Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summertime Cherry Strudel

Do you remember Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence? I was so impressed by Tom's cleverness. He pretended that painting the fence was a special treat and managed to talk other boys into doing it for him. Not only did they take on his horrible chore, but they paid him with boyish trinkets for the opportunity!

I may recall the scene a little bit too well, because whitewashing the fence was a regular summer chore when I was growing up. I always wished someone would come by so I could lure them into painting the fence for me. But along with that unpleasant job, there was one thing that usually only happened once every summer -- my mother made cherry strudel. Apple strudel was a regular event at our house, but cherry strudel was a special treat.

Unfortunately, making cherry strudel involves a chore that ranks up there with painting the fence -- pitting cherries. It's a messy job at best, it stains your fingers and the juice spurts everywhere. I used a handy dandy cherry pitter that cut way down on the time involved, but if you happen to have someone hanging around whom you could lure into pitting the cherries for you, I say go for it!

Now, I have to admit, this is a lazy version of cherry strudel because I used boxed filo dough. It makes a delicate strudel and cuts prep time considerably. Be sure to thaw the filo dough overnight in the refrigerator first, though. Have all the other ingredients ready so the dough won't dry out while you work. You can cover it with a damp cloth to keep it fresh, but if you work at a normal speed (don't take a call from your long-winded friend) this doesn't take too long to do.

Cherries and apples create juices when they cook, so there has to be something to bind the juices. Instead of cornstarch or tapioca, most strudel recipes call for bread crumbs. It sounds odd, but it works. This time, on my mother's suggestion, I tried something new and used graham cracker crumbs. They worked very well.

Summertime Cherry Strudel

10 sheets 12x17 filo dough
2 cups pitted and halved fresh cherries
1/4 cup sugar (I used sweet black cherries, you may need more if you use sour cherries)
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla or brandy (optional)
6 tablespoons butter
powdered sugar

Mix the cherries, sugar, lemon and vanilla or brandy in a bowl. (If you're very lazy, you can skip this step. Watch for the ** later.)

Melt the butter and brush a little bit on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350.
On an ungreased baking sheet, spread the first sheet of filo dough. Brush with butter. Lay another sheet of the filo dough on top of it and brush with butter. Repeat until you have ten sheets of filo dough.

Spoon the cherries onto the filo about an inch from the edge in a line along the long side of the filo. Sprinkle with the graham cracker crumbs. (** If you're not using vanilla or brandy, you can just lay the cherries in a line, sprinkle with sugar, sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and squeeze the lemon over top of it all.)

Roll the cherry end slowly, brushing the top of the filo as you go. Lay it seam side down on the buttered baking sheet and add one more buttery swipe to the top. Cut small diagonal vents along the top. Bake 25 minutes, brush with butter and return to oven for another 20 minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the top to dress it up -- and serve. It's good warm and cold!

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  1. This is beautiful! And...I think I could actually handle having some for breakfast this morning. :) Maybe I can make my children pit the cherries....

  2. Oh, Krista, how gorgeous! This looks stunningly great! I forget how much I like filo dough. Thanks for reminding me. I'm sure this was a lot of work, but you've created a truly beautiful mouthwatering dessert.


  3. I am obsessed with sour cherries at the moment, this would be such a great use for them! And there's nothing wrong with using bought filo!!

  4. Another keeper of a recipe. Oh, my mouth is watering just looking at your pics. (Also loved your Tom Sawyer memories...)

    Quick question - could a mom in a hurry use cherry pie filling instead of fresh cherries? (And if so...) Would you recommend draining the thick sugar syrup before placing the cherries in the filo? Or would it be okay to include the syrup? Have a delicious weekend -- with that cherry strudel in your kitchen, you're off to a great start!

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. This is so pretty! A lot of work but well worth it. And Tom Sawyer...what memories...reading when there was nothing else to do in the world but read!


  6. Elizabeth, I love having a fruit pastry for breakfast. Hey, the fruit is nutritious, right?

    Thanks, Dru!

    Julie, except for pitting the cherries, it's not hard to make, especially considering the yummy payoff!

    Trix, sour cherries would be even better. Just be sure to use a lot more sugar!

    Cleo, cherry pie filling would give the strudel a different flavor. It would still be good, just different. I'm guessing one could use it, but it might be more runny, both while baking and when sliced. I've heard of people using homemade cherry preserves, but that sort of sounds like jam filled filo to me. I recommend that the mom in a hurry con, uh, I mean sweet-talk, someone into pitting the cherries. ; )

    ~ Krista

  7. Thanks, Avery! Reading when there was nothing else we had to do? I had to white-wash the fence! LOL!

    ~ Krista

  8. Oh, wow. I just bought a bag of California cherries that are perfect. I have no idea how I will get the dudes to pit them without eating them, but I'll have to try. This looks amazing.

  9. Ohmygoodnesswow, this looks tantalizing.

    When I don't want to pit cherries, I open a can of sour cherries (which I keep in my pantry), drain the juice into a small pan, add 1 Tbs. cornstarch, 1/3 c. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. and 1/4 tsp. almond extract, boil and stir until it thickens, then stir in the cherries. Has a nice enough flavor to assuage my guilt at not pitting a whole bunch of fresh cherries!

  10. Jenn, once they try it, you won't have trouble convincing them to pit cherries. It's that first time that's a challenge!

    That sounds yummy, Laineshots! Sounds like something you do on a regular basis. Do you use it as a pie filling?

    ~ Krista

  11. Krista, if I use it as a pie filling, I use two cans and double it. The cinnamon and almond emphasize the "cherriness" just enough so that they don't taste canned at all. It'd be great in your strudel!