Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Peach strudel delicious, easy summer dessert

Here's How

By Marilyn Harris
Enquirer contributor

When you come home with peaches so succulent they have to be eaten over the sink, try not to eat them all and save a few for a delicious late summer dessert.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of making pastry for a traditional peach pie, try this recipe for peach strudel. Instead of mixing, rolling out and worrying about a soggy or tough crust, simply thaw frozen phyllo pastry.

You'll find it with the bread and dessert products in the grocery frozen food case.

There are a few tricks to know before you work with these tissue paper thin sheets of dough. First, thaw the package of phyllo completely. You may do that overnight in the refrigerator or for 3 to 4 hours on the counter.

Make the peach filling first before you open the box of phyllo. Once it is exposed to the air phyllo's low moisture content causes it to dry out quickly, making it impossible to manage.

When you are ready to assemble the strudel, carefully open the package, unroll and spread out the sheets of dough with the short sides of the rectangle at the top and bottom. Carefully peel off the top sheet of dough starting with the top corners and set it to the side. To prevent the stack of phyllo sheets from drying out, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap topped with a damp dish towel.

Use a soft bristled pastry brush for buttering the sheets. Brush the edges first before they become too dry. With quick light strokes then brush the center. Use just enough unsalted butter to moisten.

Too much butter will make the pastry soggy and the strudel will be too rich and heavy.

A light sprinkling of plain, fine dry breadcrumbs sprinkled on each sheet prevents them from sticking tightly together and makes a flakier strudel.

After the first sheet is prepared, continue in the same fashion with four more sheets, stacking one on top of the other. You now have a pastry shell to hold your luscious peach filling. All you have left to do is fill and roll it according to the recipe directions. Be sure to butter the ends so they seal tightly.

The small slits cut in top allow steam to escape as the strudel bakes so it won't pop open or break. Baking on a parchment lined baking sheet (or on a silicone liner) is important for even browning on the bottom and to prevent sticking.

I added the peach schnapps to my original old-fashioned recipe because I thought it would add fun flavor.

If you are making this for a family dinner you may omit it and substitute a teaspoon of vanilla.

The same goes for the whipped cream that finishes this dessert. Substitute a splash of vanilla instead of the schnapps.

Golden Peach Strudel

2 pounds fresh, ripe peaches

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest

3 tablespoons peach schnapps (divided use; optional)

1 cup sugar

Pinch allspice

4 tablespoon cornstarch

10 frozen phyllo pastry sheets

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup fine dry plain bread crumbs

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar

Peel and thinly slice peaches. Stir together lemon juice, zest and 2 tablespoons of schnapps. Add peaches and lightly toss to coat each slice. Stir together the sugar, allspice and cornstarch. Toss with peaches. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes, or until sugar dissolves.

Brush a sheet of phyllo with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle with a heaping tablespoon of bread crumbs. Repeat until five sheets of pastry are stacked together.

Spoon half of the peach mixture in the center of the pastry parallel with the short sides, leaving a 5-inch border on the ends and a 2-inch border on each side. Fold the sides over the filling. Fold up the far end and roll toward you, forming a round roll with the filling enclosed. Seal the ends by brushing with butter. With a small sharp knife, cut 2-inch long slits across the top. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling.

Place the two strudels on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the center of a pre-heated 350-degree oven 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.

Whip the chilled heavy cream until slightly thickened. Gradually add the sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon peach schnapps. Top each warm slice of strudel with whipped cream. Each strudel makes 5 to 6 servings.

Contact Marilyn Harris by mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; e-mail:

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