This is childhood comfort, wrapped in a swaddle of filo pastry. It’s food for crummy days spent cleaning out cupboards and trying to persuade your scanner to work. It’s also perfect for when you remember that part of moving involves defrosting the freezer.
I’m not sure about you, but it’s a dark exploration in there. I can only echo the sentiments of Captain Oates when embarking into those frosty tundras;
“I may be some time”.
You never know what you’ll find. Even though ours is minute, it still holds some mysteries. To me it included two packets of filo pastry (bought when endlessly testing the pastilla and black forrest strudel for the book). There were also some frozen berries and grapes (perfect for snacking on with dark chocolate and dessert wine).
In the cupboard behind it were ground almonds and peanut butter, hanging around after making a showing in these puddings.
And so the germ of this dessert began to unfurl.
It was also nurtured by the fact that everytime during the Olympics broadcast a “PB” was mentioned my mind splintered to two places.
The original; a small spiral bound A6 notebook in which my Dad methodically and devotedly documented the clan’s swimming personal bests after Saturday club, where we spent the morning churning through salt water in the local Sydney harbour-fronted pool. That book loomed large and bleak in my dreams on Friday nights. Let’s just say that there wasn’t often cause to draw a line through my times and record a new, swifter one. (Stumpy arms. Waifish shoulders and flat floundering feet. Love the water, but am not that fast in it. Additionally spent much more time reading novels about American teenagers than training after school. Here’s hoping the kids if and when they arrive get The Hungry One’s genetics there).
If we got a PB on a Saturday morning there was an additional reason to celebrate with pastries; collected from the local patisserie, running fast over hot bitumen in bare, salty feet, with a towel trussed under your arms.
The second is peanut butter and jelly. The standard lunch box fodder of children, which featured heavily in my childhood reading. An escapist combination of carbs, fat, sugar and salt. Though of course, I didn’t eat it (it didn’t ascribe to my ‘it has to be white’ philosophy. Ice berg lettuce sandwiches were as exciting as I got back then).
And so, this PB and J strudel is a conglomeration of all good things. And as an adult, I’m finally in touch enough with my inner child to enjoy it.
The filling is a mix of peanut butter, whole nuts and cream cheese. The cream cheese is because that quantity of peanut butter would do nothing except glue your mouth shut for eternity. The ‘jelly’ comes from grapes and raspberries- but feel free to substitute with whichever soft fruits you prefer.
There’s a little brown sugar in the centre and a dusting of powdered sugar at the end. Yet this isn’t a particularly sweet dessert. What it’s really about is texture. The crackle of the filo pastry, the pillowy softness of the filling, bite of buried nuts and the occasional burst of fruit. All it needs is a puddle of ice cream on the side.*
*Oh, and a serrated knife to cut it with. This is me, slowly hacking it with my big fat knife on the floor before taking the photos. And making a savage mess. I had no idea my buddy Lisa was above me taking that shot. Both her husband and mine were patiently clearing the table, talking about the Olympics and awaiting our dessert.
Safe to say, that day of scanners and freezers and filo and mess wasn’t one of my personal bests. But at the end of it all, a slice of strudel and good friends around the table were all the comfort I could possibly need.
Along with the firm knowledge that with a little more training, I’ll get quicker every time.
PB and J Strudel-Pie
1 baking tray, lined with baking parchment. 1 damp tea towel for the filo. 1 pastry brush. Electric beaters. 1 serrated bread knife to cut.
300 grams of cream cheese
1.5 tbsp muscavado/brown sugar
150 grams smooth peanut butter
100 grams mixed nuts (cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts)
1 tbsp salt flakes
2 tbsp bread crumbs
240 grams of mixed red fruits (I used 50/50 red grapes and raspberries)
6 sheets of filo pastry
50 grams of butter, melted
Icing sugar and vanilla ice cream to serve
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat the oven to 220 C/430 F.
2) Beat together the cream cheese, muscavado sugar and egg until well combined.
3) Beat in the peanut butter.
11) Bake for 15 minutes at 220 C/430 F, then turn the oven down to 180 C/350 F and bake for 20 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and top with remaining fruit.