bits and pieces

Friday, June 17, 2011

Apple-Peach Hazelnut Strudel with Homemade Caramel Sauce

you can never have too much caramel sauce.
As some of you may know, I am not a huge fan of pie.  I'm not crazy about baked fruit in general. Something about the texture and mouth feel just doesn't do it for me. Apple pie is an exception to this (and key lime of course). I'd never say no to a peach cobbler either.

I've had a giant box of phyllo (filo) pastry sitting in my freezer waiting to be loved. I had glorious intentions of making spanikopita however, whenever I buy spinach it has found its way into some sort of indian curry. So my sad phyllo has waited. Alone. Waiting for someone. Some thing. Unfulfilled, alone, and confused. 'Why am I here?' it wondered.

Well one day the metaphysical moans and existential exclamations of my phyllo pastry were answered with a resounding 'Apple and Peach Strudel'. I had granny smith apples, I had ripe peaches, I had a craving for dessert. The only problem was I had never made strudel before. In fact I kept calling it streusel because a) streusel is delicious and b) I like saying streuuuusel! more than strudel. Regardless, I ventured forth and surprise, surprise it worked!

I know I say it all the time, but it was really easy. One day you'll have to believe me. I don't like cooking really stupid complicated things. The hardest thing is brushing the phyllo with lots of butter. And clearly anything with butter is fun. Phyllo itself is really delicate, but it's also easily repaired. The important thing with phyllo is to ensure you keep it moist. While it's thawing (and after) keep it under a damp tea-towel. And it it does tear you can always just repair it with a smear of butter. Victory!

ingredients: 
5 sheets of phyllo, thawed. You can thaw and refreeze phyllo so take the whole thing out of your freezer and thaw instead of struggling to separate frozen phyllo sheets. This can take anywhere up to 3 hours so make sure you thaw it well in advance. 
2 granny smith apples, finely diced
3 peaches, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/3 cup of butter, melted
1/3 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup panko (or other plain bread crumbs)
1/4 cup of sugar (half brown, half white)
2 tbsp lemon juice
a dash of vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon + 1 dash
a 3 - 4 dashes nutmeg
1 small dash allspice
1/2 tbsp brown sugar + 1/2 tbsp white

other things you will need:
a pastry brush
a greased baking sheet
a bowl for mixin'
a frying pan to toast your nuts
  1. Once it's all rolled up, place it on your greased baking sheet (seam on the bottom). Butter the top and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and make several thin diagonal slits in your strudel. Butter and sprinkle with any left over sugar. Bake for another 12-17 minutes (depends on your phyllo and oven). Remove from oven and set aside to rest. 
  2. Toast your nuts if you haven't already. Just toss them gently in a hot frying pan for a few minutes to release their oils and flavours. They shouldn't burn. Once toasted, add 1 tbsp of butter and the breadcrumbs and toss for 2-3 minutes. 
  3. If you haven't already chop your fruit. Throw it in a bowl. Add the panko-nut mixture. Add your 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside. 
  4. Get ready for some phyllo-fun! Put each sheet down, brushing each with your melted butter and sprinkling with a pinch of your secondary sugar before you top with the next. Repeat until you're out of phyllo (5 times genius).
  5. About 2 inches from one of the long edges of your phyllo layers, dish out your apple-peach-nut-crumb filling in a long line. Fold the bottom and top edges in towards the filling, and then fold the closest edge over and roll it up (buttering as you go of course) like a giant toaster strudel. Which this is essentially.
Now - if you're just down for strudel then this bad boy is ready. If you want to take it completely over the top it's time to whip up some super easy and disgustingly tasty caramel sauce. Which guess what - is pretty much pure sugar. This is not something to feed to small children unless you're ready to play.
ingredients:
1 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of water
3/4 cup of whipping cream 

other things you will need:
wooden spoon
a tiny pot
caramel soup nom nom. Not really but for sugar
water - it is that good.
  1. Combine your sugar and water and heat over medium high.  Stir until sugar comes to a boil. Boil for 6-8 minutes until it turns a deep golden colour. Remove from heat (don't burn it!). 
  2. Slowly and carefully add your whipping cream. Your caramel will bubble and get all weird and chunky. Don't worry. Return to low heat and just keep on stirring. It will smooth out and become glorious. 
  3. Drizzle over slices of your strudel/eat with a spoon.

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