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
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
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)
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
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.
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.