Harvest Fruit Puff Pastry Strudel

Over twenty years ago I fell in love with a recipe in Gourmet for a Harvest Tart – a combination of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, butter, sweetener and liqueur – baked in a sweet pastry crust and topped with a lattice crust.  It was a sophisticated and popular dessert at our Thanksgiving table.  The thick, slightly chunky fruit & nut filling was remarkably similar to the filling my mother used for her strudel – a taste memory I was thrilled to replicate.

Flash forward several years later to a few days after our Passover Seder, when I had an abundance of leftover “charoses”  Charoses (also spelled haroseth) is often just a forgettable mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine, but the version I make is from an outstanding recipe in the NYT Passover Cookbook, incorporating a palette of ingredients very much like the filling for the above-referenced tart.  Rather than toss it or use it as a semi-chutney side dish, I experimented with turning it into a strudel like my mother’s, but baked in store-bought Pepperidge Farm puff pastry.  It worked!  And it tasted so much like my mother’s wonderfully complex fruit strudel that I did shed some tears of joy.

Now skip ahead to 2017, when all my instincts tell me that the Harvest Tart filling, when baked in Trader Joe’s wildly superior all-butter puff pastry, will yield a strudel worthy of center stage on your dinner-party dessert menu – especially for Thanksgiving.

Being under no time constraints to prepare this, I made the fruit filling yesterday and have let it chill in fridge before assembling and baking today.  This could actually be done a few days in advance of assembly and baking.  So let’s review the filling, because all that’s left after that is a package of TJ’s puff pastry thawed for 2 hours, rolled out to be filled and brushed with an egg wash, and baked:

HARVEST FRUIT PUFF PASTRY STRUDEL

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FILLING:

1 tart, crisp apple such as Empire or Granny Smith and 1 firm-ripe pear, such as Bartlett or Anjou, both peeled & coarsely chopped

8  ounces pitted prunes

6 ounces dried Calmyrna figs, stem tips removed

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries or apricots

1-2 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

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PASTRY:

1 package Trader Joe’s all-butter Puff Pastry (2 sheets weighing 18.3 ounces) defrosted for 2 hours and each rolled on a floured board to a 12 x 10″ rectangle

(NOTE: You could use Pepperidge Farm puff pastry if TJ’s is not available, but it’s made with shortening instead of butter.  The TJ’s is all-butter, from France, just like Dufour, but at $3.99/box it’s about 1/3 the price of a 14-ounce box of Dufour)

EGG WASH:

1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

PREPARATION:

Combine all fresh and dried fruits and orange rind in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer, stirring frequently, until softened – about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve or colander, and return to the pot with the butter, sugar and nuts, and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Coarsely chop the mixture in two batches in food processor with a few quick pulses, and remove to a covered container for storage in refrigerator.
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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375º and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.   Gently roll out each sheet of puff pastry to about 10 x 12″  – they are almost that size to begin with – and spread 1/2 of the fruit filling on each, starting about 1″ from the bottom of one end, to cover about 2/3 of the sheet, leaving a 1/2″ margin on left and right edge.  Fold the bottom edge up over the filling and fold the other two edges in as well.   Then roll each into a log, making sure ends are tucked in.  Carefully move them to the parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with egg wash, and make 5 or 6 shallow diagonal knife slashes across the top.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 35 minutes.  With a long spatula, carefully move to a rack to cool completely.  Cut on the diagonal into sections about 1 – 1-1/2 inches wide for serving.  Store in air-tight container.

NOTE:  If you seem to have more fruit filling than needed, reserve some as a delightful spread for toast or English muffins.

 

 

 

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Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

In my continuing search for uses for the superb French puff pastry from Trader Joe’s, I found another High Holiday-appropriate dish on the NYT Cooking site, an Israeli dish of seasoned ground beef encased in puff pastry.

Reading the comments and anticipating the flavors, I made so many changes that I honestly have to call this recipe my own.  We just partook and I am farklempt – delicious beyond all my expectations, and plenty of leftovers to ejoy during the week:

Pastel – Israeli Meat Pie in Puff Pastry

6-8 servings

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INGREDIENTS:

1 package Trader Joe’s puff pastry

2 T olive oil

1 lb each ground lamb and lean ground beef

2 large carrots, 2 medium sweet onions, and one small shallot chopped finely

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

Seasonings (suggested, but to taste): 1 T kosher salt; 1 t black pepper; 1 t smoked paprika; 1 t cumin; 1 t ras el hanout; 1 t ground sumac; 1 t Za’atar; 1-1/2 t cinnamon;    1 t allspice; 1/2 t ground ginger; 1 t dill weed

3 eggs

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 T toasted sesame seeds

PREPARATION:

Heat olive oil in large skillet (12″ cast iron) on medium heat and sauté carrots, onions and shallots until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the ground meats and all seasonings and sauté another 10 minutes or so until meats are browned.  Remove to a large bowl, add the pine nuts and raisins, and allow to cool.

When mixture is cool, add two lightly beaten eggs.  Line the bottom and sides of a 2-quart oven-proof baking dish, about 8-9 x 11″, with one sheet of the puff pastry.  Using a slotted spoon, add the the meat mixture into the pastry-lined pan with just some but not all of the liquid in the mix.  Sprinkle the top with the chopped parsley and lay the second sheet of puff pastry over it, pinching around the edges to seal it.  Chill 1-4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400.  Beat the remaining egg and brush the top layer of pastry with it.  then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden, and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting to serve.