10 June 2010

Medjool Date and Spiced Ricotta Strudel

Medjool Date and Spiced Ricotta Strudel

As a member of BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine's project View and Review I was excited when I had the opportunity to receive a cookbook from Random House. View and Review is a fun and exciting aspect of BloggerAid-CFF where our members have the opportunity to review cookbooks and products from the world over. We all get together and have a little fun while continuing to raise awareness for world hunger.  After all, most of our members are food bloggers and what's more important than food!!!! Browsing through a new cookbook is something we all love to do, but choosing just one recipe, especially when sent a baking cookbook is pretty mind boggling!!!

I was lucky enough to review In the Sweet Kitchen, The Definitive Baker's Companion by Regan Daley. Regan shows us that anyone, from complete culinary virgins to accomplished dessert-makers can make fantastic desserts with a little instruction and know-how. The secret is in the ingredients. The first half of the book is a guide for the seasoned baker and the inexperienced alike. Don't have the right sized pan? Plus tons of baking techniques and improvements. Her more that 140 original recipes are straightforward enough for any home baker to prepare and focus on simple techniques with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients. They range from the awfully impressive , "Brioche Bread Pudding with Dried Sour Cherries" to "Really, REALLY, Fudgey Brownies."

For everyone who has ever been stumped by a problem while baking or has had a question about an ingredient, a piece of equipment or the best technique, this comprehensive book has the answers in one essential reference.  If you are a seasoned baker you will find many exciting and varied recipes This book serves as a comprehensive, professional-quality reference of ingredients from basic to rare and an incredible collection of unique flavour pairings. For the "newbie" baker, it's a practical guide to the once mysterious art of baking.

"Celebrated pastry chef Regan Daley unravels the mystery of the baking process, explaining the “how” and “why” behind the components that go into making the perfect dessert, and provides the tools and information home bakers need to create delicious recipes of their own–in their own sweet kitchens. Includes 140 of Regan’s favourite recipes."

When asked to bake one recipe from the book I was hard pressed to make a decision. The book is filled with 140 recipes and I would truly love to bake them all!!!! This cookbook tantalizes you with recipes such as Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Rum-Plumped Raisins and a Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting, S'mores Roulade, Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar Brandy Sauce, Rhubarb Brulee Tartlettes with Ginger, Macadamia and Fresh Coconut Tart, or Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie Sandwiches with Roasted Cinnamon Ice Cream.

I finally decided upon this rich but light strudel  made with crispy filo pastry, rather than the time-consuming traditional strudel dough. The Medjool dates imparted a deep, complex flavour and the filling is laced with sweet spices for a marriage of flavours that remind me of Italy. You can read all about Medjool dates in an article by our own Susan Russo. This would be the perfect dessert at the end of a rustic Italian meal with a rich dark coffee or a glass of Armagnac or port.

Regan Daley is a writer and former pastry chef whose work has appeared in Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Country Home, and Gourmet magazines, among others. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband, three boys and food-phobic dog. (Visit her blog at http://www.regandaley.com).

**Medjool Date and Spiced Ricotta Strudel**

12 sheets of frozen filo pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1-1/2 pounds whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup granulated sugar
seeds of 1 plump vanilla bean, hull reserved for another use
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
1/4 cup flavourful honey, not buckwheat
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
Finely grated zest of 1/w large orange
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 pound Medjool dates, pitted and very coarsely chopped
1/3 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the finished strudels

The night before you plan to make the strudel, transfer the frozen filo pastry to the refrigerator. Line a stainless steel wire mesh sieve with two layers of dampened cheesecloth. Remove the ricotta from its tub and press it into the lined sieve. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth in a twist around the ricotta and twist until the cheese is tightly squeezed into a ball. Secure the knot of cheesecloth with a twist-tie or rubber band and set the ball of ricotta back in the sieve. Place the sieve over a small bowl to catch the whey that will drip away from the cheese and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, discard the whey and unwrap the ricotta. Preheat the oven to 375F. Transfer the cheese to a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, vanilla seeds, spices, honey, and the lemon and orange zests. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until well blended, incorporating as little air as possible. Beat in egg yolks, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Cover the cheese mixture and set aside.

Lay the stack of thawed pastry on a flat surface and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface in front of you and place 1 sheet of pastry over the paper. Brush the entire surface with melted butter. Place another sheet of pastry over the first and repeat this process until you have 6 sheets of pastry, one on top of the other. Spoon half the cheese mixture in a log shape along one side of the pastry, leaving a 1-1/2 -inch margin on that long side, and on the two short sides. Keep the filling confined to one half of the sheet. Scatter half the chopped dates over the filling, pressing them into the cheese to secure them. Sprinkle half the bread crumbs over the filling (these will absorb any excess moisture) and brush the edges of the pastry with melted butter).

Fold the 1-1/2-inch margin on the long side over the log, then fold the short sides over the ends of the filling. Rill the log lengthwise towards the other long side, keeping the cylinder firm but not super-tight, as the filling must have a little space to expand in the oven. Using the parchment paper to help you, transfer the strudel to a large baking sheet, positioning it so the seam of the roll is on the bottom. Repeat the process with the second 6 sheets of pastry. filling and the remaining dates. Place the second strudel on the same baking sheet and brush tips wit more melt4d butter. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and crisp. Cool the strudels before dusting with confectioners sugar. Serve thick slices of these strudels warm, or at room temperature. ideally the day they are made, as the pastry goes soggy with time. Any leftover strudel can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

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  1. What a great post Val - I'm so impressed with you for making this strudel. It really looks fantastic and your review of the book is delightful - really. I'm going to try this recipe. I seem to have this over abundance of medjool dates in my fridge.

  2. Delicious! Medjool dates are such a wonderful ingredient. I will have to check out the cookbook, thank you for the review.

  3. From the looks of your strudel, I'd say the book justify's itself with just that recipe!
    Oh, my mom loved dates. This is glorious.

  4. Sheesh I would have wanted to make everything in that cookbook!

    The strudel was definitely a good choice though. Very out-of-the-ordinary and stuffed with cheesy sweet deliciousness.

  5. What a lovely strudel. The review of the book is wonderful as well. I'm going to check this one out. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  6. Thank you for commenting on my blog. I have to admit that I have seen you commented on many blogs I frequent, but I have never made it over here to your home. I am so glad I did. There is much to read and catch up on over here. I will be back. Susan

  7. The ricotta sounds so good. Good enough to spread on toast and eat just like that.

  8. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  9. The strudel with ricotta sounds so good, and I have a box of dates waiting for me to use them right now! The Rhubarb Brulee Tartlettes from the book sounds great too.

  10. This sounds like a wonderful cookbook and a wonderful dessert!

  11. What a really lovely review. I want the book NOW. The dessert has mesmerized me. Your description of the taste had me reading the recipe and putting the flavours together in my head. It sounds like this is something you would actually make again - would you?... and your list of other recipes is so inviting. AND - great photo, too!
    I have copied it into my recipe file!

  12. I love strudels, and yours is particularly tempting! mouthwatering ingredients combo!

  13. I love Regan Daily's book I have had it for quite awhile now, you have made me want to get it back out!
    The strudel looks great! Thanks so much for sharing!

  14. Wonderful review... wonderful strudel... and I love dates!!

  15. Great review! This cookbook sounds like a winner. I love having helpful tips included with the recipes. I absolutely love dates! The recipe looks amazing!

  16. This recipe looks incredible. Love the addition of dates!

  17. I'd say it looks like a wonderful combination for a strudel filling. Turned out looking rather lovely too!

  18. I love this recipe dear Valli, look georgeous and yummy!!! gloria

  19. Wow! normally I'm only swayed towards chocolate desserts. But dates and ricotta? I'm swooning over this one!

  20. This is awesome. I wish I had a piece right now.


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