Winter really is over, the sun felt warm on our faces and the sky was a brilliant blue; a lovely day for an invigorating walk with friends at Thousand Acre Swamp in New Marlborough , MA. The trail meanders gently through a forest of hemlock and black cherry trees with views of Thousand Acre Swamp.
How quickly the weather changes this time of year. We returned yesterday and the landscape was completely different; although a brisk chilly wind reminded us that winter has only just left us!
We crossed a rickety suspension bridge. The strong wind whipped the water underneath into interesting patterns and made the bridge sway back and forth with a motion that was a bit unsettling to say the least!
In my last blog entry, I talked about the family history on my father’s side. They came from the section of Russia that at the time included Poland and Ukraine; around 1914. My Grandpa Sam wrote a detailed and poignant account about growing up in a small poor town rife with antisemitism and their eventful trip to the United States. I don’t have the same documentation for my Grandma Bella, who came from the same area of the Ukraine. But, I do have rich memories; I remember her deep throaty voice with a heavy Russian accent. She had intelligent bright brown eyes and she rubbed her tiny worn hands energetically together as she listened avidly to other’s conversations. She did not have much formal education and spent her life taking care of a small dark apartment in St. Louis; I remember the plastic covered sofa and the scent of mothballs and schmalz in the air. I imagine that in different circumstances she would have been an excellent journalist or lawyer.
Her life revolved around her family and she often sent us packages of her homemade strudel. I regret that I never watched her prepare the pastry; I was an impatient teenager. I didn’t have the chance to listen to her family stories about the old country, although perhaps she would not have been comfortable talking about the hardships that she had endured.
I have never tasted any other strudel like my grandmother’s. Most strudels that I have tried had a flaky almost phyllo like pastry and were filled with either apples, cherries or poppy seeds. Grandma Bella’s strudel had a pastry covering that was very thin, more like the pastry for rugelach or a thin pliable pie crust. The filling had dried apricots, raisins and walnuts and was flavored with cinnamon.
I did a google search for Ukrainian/Russian strudel and although some of the ingredients were different, the recipe sounded a great deal like her strudel. I decided to make strudel and this is what I came up with. It was remarkably similar and was delicious. I liked it way too much and tried to give away as much as possible. I think Grandma Bella would have approved!!
Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel
Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel ( from Food Network; based on a recipe by Wayne Harley Brachman)
Sour Cream Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into pea sized bits
1/2 cup sour cream
Dried Fruit Filling:
1 cup pitted organic prunes
1/2 cup organic prune juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
cinnamon for dusting top of strudel
2 tablespoons water
- Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. On slow, mix in the butter until it looks like very coarse meal. Mix in the sour cream until it masses together to form a dough. Pat into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
Dried Fruit Filling:
- Coarsely chop the prunes. In a small saucepan, cover the prunes with the prune juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes. Place in a food processor with the vanilla and puree to a paste. Mix in the raisins, cherries and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a square 16 by16 inches. Place the filling in a log running along the bottom and roll up. Pinch the ends closed. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, seam side down. Mix the egg and water together to form a wash and paint the strudel. Dust lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden. Let cool on a rack, then slice into 1 inch pieces. Wait until very cool to slice; use a serrated bread knife.
This week, I have strayed from my trusty “Tree of the Week” and morphed to stone! No fear, the trees will be back shortly. This rock caught my eye and I imagined a face with a crooked sly smile and one tooth sticking out the corner of it’s mouth!