In some northern parts of Italy, you are more likely to find Wiener schnitzel than pasta on the menu. The Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, are regions which border Austria – and consequently their traditional dishes have strong Germanic influences. Strudel, of various types, is a very popular dessert. This recipe for Sweet Cheese Strudel comes from a new cookery book Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra (pub. Pavilion £25.00), and appears here with permission.
The strudel is very easy to make as long you are not alarmed by the consistency of the uncooked filling and are bold enough to follow the instructions. As Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra explains in her book, curd cheeses with a low moisture content are usually used in Austria and Central Europe, but Italian ricotta makes a good alternative.
The strudel can be served warm or cold, on its own or with prepared seasonal fruit as a dessert. You can add all kinds of extras to taste, such as chocolate sauce, vanilla sauce, and whipped cream.
Sweet Cheese Strudel – Recipe
- 250 g/9 oz/generous 1 cup ricotta
- 55 g/2 oz/1⁄4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp fine semolina
- generous pinch of lemon zest
- 2 tbsp sultanas (golden raisins), optional
- about 200 g/7 oz filo pastry – 8 sheets, 25 x 25 cm/10 x 10 in, or similar; see Method
- 25 g/1 oz/1⁄4 stick butter, melted
Recommended reading: Best Pastry Cookbooks
- Put the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix until homogenous. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave for about 1 hour to give the semolina time to start swelling, absorbing some of the moisture into the bargain.
- Spread a really long piece of clingfilm – about 1 m/40 in – on your work surface. Position four sheets of filo pastry on top of this (working left to right), slightly overlapping each other to obtain a long, narrow sheet roughly 90 x 25 cm/351⁄2 x 10 in.
- Spoon the cheese mixture lengthwise over the middle of the first (left-hand) sheet, leaving about 2.5 cm/1 in free at the top and bottom and 5 cm/2 in at the sides. Fold the top and bottom inwards so that the margin now covers some of the filling. Bring the left flap of pastry over the filling and then roll up the strudel loosely, using the clingfilm to help create a roll. It will flop into place as you keep on moving the clingfilm.
- When you reach the end, cut the clingfilm so that the roll sits on its own piece of film. Position the four remaining sheets of filo to form a large square on the expanse of clingfilm that has become available again, using an extra piece to make up the shortfall. Allow the edges of the pastry to overlap slightly. Brush this square with butter, reserving about 1 teaspoon.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking sheet.
- Now use the small piece of clingfilm on which the roll is lying to help carry, turn and position the roll on the left of the square, so that there is equal empty space at the top and bottom and about 10 cm/4 in free at the left. Carefully remove and discard the small piece of clingfilm.
- Fold the left flap of pastry over the roll and fold the top and bottom inwards to enclose it. Use the large sheet of clingfilm again to roll up towards the right, tucking the top and bottom edges in as you go. When you reach the end, lift the roll with the film and place it on the baking sheet, seam-side down if possible. Remove the film and brush the roll with butter.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
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