I can’t believe that we’re already nearing the end of August, which means summer is almost over and the bounty of fresh fruit that has been at our disposal for the last four months is going to start dwindling. I’m taking advantage of every last bushel that I can before everyone’s attention shifts to apples, pears and pumpkin. A few years ago my Chief Culinary Consultant and I went to Hofbrauhaus here in Pittsburgh not long after its grand opening. We stuffed ourselves full of beer, soft pretzel appetizers, schnitzel sandwiches the size of my head and, I’m pretty sure, more beer. Which is why I shocked myself when I readily accepted a dessert menu even though I could barely breathe. (It must have been the beer talking.) New restaurant, must have dessert – right?! We very smartly decided to share something and settled on the apple strudel. To say it was amazing would be an understatement. Flaky layers of pastry wrapped warm, soft and slightly spiced apples, served with vanilla and raspberry sauces. When I was thinking about how I could use up some of my peaches, my Chief Culinary Consultant reminded me of that epic dessert, and I set out to make a peach version. And make it, I did.
I truly anticipated a strudel would take me all day and be a giant headache. It couldn’t have been more the opposite. I was astounded to find that I could make and bake a beautiful, flaky strudel in about an hour. I sliced up some peaches and threw them together with some sugar, spices and thickener, a la pie filling. To make the strudel, all you need to do is stack up some phyllo dough that you brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Add the filling, roll it up, and pop it in the oven.
In less than an hour, you’ll have a gorgeous, delicious strudel that will totally impress. I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist anything that involves buttery, flaky layers. Throw in some peaches and you have a perfect late-summer dessert.
(thawed (use 14x18-inch phyllo for 1 large strudel; use 9x14-inch phyllo for 2 small strudels))
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Stir together the peaches, brown sugar, flour, pecans, vanilla extract and cinnamon; set aside.
Place a silicone mat or a piece of parchment on your work surface. Place a sheet of phyllo on the mat or parchment, with the long side facing you. Brush the sheet of phyllo with melted butter and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Repeat with the remaining four sheets of phyllo, stacking them on top of one another.
Place the filling in a 3-inch-wide strip about 2½ inches from the bottom and 2 inches from each side of the phyllo (if you are using the smaller size phyllo, use half of the filling and repeat the steps with additional phyllo). Fold the short sides of phyllo over the filling. Then fold the bottom of the phyllo over the filling and very gently roll the strudel loosely.
Place the strudel, steam-side down, on the baking sheet. Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Cut four 1-inch-long vents in the top of the strudel. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and allow to cool until warm, about 30 minutes.