Not too long ago I watched the delightful BBC series "Two Greedy Italians," in which chefs Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo travel through Italy sharing favorite recipes. In one episode, Carluccio whips up a warm, flaky apple strudel, and the allure was so great that after watching I ran to the kitchen to make my own. There was only one problem: I didn't have any apples. It was time for a little improvising.
My gaze turned toward a cluster of Fuyu persimmons ... Why not? With their spicy-sweet, cinnamon-like flavor, persimmons seemed like an ideal ingredient for an autumn strudel.
Apple strudel is usually filled with chunks of fruit; one could prepare a persimmon strudel in the same way, but I decided to grate the persimmons, instead. This gave the filling a softer texture, and because persimmons are often quite firm, it also eliminated the need for any pre-cooking. I combined the pumpkin-colored flesh with raisins plumped up in orange juice; warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and allspice; and a handful of breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. The final step was to wrap the filling in layers of buttery phyllo dough, and pop it in the oven until flaky and golden.
The pastry was excellent served warm with cream, and perhaps even better with cup of hot tea for breakfast the next morning. Persimmon strudel may not be an old European tradition, but it's certain to become a new one in my household.
Makes 1 strudel
1/3 cup golden raisins Zest and juice of 1 orange 2 pounds ripe Fuyu persimmons 1 cup breadcrumbs 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted 5 sheets phyllo dough, thawed Confectioner's sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place the raisins, orange zest, and orange juice in a small bowl and set aside to soak while preparing the persimmons.
Peel the persimmons and grate them in a food processor fitted with the grater blade. Alternately, grate with the large holes of a box grater (peeled persimmons are slippery – watch your fingers!)
Combine grated persimmons, breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and raisins in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
Brush a sheet of phyllo with melted butter. Top with another sheet and brush with butter. Repeat the process with the remaining 3 sheets.
Spread the persimmon mixture over the phyllo. Starting at the short end, roll to enclose the filling. Transfer the roll, seam-side down, to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the roll with the remaining butter.
Bake until top is crisp and golden, about 30-40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve warm or cold. Whipped cream and ice cream make fine accompaniments.