Apple Strudel

My Mother-in-Law makes this delicious strudel every Christmas Eve as part of the traditional Ukrainian 12-course feast. It is always a highlight of the meal for me. 🙂

I used tart apples (Granny Smith) but may use a combination of tart and other firm sweet-tart apples next time. I also used a mandoline to slice the apples. My Mother-in-Law has the magic touch… hers tastes better than mine, of course, but I did use her recipe! Yum.

Yield: One Strudel, about 8 servings

  • 2 1/2 to 3 tart and firm apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ground cinnamon, to taste
  • 2-3 T fine bread crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
  • 8 sheets of thawed phyllo dough
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • strawberry preserves

To Make the Filling:

  1. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. (I used a mandoline to slice the apples 1/8-inch thick.)
  2. Mix the sliced apples with the sugar, raisins, lemon zest, vanilla, cinnamon, and 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs.

To Make the Strudel:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with a damp towel and plastic wrap.
  3. Remove on sheet of phyllo dough and place on a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Brush the entire surface with melted butter, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, sprinkle with brown sugar, and dot with strawberry preserves (use very little preserves).
  5. Repeat this process for the next 7 layers of phyllo dough.
  6. After the dough is prepared, place the filling evenly on top of the dough, starting at the shorter end and leaving 1-2 inches uncovered at the opposite end.
  7. Lift the edge of the parchment paper closest to the filling to help roll the dough and form the strudel.
  8. Place the roll, seam side down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with remaining melted butter.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pecan pie bars are a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in our house. I chose this pumpkin pie version to serve along with a tried and true brown-butter and vanilla bean apple pie for our intimate Thanksgiving feast. (Yes, we had leftover dessert for at least a week!)

This recipe was adapted from a “staff favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Sarah Jordan. I appreciated the press-in crust and we all absolutely loved the consistency of the bars. Pie bars have the bonus of easier portion control too- which is crucial on Thanksgiving. 😉 Great.

Yield: Makes on 9×13-inch pie

For the Press-In-Crust:

  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter with the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the sifted flour-and-salt mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  4. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides. (I used a pyrex pan.)
  5. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it over the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the side all around. (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap and press with the bottom of a measuring cup.) Be sure the corners are not too thick.
  6. Refrigerate until firm.
  7. Bake the crust for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown; halfway through baking, use the back of a spoon to smooth the sides and corners of the crust.
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool before filling.

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • Baked Press-In Crust (above)
  • crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the sugars with the spices and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the sugar mixture, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until smooth.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the filling is fully set.
  7. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Cut into bars and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, as desired.

Note: Bars should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I prepared them a day prior to serving.)

Ina Garten’s Easy French Apple Tart

I already have a couple easy fall apple desserts that I make every year- French apple cake and apple pie bars. I had to add this one onto the list this year. I love fruit desserts! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten, via epicurious.com. I used the puff pastry shortcut, reduced the amount of jam in the glaze, and modified the baking method.

The apple juices, sugar, and butter collect on the edges of the tart (and become quite dark!) but can be trimmed prior to serving. We ate it with vanilla ice cream which was completely unnecessary but delicious.

For the Pastry:

(Alternatively, use one sheet of store-bought puff pastry- I used Trader Joe’s)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup ice water

For the Apples:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples or a combination of apples (I used 1 1/2 Granny Smith, 1 1/2 Honey Crisp, and 1 Juici apple)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small-diced
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water

For the Puff Pastry Crust:

  1. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for 2 hours at room temperature.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; remove from the pan.
  3. On the parchment, roll the thawed crust into a 10×14-inch rectangle. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges.
  4. Place dough (on parchment) on the rimmed baking sheet and keep in the refrigerator to chill while the apples are prepared.

To Make the Pastry Crust:

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine.
  2. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas.
  3. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.
  4. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  6. Roll the dough slightly larger than 10×14 inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. (I would roll it out on the parchment paper.)
  7. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while the apples are prepared.

To Prepare the Apples and Finish the Tart: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller.
  3. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch-thick slices. (I used a mandoline.)
  4. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.)
  5. Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup sugar and dot with the butter.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, and continue to bake 15 to 30 minutes more, until the pastry is browned, the edges of the apples start to brown, and the apples are tender. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. *Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!
  8. When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the water or Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. (I used apricot jam and used a whisk to break up large chunks. It could also be strained.)
  9. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Skillet Phyllo Pie with Butternut Squash, Kale, & Feta

This is another “healthyish” cast iron skillet recipe from Bon Appétit. It was almost my entire CSA box in a pie. 🙂 I incorporated CSA leeks, butternut squash, and Toscano kale. Very seasonal- perfect.

I had an abundance of kale, so I made the pie in a large (12-inch) skillet. I also incorporated kohlrabi greens. Because this recipe is very adaptable, the finished pie size can be modified depending upon the volume of filling. Any other greens would work too.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Anna Jones. The lemon zest was essential. We had a green salad made with my CSA romaine lettuce on the side. 🙂

Yield: 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions, cut into 1/4-inch half-moons and soaked OR 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small butternut squash (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, thinly sliced into 1/4-inch crosswise ribbons (I used about 8 cups) 
  • 2 to 3 large eggs, beaten to blend (I used 3 eggs for a 12-inch pie)
  • 3 ounces Parmesan, grated (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of one lemon)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces frozen phyllo pastry, thawed (half a 1-pound package)
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh goat cheese or feta, crumbled, divided
  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium. Add leeks or onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 6–8 minutes.
  3. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Mix in thyme and red pepper flakes and transfer to a large bowl; let cool.
  5. Wipe out and reserve skillet.
  6. Add kale, eggs, Parmesan, and lemon zest to squash mixture and gently mix to combine; season with salt and pepper.
  7. If using 6 ounces of cheese, incorporate 2 ounces into the kale-squash mixture.
  8. Working quickly so that the phyllo doesn’t dry out, layer phyllo sheets inside reserved skillet, letting 2-3 inches hang over the edge. (I placed them in a circular fashion. I also brushed some oil between every few layers.)
  9. Spoon kale-and-squash mixture into phyllo and dot top with cheese.
  10. Brush edges of phyllo lightly with oil and fold over filling, overlapping slightly, leaving center exposed.
  11. Cook pie over low to medium-low heat until bottom of pastry is just golden (carefully lift up on one side with a heatproof rubber spatula so that you can take a peek), about 3 minutes.
  12. Transfer skillet to oven and bake pie until kale is wilted and tender and phyllo is golden brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes.
  13. Let pie cool in skillet at least 10 to 15 minutes before slicing into wedges.

Do Ahead: Pie can be baked 6 hours ahead. Let cool; store uncovered at room temperature.

Caramelized Zucchini Phyllo Pie with Corn & Herbs

This phyllo-crusted savory pie is packed with caramelized summer zucchini. It is a wonderful way to gobble up an abundance of fresh squash from the garden or your CSA share. 🙂 I loved that it was baked in a cast iron skillet too.

The recipe was adapted from thekitchn.com, contributed by Grace Elkus. We ate it for dinner with a green salad but it could also be served for a special brunch or lunch- an amazing summer meal.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 6 phyllo sheets from a 1-pound package of frozen phyllo dough (13×18-inch), thawed in the refrigerator overnight
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium)
  • 2 medium-large shallots
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup tightly-packed coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 scant cup freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 2 ears fresh)
  • 3 ounces feta cheese (about 1/3 cup crumbled)
  • hot sauce, for serving (optional)
  1. Thaw 1 (1-pound) package phyllo dough overnight in the refrigerator, if needed (if there are two interior packages, just thaw one). Unroll and stack 6 of the phyllo sheets on a large baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, wax paper, or a damp kitchen towel and leave at room temperature. Reroll the remaining phyllo sheets, place in a gallon-size zip-top freezer bag, and refreeze for another use. (I covered it with a damp paper towel topped with plastic wrap.)
  2. Trim the ends off 1 1/2 pounds zucchini. Slice each in half crosswise, then halve lengthwise. Slice lengthwise into thin planks. Place in a large bowl.
  3. Halve and thinly slice 2 shallots. Add to the bowl with the zucchini.
  4. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10-inch cast iron or straight-sided ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and shallots (reserve the bowl), season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and toss to coat in the oil as best you can (the pan will be very full).
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and shallots are slightly caramelized and beginning to stick to the pan, 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1 tablespoon water, and continue to cook 5 minutes more, scraping up the flavorful stuck-on bits as you go.
  7. While the squash cooks, arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  8. Whisk 2 large eggs in a large bowl.
  9. Prep and add the following to the eggs in the bowl: Coarsely chop fresh basil leaves until you have 1/4 tightly-packed cup. Coarsely chop fresh dill until you have 3 tablespoons. Finely grate Parmesan cheese until you have 1 scant cup, if needed. If using fresh corn, remove the husks and cut the kernels from the cobs (about 1 1/2 cups). Crumble in 3 ounces feta cheese. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
  10. When the squash is ready, add it to the bowl and stir to combine.
  11. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a small bowl, for brushing. Wipe the skillet clean and brush with a thin layer of the oil.
  12. Working quickly to prevent the phyllo from dying out, transfer 2 phyllo sheets to the skillet, overlapping them to completely cover the bottom and sides of the pan, folding any overhang into the pan. (Keep the remaining phyllo covered). Brush lightly with olive oil.
  13. Place a third phyllo sheet in the skillet so that half is hanging over the rim. Repeat with the remaining 3 sheets, arranging them so they completely cover the rim of the skillet.
  14. Spread the zucchini mixture into the skillet in an even layer.
  15. Fold and crimp the overhanging phyllo toward the center, leaving the center 4 inches exposed.
  16. Gently brush any remaining oil over the phyllo.
  17. Bake until the phyllo is golden brown and crispy and the center is slightly puffed and set, 24 to 30 minutes.
  18. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing.
  19. Top with torn fresh basil leaves. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Nectarine & Blueberry Tart

I especially loved this beautiful tart because in addition to being delicious, it is made with a flaky and buttery press-in crust and a cheesecake-like no-bake filling. Nice shortcuts! I topped it with my favorite summer fruit- white nectarines. The original recipe uses peaches which would also be fabulous.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. The chilled temperature and brightness from lemon zest made it very refreshing.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch tart, about 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low; add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).
  4. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch square tart pan or a 9- or 10-inch round tart pan, with a removable bottom.
  5. Dock bottom at 1-inch intervals with the tines of a fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
  6. Place on rimmed baking sheet or pizza tin, and bake until golden brown and set, 23 to 33 minutes. Let cool completely. (Crust can be kept at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 days.)
  7. Beat together cream cheese, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon juice, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until creamy.
  8. With mixer running, slowly add cream and beat until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. (You should have about 2 cups.)
  9. Spread mixture into crust; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  10. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel peaches/nectarines, if desired; cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. (I left the peels intact.)
  11. Transfer to a bowl and stir in berries and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  12. Just before serving, spoon macerated fruit over tart and drizzle some of juice from bowl over it. (I used all of the juice!)
  13. Sprinkle with mint, if desired, and serve.

Key Lime Bars with Vanilla Wafer Crust

These sweet-tart bars are a wonderful summer dessert. They transport well and are perfect for sharing.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Samantha Seneviratne. The dollop of lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream was essential.

Yield: 16 bars

For the Crust:

  • 1 (11-ounce) box vanilla wafers
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons/115 grams unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:

  • 1 ¾ cup/420 milliliters condensed milk (1 14-ounce can plus 1/2 cup)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup/180 milliliters Key lime or conventional lime juice (from 5 to 6 conventional limes or 12 Key limes)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup/240 milliliters cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
  3. In a food processor, combine vanilla wafers and sugar, and pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until evenly moistened.
  4. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press it down into an even layer. (I use the base of a dry measuring cup.)
  5. Bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 14 to 17 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice and lime zest.
  7. Pour filling over crust (it’s okay if it’s still warm) and bake until the filling is set, about 15 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. Use a sharp knife to release edges. Using the parchment overhang, carefully lift and transfer the bar to a cutting board.
  10. Just before serving, whip heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. (I use a chilled bowl.)
  11. Cut bars into 16 squares. Top each bar with a dollop of whipped cream to serve.

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