Invariably, a bite of the perfect fig takes me back to my childhood and the monstrous fig tree at the bottom of the gate of our old country house near Bologna. It belonged to the nearby farmer, with whose children I would spend the Summer, and somehow, every September, I felt entitled to climbing up the low branches looking for the ripe figs, miraculously avoiding indigestion every time.

A Fig tartI developed an allergy to figs the year that one of the girls I used to work with in Milan brought a case of the juicy fruit into the office, where it sat next to my desk for a whole afternoon – I cannot resist what I really love and, in between phone calls and e-mails (wait, we didn’t have e-mail then, maybe faxes?!) I must have ingested two dozen figs and I only stopped because my tongue started itching. To this day, I have to eat figs in moderation before my tongue starts complaining.

But it’s actually strudel I want to talk about today, one of the nicest remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The oldest apple strudel recipe dates back to the late 1600’s but strudel didn’t gain in popularity until the middle of the18th century. With a seemingly complex dough and a juicy filling of  apples, cinnamon, sugar and raisins it can reach a crumbly perfection.

I have recently found out that the word strudel derives from the ancient German and means “whirlpool” or “eddy” probably because its shape used to be snakelike and not the straight log we are used to.

The following recipe borrows from the traditional but with the addition of Black Mission Figs and toasted almonds for added crunchiness. For the dough, I used the  lazy shortcut of puff pastry – we will keep real strudel dough for another blog.

Serve it with a blackberry compote and/or ice cream on of those crisp Autumn afternoons that are already upon us.



1 Package of frozen puff pastry, thawed
5 or 6 Fresh figs (Black Mission or the St. John or Mediterranean variety) Dried figs can be substituted
5 not too sweet and crisp apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to use Braeburn)
6 spoons of sugar (or to taste, depending on the apples)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of ground ginger
a handful of toasted almonds, finely chopped
Egg wash
1. In a large bowl combine chopped apples and figs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and almonds. MIx well with your hands.
2. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on the counter, with the wider side of the rectangle facing you.  Place the apple filling on the lower side of the rectangle, leaving about 1″ border.
3. Break one egg in a small bowl and mix it with the tines of a fork. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, brush some of the egg wash along the perimeter of the puff pastry. Fold the pastry into a log making sure the seam will be underneath. Fold the sides and tuck them under.
4. Brush the top of the strudel with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar.
5. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes or until golden.
6. Let cool and serve at room temperature or warm (you can warm it up in the oven for a few minutes – do not use the microwave or the dough will become soggy).
7. Serve with a blackberry compote or ice cream.



Filed under food

3 responses to “A WHIRLPOOL OF FIGS

  1. Giuseppina

    Oops, I suppose you were talking about my figs…



  2. Yes, it was indeed all your fault. But what a sweet memory!

  3. Ellie

    Hello Girls !! I am mortally offended – you never offered me any of those figs way back then. Or where the hell was I when you were gorging on them ?!? Peppa I do remember you bringing lots of goodies into the office – wish you were here !
    Hello Claudia – I’m so pleased you’ve started writing this blog. Will visit you on a regular basis.
    Take care

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