While it’s understandable to be sort of intimidated by recipes that look long or complicated, or to not want to embark on a culinary endeavor after a long day, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with creating something challenging– it adds extra sweetness to our kitchen triumphs. Maybe it’s just us, but we love pushing ourselves and trying new things in the kitchen, even if it doesn’t always end as a clear success; attempting something new gives us a boost of confidence and perpetuates our desire to learn and try new things!
Strudel might look like a pastry that you would only go to a shop and buy, but we promise it’s totally doable in your own kitchen–if we can do it, so can you! Typically, apple strudel is considered the traditional, but there are so many ways to make it your own, go with whatever you like. For us, we enjoy a tasty pear and almond treat, so we went with that; first, poaching the pears, then tackling the dough .which was actually pretty easy! Take a leap of faith and try this dessert. It’s so good, lots of fun to work with your hands (don’t worry if you need to patch a few holes in your dough) and so gratifying to gobble it up at the end!
Pear & Almond Strudel
- 2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ripe pears (Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, etc.)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested (2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the top
- 1/2 cup golden raisins, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 cup whole almonds
- 1/3 cup amaretti cookies (or breadcrumbs), coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- powdered sugar, garnish
- To begin the filling, in a medium saucepan over high heat combine 2 cups sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar completely.
- Add in vanilla extract and lemon zest. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until mixture has thickened to a syrup.
- Add lemon juice, cinnamon and pears, and stir to mix in. Poach for 15 minutes, or until pears are fork tender.
- Refrigerate mixture (pears and syrup) for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Place raisins in a small bowl and soak in brandy. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325 F.
- Place almonds on baking sheet and toast 9-12 minutes, or until fragrant and golden brown in the center.
- Remove from oven, let cool and coarsely chop. Raise oven temperature to 425 F.
- Place pears in a colander and let drain completely. Discard syrup and drain raisins.
- Chop pears into small pieces.
- For the dough: In a large bowl or mixer, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, water, oil and salt until a rough dough begins to come together.
Note: if too dry, add more water, a couple teaspoons at a time; if too wet, add more flour. Dough shouldn’t be too sticky.
- Transfer dough to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. 5-10 minutes. (Faster if you use the mixer to knead.)
- Roll into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover, place in a warm, draft-free place and let rest 1-1 1/2 hours.
- Cover a large, flat surface with a clean, damp towel. Roll dough out on a floured cutting board (or other transferable surface) to a 10×12-inch rectangle.
- Over your damp towel, flip cutting board over so dough lands in the middle.
- Slowly and carefully, use your hands or fingertips to stretch dough out to a large (18×30-inch) rectangle that’s paper thin and translucent.
Note: if dough tears, patch up the holes and continue carefully.
- Once fully stretched out, brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle amaretti cookies and almonds in a small mound, vertically, along the short edge of dough, making sure to leave 3 inches of space to later fold over the filling.
- Arrange pears and raisins on top of the nuts and cookies.
- Lift the damp cloth slowly to then gently fold the short edge over the filling and press firmly to seal the filling into its pouch.
- Continue to lift the towel so the strudel rolls over itself. Halfway through, tuck in the side edges to seal in the filling at the ends.
- Once fully rolled up, transfer strudel to a baking sheet (if it’s too long, shape it into a large U”), brush with more melted butter and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
- Use a sharp, serrated knife to score 2-inch sections along the strudel.
- Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool 10-15 minutes.
- Top with raisins, dust with powdered sugar and serve warmed or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Eating Well