Every summer we go cherry picking, usually just before Christmas. Once there, I ask when the sour cherries will be ready, then plan my return for a few weeks later to fill up a bucket or two.
It’s something I’ve loved doing since I was young. Sour cherries are very easily bruised, giving them a short shelf life and making them really hard to find in shops. You can often find them frozen though, and I always have some in my freezer. I love adding them to cakes or morning porridge. They are also really wonderful in a strudel. They turn everything a beautiful shade of pink and add a nice zing to the filling.
The strudel pastry is so fun to make and, with practice, it gets easier as you become more skilful. It should be thin enough to read the newspaper through. Don’t worry if you make some holes in it, just try to be gentle and patch them up as you go. If you can’t find sour cherries, replace them with 60g of sultanas, which make a lovely substitute.
APPLE AND SOUR CHERRY STRUDEL
60 g fine dried breadcrumbs
1 kg (about 6) granny smith apples, peeled, cored, quartered and finely sliced
110 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150 g fresh or frozen sour cherries
pinch of sea salt
100 g unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons icing sugar, plus extra to serve
double cream, to serve
180 g tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3 tablespoons sunflower oil or other neutral vegetable oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
To make the strudel dough, combine the ingredients with 90 ml of lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium–high and mix for 4–5 minutes, until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl and looks elastic and smooth. Alternatively, mix the ingredients in a bowl with a fork, then turn out onto a work surface and knead very vigorously for 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth. It is a very soft dough so don’t be tempted to add more flour. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Toast the breadcrumbs in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring for 2–3 minutes, until golden. Place the apple in a large bowl along with the caster sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice, sour cherries and salt. Stir well and allow to sit while you roll out the dough.
Lay a large, smooth and clean cotton tea towel or tablecloth on your work surface. Dust it lightly with flour, then roll out the dough until it is about 5 mm thick. Lift up the dough with your hands underneath in loose fists, then gently stretch the dough while moving it around in a circle in a sort of waltz between your hands. Keep stretching the dough until it is very thin, being careful not to tear it. When you feel like the dough won’t stretch any more without tearing, lay it back down on the tea towel or tablecloth. The edges will still be a little thicker, so use your fingers to gently stretch them out, a little at a time.
Brush the pastry sheet with most of the melted butter, leaving enough to brush the top of the strudel at the end. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and dust with the icing sugar. Arrange the apple and cherry mixture along one of the short sides, leaving a 3 cm border at the base and side. Do not add the liquid that will have accumulated in the base of the bowl.
Fold the sides of the pastry over the edges of the apple and cherry mixture, then, using the tea towel or tablecloth to assist you, begin to roll the strudel loosely over itself until you reach the end of the dough. Use the tea towel or tablecloth to help roll the strudel onto a large piece of baking paper. The seam should be at the top now, so use the baking paper to roll the strudel again so that it is seam-side down, ready for baking.
Use the baking paper to gently lift and transfer the strudel to a baking tray and brush the top with the remaining melted butter. Bake the strudel for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool, then dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.
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