I was drawn to this strudel recipe when I first saw it in a pastry cookbook I bought and quickly bookmarked it so that I can try it when cherry season is in and I can get hold of some cherries. As it turned out, I didn't have to wait till summer as I came across some imported cherries in the supermarket. Not wanting to wait any longer, I grabbed some and could hardly wait to try out this lovely strudel.
Incidentally, this was also the first time I handled filo pastry and I felt quite excited trying something new. I find them quite flimsy and had to be careful when laying them out and it tends to break easily. (I was glad to have some help from my daughter in this task - two hands are better than one!)
The result of this strudel is just ... yum! With the multiple layers of filo pastry, it was amazingly crispy on the outside while the cream cheese on the inside provide a rich and creamy texture. Mmm ... nothing I like better to go with my cup of tea in the afternoon!
Cream Cheese and Cherry Strudel
10-12 cherries, pitted
250g cream cheese
110g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp plain flour
125g butter, melted
8 sheets filo pastry, at room temperature
70g almond meal
35g flaked almonds
icing sugar, to serve
1) Preheat oven to 160C.
2) Put the cream cheese, castor sugar, vanilla extract, egg and egg yolk in a food processor bowl and process until just combined, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally.
3) Add the flour and process until just combined. Take care not to overprocess the mixture.
4) Lightly brush a large baking tray with some of the melted butter. Lay the filo on a work surface and cover with a slightly damp tea towel.
5) Place one sheet of filo on the greased tray, brush well with butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of almond meal. Cover with another sheet of filo, brush with a little more butter and sprinkle with another tablespoon of almond meal.
6) Continue layering with the remaining filo pastry, almond meal and butter - you should still have a little butter left at the end.
7) Use a spatula to spread the cream cheese mixture down a long side of the pastry, about 5 cm (2 inches) in from the edge, to form a log shape. Press the cherries gently into the mixture.
8) Carefully roll up the pastry to enclose the filling. Trim the edges of the strudel to neaten. Brush well with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
9) Bake for 1 hour or until the pastry is crisp and deep golden and the filling is set. Cool on the tray.
10) To serve, use a serrated knife to slice the strudel. Serve dusted with icing sugar.
* If you cannot get hold of fresh cherries, you may also use canned pitted cherries. Do not waste the cherry syrup in the can. Bring it to the boil and reduce heat and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Leave to cool and drizzle the syrup on served strudel.
* You may also use puff pastry instead of filo pastry for this strudel. Just lay out your ready-rolled puff pastry and spread the cream cheese mixture along the longer side of the pastry and fold it around the mixture. Seal edges of pastry by using a bit of water on your fingers, and rubbing the edges together. Brush with egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp of milk/water, beaten together). Bake in preheated oven at 200C for about 35 to 40 mins or until golden brown.