A couple weeks ago I felt an intense itch to get out of the house, so Jeremy and I headed east to our friend Trina’s farm, Mountain View Orchards, to soak up the views, wide open spaces, and pick up some fruit from their luscious peach trees. The orchard is set right against the foot of Mount Hood, so the views from the farm are as striking as those in the alps. We sat for a bit at a sunny table in the grass and enjoyed some of the cool crisp cider they brew in-house with their own apples. It felt good to sit outside someplace outside of our own yard. Really, really good. After enjoying the tickle of the cider’s bubbles on my lips, my glass eventually emptied and we made our way over to the peach groves. After a nice long walk through the fruit-studded trees, we took home a pleasantly heavy bundle of tender peaches, and I put them to use in this sweet and summery peaches and cream strudel.
In this dessert, buttery layers of filo dough encase a peachy honey custard. There’s sliced peaches on the bottom of the strudel, there’s chopped peaches mixed into the custard, plus there’s *super* thinly sliced peaches nestled into the filo dough on top. Oh! And there’s peaches cooked into the syrup that you pour over the strudel, too. It’s pretty much a creamy custardy celebration of all the flavorful magic encased in their fuzzy, tender skin. An ode to a peach, if you will.
Instead of making strudel dough from scratch, I like to keep things simple and use ready-made filo dough. As the child of a Greek immigrant, I have had a lot of experience working with filo dough and have summarized all my tips about it further down in this post. Definitely make sure to read through all of them before making this recipe. I know that filo dough can be intimidating, but I promise it’s not that bad! As long as you follow the advice I’m sharing with you, your filo experience (and your peaches and cream strudel) will be totally fine.
I will say, though, that this peaches and cream strudel isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s based off of a traditional Greek baked custard, galaktoboureko, which is one of my favorite desserts of all time, but was also created with the expectation that you were a stay-at-home mom whose sole job it was to cook for a minimum of 6 children, and would be totally okay with spending several hours tediously hunched over the counter, stovetop, and oven to create one dessert. Luckily, having ready-made filo dough saves a LOT of time, but there are still a lot of important little steps in this recipe, and a lot of nuance that goes into making it. That being said, even if your filo dough topper sinks in the custard or your peach slices are too thick and not flexible, it will still taste damn good, and in the end that’s all that really matters. 🙂
Working with Filo Dough
Thaw it Overnight in the Refrigerator — You can find ready-made filo dough frozen (usually right next to the frozen pie crusts) at your grocery store, but you need to defrost it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before using it. DO NOT defrost it at room temperature. If you try and defrost it at room temperature, moisture will condense within the package and the sheets *will* stick together, making it almost impossible to use the filo dough.
Keep it Covered, Keep it Safe — Once you’ve opened the package, the filo dough is now exposed to air and will begin drying out. I recommend keeping the pile of filo dough sheets covered with a kitchen towel while you’re working to keep them flexible and prevent them from drying out and crumbling.
Lightly Brush with Butter — Brushing the filo sheet you’re actively working with with melted butter helps keep it moist and flexible. I tell you when to brush it in the recipe below, but it’s worth mentioning here, too. I recommend using a bristled pastry brush, I feel like the silicone ones can hold onto too much butter sometimes, whereas the bristled ones distribute the butter more evenly.
Peaches and Cream Strudel
- 12 filo dough sheets (about 1/2 pound) thawed for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator if purchased frozen
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine melted
- 3 large peaches
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Peaches and Cream Custard Filling
- 2 cups whole milk or full-fat coconut milk
- 1/3 cup semolina flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs well-beaten
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or margarine
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large peach chopped
Peach Honey Syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 peach chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
Peach Honey Syrup
- Begin by making the syrup. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Strain the mixture, pressing to get all the juicy syrup out of the peaches, keeping the syrup. Cool the syrup down in an ice bath and put in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and lightly flour an 8-inch springform cake pan that's about 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep, and set it aside on a lipped baking sheet (this will catch any butter that may leak out of the bottom of your springform pan as it bakes).
- On a clean work surface, lay out your filo dough sheets in a pile and cover it with a linen or cotton towel to keep them from dying out. As you pull filo sheets from this pile, make sure to place the fabric back over the pile each time.
- Pull a sheet of filo and lay it on your surface. Brush it lightly with the melted butter, then grab another sheet of filo and place it on top of the first sheet, and lightly brush it with butter as well. Fold the two sheets of filo dough in half width-wise to make almost a square-shape. Place them over the cake pan and press them into the sides of the pan (there will be empty spots, thats okay), and any overhang is okay too.
- Repeat the previous step again, and this time place the folded filo dough in the alternate area of the pan to form a criss-cross, so that any empty spaces on the sides and bottom of the pan are covered by the filo.
- Cut two of the peaches into twelfths and place the slices on the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- We will use the filo again later, so just roll it up, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator to keep it cool and prevent it from drying out while the filo shell bakes.
Peaches and Cream Custard Filling
- While it's baking, you can begin the custard. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until warm, stirring every minute or two. Add the semolina, sugar, and the butter. Continue to cook over low heat until the mixture thickens to coat the back of the spoon, whisking every few minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk 1 cup of the hot milk mixture with the beaten eggs, adding the hot milk mixture in a thin steady stream while whisking. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and whisk constantly until it thickens a bit more, about another 3 to 5 minutes. (It should be thick enough to support the weight of the filo dough spiral we'll make without the filo dough sinking into the custard.) Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and chopped peach until combined. Set aside.
Continuing Assembly with the Strudel
- When the shell of the strudel has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and fill it with the custard. Take your filo out of the refrigerator and unroll it on a clean working surface.
- Take one sheet of filo and lay it out on the work surface and brush it lightly with the melted butter. Take another sheet of filo and place it on top of the first and brush it lightly with butter. Repeat this once more so that you have three sheets of filo layered on top of each other lightly brushed with melted butter.
- Scrunch up the filo length-wise to create a long ridged piece of filo (see the in-process photo below). Take one end of the filo and twist it to create a slight spiral shape, and set it to the side of the work surface.
- Take one sheet of filo and lay it out on the work surface and brush it lightly with the melted butter. Take another sheet of filo and place it on top of the first and brush it lightly with butter. Repeat this once more so that you have three sheets of filo layered on top of each other lightly brushed with melted butter. Scrunch up the filo length-wise to create a long ridged piece of filo. Now place the end of this filo at the end of the first piece, and twist it around the original spiral to continue the spiral shape outwards.
Take one sheet of filo and lay it out on the work surface and brush it lightly with the melted butter. Take another sheet of filo and place it on top of the first and brush it lightly with butter. You should have two sheets layered on top of each other lightly brushed with butter. Scrunch up the filo length-wise to create a long ridged piece of filo. Now place the end of this filo at the end of the first piece, and twist it around the original spiral to continue the spiral shape outwards. You should have a round spiral of filo measuring about 8 inches across. Pick this up and place/nestle it on top of the custard in the pan (it helps if you have a large pancake spatula or plate you can use to slide the spiral off of and onto the top of the custard).
- Cut the remaining peach into *very* thin slices (the thinner they are, the more flexible they will be). Tuck them into the wrinkles of the filo spiral to give the impression of flower petals. Generously brush the top of the spiral with butter, sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar, and place it in the oven to bake until the filo spiral is lightly golden and the custard is set, about 50 to 60 more minutes. (It's okay if the top tips of the filo shell get too dark, you can always break off any dark bits before serving).
- When ready, remove the pan from the oven and immediately drizzle with the cold syrup. Allow the custard to cool and absorb the syrup for 1 hour. Break off any dark edges of the filo shell, unclasp the springform pan, and slice and serve.