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IOWA SUMMER CHERRY STRUDELS…

I have been on a little cherry kick lately, it seems I am not alone with all the markets filled with ripe cherries in the produce aisle. I love cherries for so many reasons, they invoke a childlike giddiness when they make their way into my shopping basket. They epitomise summer for me since they really only come out to play during the hot summer days we wait all winter to return. When I bought these cherries at the market I remembered summers past when visiting family back in Iowa. My mother-in-law has several cherry trees on her property and every year she harvests them sitting outside in the evening shade, pitting away into big white buckets. She makes enough to freeze throughout the year, just in time for her cherry stained hands to return to normal…She pits hundreds of  these cherries and shares them with friends and family but she also makes this amazing but not-so-healthy cherry bars. I loved them so much she mailed us a care package of them one year. We still laugh today about how gruesome the package looked when we opened it (imagine, flaky flesh-colored dough with bloody looking cherries oozing out of the sides).

So I had an idea last night to make these delicious treats at home just a little healthier than the original, this recipe is an homage to her infamous cherry bars.

IOWA CHERRY STRUDEL

SUMMER CHERRY & BASIL STRUDEL WITH SUGAR GLAZE

For the filling:

2 pounds of cherries, pitted and cut in half

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cracked fresh pepper

5 leaves of fresh mint

5 leaves of fresh basil

1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the crust:

1 package of puff pastry

All purpose flour for dusting

For the egg wash:

1 farm egg

1 tsp water

For the glaze:

3 tbsp powdered sugar

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

In a large sauce pot add the cherries, honey, agave, basil, mint, salt, pepper, cardamom, & vanilla. Cook on medium high heat until the cherries are cooked but still firm. Remove them from the heat. Drain the cherries from the remaining liquid reserving the liquid and separating the cherries. Place the liquid back in the sauce pan and reduce on medium high heat until thick and syrupy.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a small bowl mix the egg and water together for the egg wash, set aside. Next, roll out the thawed puff pastry on a well floured surface. Cut out rectangles in the dough to the desired size. Once the cherries have cooled add them back to the cooled cherry syrup and give it a mix to coat the cherries once again. Place a small amount of filling in the center of each dough piece. Spread out and leave a 3/4 inch border around the edge. Brush egg wash around the edge and place another rectangle of dough with edges brushed on top. Press the edges together with a fork to crimp and seal shut. (I find it easiest to assemble them on already lined cookie sheets to avoid tearing) Then brush the tops with egg wash and bake for 30-45 minutes until the pastry has puffed and the tops are a deep golden brown.

While the strudel is baking mix the powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract together until smooth and not clumpy.

Once the strudel is finished cooking remove from the oven and allow them to fully cool on the lined cookie sheets. Once cooled plate them on a serving platter or individual plate and drizzle the sugar glaze over top. Enjoy!

Note: you can make these the day or morning before if you want to serve them to guests. Just keep them in a loosely closed container on the counter at room temperature.

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