Thursday, 27 December 2012

Festive Filo

I think I've become a bit of a filo fanatic lately (filo pastry that is). There's so much to love about filo; you can fill it, top it, sandwich it. It has a fantastic texture too as it's so thin and crunchy once cooked. The thing I like most about it though is that, due to its versatility,  it's great to experiment with. You can take your favourite flavours and enjoy them together in a filo vehicle of choice ( a filo cup, cigar, boat, layers, dumpling etc).
This past month, it being party season and all, I've encountered quite a few filo recipes, all of which follow a similar structure to put together. I've tried mushrooms in bechamel sauce parcels, mushroom and spinach cups, cheese balls, baklava, strudel and the simplest yet most crowd pleasing, chocolate cigars! Filo is all the rage at parties so I decided to try my hand at a couple of sweet treats, perfect at this time of year.

Admittedly this first recipe is mainly my brothers invention (which is probably why it's so simple!) but it really hits the chocolate indulgence spot. I made them for my flat Christmas party and they disappeared pretty quickly!

Chocolate Cigars:

Filo pastry
nutella (or any chocolate spread you prefer)
melted butter

Simply brush a sheet of filo pastry using a pastry brush. Cut the sheet into strips according to the length you want your cigars to be. Spoon a line of nutella along one short edge of the strip and roll into a cigar shape. 
You can add chopped nuts or dried fruit for a little texture, or a splash of coffee or booze in the nutella for a more grown up version. However, there is nothing wrong with the original plain nutella, I mean it's nutella, you can't really go wrong!
Once rolled up, brush each cigar with a little more butter to ensure a golden finish. Line up the cigars on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a pre heated oven at 180°C for about ten minutes or until golden brown.
To serve, wait until cooled and dust with icing sugar. The simplest of treats but delicious all the same!

My next recipe involves a little more effort, but includes a generous amount of apples (which in my opinion makes it all the more worth it) and is a simple way to feed lots of people. 

Apple strudel (makes 1 strudel):

6 or7 eating apples of your choice (I used a mix of gala and pink lady apples, crisp and sweet apples are preferable to softer varieties)
a generous handful of dried cranberries
a generous handful of mixed dried fruits (dates, sultanas, apricots - whatever you like)
3 tbsp of chopped nuts (walnuts work well, as do almonds or pistachios . I used a mix of almonds and pistachios)
1 lemon (both it's zest and juice)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
a pinch of nutmeg
3 or 4 tbsp demerara sugar
6 sheets of filo pastry
100g melted butter

Peel and grate the apples. Add the zest and juice of the lemon to the apples (zest it first as this is easier to do with a whole lemon). Set aside. 
Next, brush 1 sheet of filo with butter, layer another on top and brush with butter. Sprinkle over some sugar and cinammon. Continue with another layer of buttered filo, every two sheets of filo add a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon. (Note: you will not need all the sugar and cinnamon, you should have some left over)
Once all six sheets are piled on top of each other, spread the apple over the sheets. Squeeze out any excess liquid in the apples as you go. Now sprinkle over the remaining sugar and cinnamon plus the pinch of nutmeg. Sprinkle over the dried fruit and nuts, try to keep an even distribution of fruit and nuts across the pastry.
Carefully roll up the pastry like a Swiss roll. You do not need to roll it too tightly, but make sure the shape holds. Transfer the roll onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper brushed with butter. Finally, brush the top of the pastry roll with melted butter and sprinkle over some sugar and cinnamon. 
Bake in a pre heated oven at 180°C for at least 50 mins or until golden brown. It should take no longer than 1hr 5 mins. 

Enjoy warm with ice cream or custard, yum!

Until next time..

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