangelico, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl, and toss gently with clean hands to mix the ingredients evenly.
Tip the mixture across the centre of the filo sheets, leaving a 7 cm (23/4 inch) border on each side. Fold both sides inwards, then roll into a sausage to enclose the filling. If it’s a bit of a mess, unwrap the pastry, pop all the bits that have fallen out back into the centre and have another go, as the filo is fairly robust.
Carefully shimmy the strudel so that it’s positioned across the centre of the baking tray, then brush the surface with more of the melted butter. Bake for about 30 minutes until a deep golden brown, so all the layers are cooked through. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Dust with icing sugar just before serving with your choice of dolloping cream.
Basic Nut Praline
I’m not going to lie. These are dangerously moorish – possibly my favourite holiday-season snack. You can use praline for desserts, but I like to crack these deep amber pools of nut-studded goodness into generous-sized shards and wrap them in cellophane to make stunning Christmas gifts. Warning! Do not refrigerate, or the caramel will turn into a liquid, sticky mess. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) of your favourite nuts (choose the freshest ones possible)
150 g (51/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) fan-forced.
Spread out the nuts in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 10–15 minutes, or until deep golden. If skins are on hazelnuts, they should be flaking off. Shake the nuts in a colander with large holes to be rid of the skins. Otherwise, tip them into a clean tea towel, and rub gently to remove the skins. Roughly chop any larger nuts such as macadamias. Scatter the roasted nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper – make sure they aren’t spaced too far apart or you’ll get really large areas of caramel that will become jaw-breakers!
To make the caramel, combine the sugar and water in a non-stick, heavy-based saucepan. Stir to dissolve a little, then do not stir the mixture again. Boil over high heat until the caramel turns a pale golden colour. At this stage, watch closely, as it will turn from an ideal rich golden brown to smoking black within seconds – although using a non-stick pot will slow things down a little.
Remove the caramel from the heat a little before it turns the colour you like because it will keep getting darker very quickly. Immediately pour the caramel over the nuts. Allow to set completely, before breaking into large shards.
If you want to use the praline for a bit of crunch and bitterness
in a dessert, chop into a coarse crumb or pound very softly using a mortar and pestle, to avoid the caramel compressing into a dense, sticky clump.
For finer, processed nuts such as slivered or flaked almonds, or pine nuts, reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (320°C) fan-forced. Roast for 7 minutes or until golden brown.
With all the different styles of dolloping cream, you should know you don’t actually need a recipe. All you want is to remember the ratio. Rule of thumb is icing sugar will always be 10% of the cream amount no matter what. For example, you would mix 30 g (1 oz) icing sugar with 300 ml (101/2 fl oz) of cream, then it’s generally 1–11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or to taste. With the cultured creams, you could probably add a smidgen more icing sugar to balance the sharpness but, as is, they will be especially perfect for those who prefer things not overly sweet.
Crème Chantilly Ingredients
300 ml (101/2 fl oz) thickened (whipping) cream
30 g (1 oz/ 1/4 cup) pure icing (confectioners’) sugar or icing (confectioners’) sugar mixture, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence
This is your most basic, most neutral-tasting cream for dolloping on desserts and decorating cakes. Make sure you don’t overwhisk this, or you will split the cream and be on your way to making butter. The only way to remedy this, unfortunately, is to start again from scratch.
Combine the cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk by hand or with an electric mixer until medium or stiff peaks form. Medium peaks make a nicer texture to dollop and provide moisture to slices of cake. Stiff peaks are more fitting for icing cakes and piping with, as the shape stays put.
Lemon or Orange Cream
I like to use either of these to bolster the citrus flavour in cakes and desserts. Use the same recipe as for crème Chantilly, but swap out
the vanilla for 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon or orange zest.
Vanilla Sour Cream or Vanilla crème Fraîche
Sour cream and crème fraîche are the next options. Both of these
are cultured creams, so have a desirable sharpness that is great for cutting through sweet things, but they differ in fat content.
Sour cream has a lower fat content, which means it does not whip. It’s structurally more similar to yoghurt, so you get a more runny finish that will separate if left for a while. Sour cream is also easier to find.
Crème fraîche, on the other hand, can be whipped because of its higher fat content, but it will only be to soft to medium peaks.
To make Vanilla Sour Cream
Use the crème Chantilly recipe, but swap out the cream for sour cream, and stir with a spoon to combine.
To make Vanilla Crème Fraîche
Use the crème Chantilly recipe, but swap out the cream for crème fraîche, and hand-whisk to soft or medium peaks. This will split if you over whisk it, and the only remedy is to start again with fresh ingredients.
Photography by Alan Benson