Apple-Cranberry Strudel Pie

by on December 8, 2010
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Apple-Cranberry Strudel Pie

I have two modes of recipe development: carefree, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants and methodically planned.  When I’m working with everyday ingredients that I know are hard to mess up, I’m likely to get into the kitchen with only a vague idea of what I expect the final outcome to be and add seasonings and ingredients on instinct; most of my soups and stews are created this way.  When I’m baking or working with an ingredient that is new to me or that can be temperamental, like phyllo, I tend to be more cautious.  I research the ingredients, look at other recipes to get approximate cooking times, plan out what I want to do, and jot down a working recipe.  When I take the recipe to the kitchen, amounts may change and ingredients may be added to taste, but I usually follow the general outline of my working recipe–unless something unexpected happens.  In the case of this recipe, the unexpected happened and changed my strudel into a “strudel pie.”

My plan was to roll up an apple-cranberry filling in phyllo dough, but after I’d gotten all my ingredients laid out, ready to roll, I unwrapped my newly-thawed phyllo dough and found that I had bought small sheets of phyllo rather than large ones.  As I laid them out and covered them over with a damp tea towel to keep them from drying out, I realized that I’d never be able to roll all of the apples I’d prepared in such small sheets of pastry.  I could make a bunch of sushi-sized rolls, but what a lot of work for sushi-sized strudel! So I made a snap decision to bake my strudel as a sort of pie, grabbed the nearest baking dish (which turned out to be a little too small), and began layering instead of wrapping.

If you’re not used to working with phyllo dough, there are a few things you should know:

  1. Most phyllo is sold frozen, and it must be thawed before using. It’s easiest to do this in the refrigerator overnight. The brand I use, Athens, comes divided into two packages inside the box, so I put one of them into the fridge the night before and left the other in the freezer for later use.  If you don’t get around to using the defrosted phyllo, it will keep, sealed, in the fridge for 30 days.
  2. As soon as you open and start to unroll the phyllo, it will begin to dry out. Lay it out flat and immediately cover it with a lightly moistened–but not too damp–towel. If the towel is too damp it will make the dough soggy, so be careful.
  3. Recipes will tell you that you must coat each sheet of phyllo with melted butter or margarine. Don’t believe them! Those people just like the taste of butter or margarine.  Some recipes call for an entire stick of butter to be brushed on the dough, making what could have been a low-fat dish into a heart attack on a plate.  I like to sprinkle something between the layers to keep them separate and flaky, but I don’t use oil or margarine except for on the top layer, to prevent it from drying out during baking.  (The calories and fat from a two-second spray of canola oil are included in the nutritional stats of this recipe. Even with the fat in the phyllo and spray, this dessert still comes out with only 10% calories from fat.)
  4. Phyllo is also spelled “Fillo” so don’t be confused by my old-fashioned spelling!



Even if you’re new to phyllo, I hope you’ll give this delicious pie a try.  I used sweet apples (rather than the tart cooking apples so many recipes call for) to add natural sweetness, and the cranberries provide small bursts of tartness.  Because working with phyllo can be intimidating, I’m including photos of the process as well as a diagram of the layers that you can follow, from the bottom-up.

Apple-Cranberry Strudel Pie

Apple-Cranberry Strudel Pie

(printer-friendly version)

Have all of your ingredients mixed and ready before you remove the phyllo dough from the package. Keep it covered with a barely damp tea towel while you work, and wrap up the leftover dough and refrigerate it immediately when you’ve finished.

Ingredients

12 9×14-inch sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
2 tablespoons walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons oatmeal
1 1/2 pounds Honeycrisp apples (or other crisp apples), peeled, cored, and diced (about 4 cups or 3-4 apples)
1/2 cup coarse sugar, such as demerara or raw sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached white flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup cranberries
2-second spray canola oil or non-stick spray
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a rectangular baking dish with oil or non-stick spray.

Place the nuts and oatmeal in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Coarsely-ground nuts and oatmeal

Coarsely-ground nuts and oatmeal

In a large bowl, toss together the apples, raw sugar, flour, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cranberries. Mix the 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl.

Working with two phyllo sheets at a time and keeping the others covered to prevent them from drying out, place two sheets into the dish. (If sheets are too big for the dish, coax the edges into standing upright along the sides of the pan, but don’t stress about it.)

Layering phyllo sheets and nut mixture

Layering phyllo sheets and nut mixture

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the nuts/oatmeal. Repeat this twice, for a total of 6 sheets. Arrange the apple mixture on top of the 6th sheet.

Apple-cranberry filling added

Apple-cranberry filling added

Cover it with 2 sheets of phyllo, tuck the excess edges under, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of nuts/oatmeal. Repeat 2 more times for a total of 6 sheets on top of the apples. Spray the top sheet lightly with canola oil and lightly cut through the top layers of phyllo to form 8 equal pieces.

Cutting through the top layers of phyllo

Cutting through the top layers of phyllo

Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Strudel layers diagram

Diagram of strudel layers

Bake until the phyllo is golden and the apples are just tender (but not mushy) when pierced with the tip of a knife, 40 to 50 minutes. Allow baking dish to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve warm. Reheat leftovers in toaster oven or regular oven, not microwave, to maintain flakiness.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s) | Cooking time: 50 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Nutrition Facts

Nutrition (per serving): 188 calories, 19 calories from fat, 2.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 71.2mg sodium, 171.6mg potassium, 31g carbohydrates, 1.9g fiber, 25.3g sugar, <1g protein, 3.5 points.

Anticipating Your Questions:

Q: What size pan did you use?

A: I used a 6 1/2 by 9 1/2-inch pan, which turned out to be a little small.  I recommend something slightly larger, up to a 9×13-inch pan (which may be a little too big).

Q: Can this be made gluten-free?

A: I felt guilty creating this recipe because I didn’t want to make my gluten-free readers feel deprived. Phyllo depends on gluten to enable it to stretch into such thin layers, so there’s no such thing as gluten-free phyllo dough.  However, the apple filling would be delicious baked in your favorite gluten-free pie crust.

Q: Can I use agave nectar or maple syrup instead of the sugar?

A: Not unless you want a very soggy pie!  I used sugar because you need to keep the moisture down with working with phyllo.  Too much liquid will make it soggy instead of flaky.

Q: Can I use brown sugar or regular sugar instead of the raw sugar and molasses?

A: Yes. But–many vegans do not use brown sugars or granulated sugars because most are filtered using animal products (that don’t actually remain in the sugar). It’s your call.  I added a little molasses to give my pie more of that brown sugar flavor, so leave it out if you use brown sugar.

Q: Can I make this sugar-free?

A: You can experiment with using stevia or other sugar-free sweeteners, but I haven’t tested a sugar-free version.

Q: Can I use dried cranberries instead of fresh?

A: Yes. Since dried cranberries almost always contain added sugar, you may be able to decrease the sugar a little.

Q: Can I use Red Delicious or another type of apple?

A: If you want.  I prefer the texture and sweetness of crisp apples like Honeycrisp, Sweet Tango, Pink Lady, and Ambrosia, but use your own judgment.

Q: What should I do with the leftover phyllo?

A: How about make a Spinach-Artichoke Pie?!

Q: I have all of the ingredients except for phyllo, apples, cranberries, and sugar.  Can I substitute phyllo with flour tortillas, apples with pears, cranberries with canned pineapple, and sugar with stevia?

A: You’re on your own!

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom December 8, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I have yet to find a phillo dough that does not contain oils, and most some kinda trans-fat (partially hydrogenated oil). Even the whole foods store carries a phillo but containing oil so I have stayed away being more on the Esselstyn side of the equation. Did you find a phillo w/o oil?

Replacement ideas if not using phillo?

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2 SusanV December 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Tom, the Athens brand has 1.5 grams of fat per 5 sheets, uses canola oil not shortening (phyllo should never contain shortening because it “shortens” the gluten strands that make it sturdy), and no trans fat. So the phyllo contributes 3.6 grams of fat for the entire pan, or .45 grams per serving.

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3 Carolyn @ EatWell. LiveWell. BeWell. December 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Great looking recipes.

I chucked when I saw your “anticipating your questions.”

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4 Mark December 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I picked up a nice trick from something Bryanna Clark Grogan wrote: you can use a food brush and a little soy milk on sheets of phyllo to get that “butter” effect.

As I recall, the amount of oil in most commercial Phyllo isn’t TOO bad…

Works! Best regards, Mark

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5 SusanV December 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’ve always found that makes the sheets soggy, but to each his or her own!

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6 Lisa A. December 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I have all of the ingredients in my fridge! I just bough phyllo dough couple weeks ago and still didn’t give it a try. And I have leftover fresh cranberries after I made orange cranberry bread with walnuts. My only question that you didn’t cover is: Is it necessary to cut everything before it goes into the oven? If so, do you cut the bottom layer of phyllo as well?

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7 SusanV December 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Good question! :) Cutting the top layer beforehand makes the pieces much more attractive and less crumbly. You don’t have to go all the way through to the bottom. If you cut it after it’s cooked, it will crumble rather than cut cleanly.

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8 SusanV December 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm

P.S. You see the jagged edges in the photos? Those are places that missed being cut before baking.

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9 Krissy December 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This looks absolutely delicious! This is definitely going on my list of the fat-free vegans recipes to try out. Are you going to be doing a cookbook?

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10 SusanV December 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Eventually. :)

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11 Angie December 9, 2010 at 5:09 am

Hurrah! I’m ready for my copy ASAP! ;-)

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12 Meredith December 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm

This looks awesome! I’ve never worked with phyllo but I may have to buy some and make this soon! I love apple deserts.

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13 Sally December 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I love your last question and answer!

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14 Sukey Blanc December 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Very cool. I signed up for your feed last summer, but hadn’t gotten around to looking at your recipes. I just offered to make an apple-cranberry crisp for a party at work, so this caught my eye. Maybe I’ll be adventurous and try phyllo!

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15 Gluten Free Diva December 9, 2010 at 7:41 am

I love your diagram of the strudel layers! Clever and so helpful. Someday, I’m going to make gluten free phyllo (or fillo) and then this pie will be a snap to make. Thank you!

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16 Rachel December 9, 2010 at 8:24 am

What a delicious result of your quick thinking in the kitchen!
Incidents like your phyllo mix-up seem to happen to me all the time. About half the time I end up with something so-so or a total disaster and the other half lead to marvelous discoveries!

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17 Dawn December 9, 2010 at 9:48 am

That last anticipated question so funny!!! This looks great and I will definitely try it. FFV inspired me several times in the past week. I made an easy white bean soup and the whole time I thought of your Ridiculously Easy recipes. And then a variation of your Layered Italian Vegetable Casserole. So yummy–every time. Thanks for your creativity!!

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18 jess December 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

I think this Q & A is both genius, thoughtful, and entertaining. <3

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19 Amy December 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I was so excited to try this recipe because I absolutely hate brushing all those layers of phyllo – it makes every recipe take ten times as long. I’m not a big fan of cranberries, so I subbed 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots instead. OMG! It is so good! I’m already planning some kind of mixed berry version. In the meantime, I can’t stop eating this one. Thank you – there’s nothing like taking that first bite of something and it’s so good, it makes you groan. This is one of those recipes.

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20 pb December 10, 2010 at 1:55 am

I like the last question the best..lol..

Fabulous detail and a delish dessert..
thanks susan!

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21 Elana December 10, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Ok, first, this pie looks amazing. Second, you are hilarious. I love the part about the substitutions. Can you come over to my blog and write something funny like that to some of those types of questions?! ;-)

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22 SusanV December 11, 2010 at 8:33 am

Thanks, Elana! If I ever get a break from them over here, I’ll consider it! ;-)

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23 Yasmine (mypurplegrape) December 15, 2010 at 3:05 am

Hey Susan,

All your recipies are so great! I just wanted to let you know that I often come here for inspiration!! I love how you give a breakdown at the end of each recipe and tips on how to tailor them to different types of diets

Love Yas Xx

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24 Dawn December 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

Wow this looks amazing! I found your site as I’m searching for oven fried green tomato recipes and came across this one. I love baked fruit desserts and with this healthified by using the phyllo….perfect!

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25 Row Food Diet December 21, 2010 at 7:31 am

Wow! This looks so perfect! I can’t wait to make some for myself!

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26 susan December 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

Hey this looks amazing…will dry cranberries work????

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27 Fay Pugh December 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Wow this looks amazing! I found your site as I’m searching for oven fried green tomato recipes and came across this one. I love baked fruit desserts and with this healthified by using the phyllo….perfect!

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28 Lex December 26, 2010 at 9:56 am

You could probably have just brushed unsweetened applesauce on top instead of the spray oil? Looks divine, though!

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29 Stef January 6, 2011 at 8:04 am

Your last question/answer cracked me up! And yet, I know those types of questions surface; people are too funny. Thanks for your blog!

http://smilekiddo.wordpress.com/
http://savorysundays.wordpress.com/

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30 Beth January 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

They sell coconut oil in spray form now, and that would be super delicious as the top spray here. I love it for spraying muffin tins and stuff, for that subtle coconut smell.

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31 Get Skinny, Go Vegan. February 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

This looks SO good. Love cranberries. Just waiting for a gluten free phylo!! Or if I make it for my hubby I can smell and touch, but not taste, so truly!! fat-free for me!
Did make a GF apple/cranberry pie raw once and it was awesome, except the psyillium was a little hard on the gut, vegans really don’t need any more fiber :)

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32 Get Skinny, Go Vegan. March 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Oh I want this now with a cup of coffee. You might actually inspire me to make something sweet instead of sitting here pretending I can live without sweets!

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33 Lisa March 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

Thanks for anticipating my question about the dried cranberries – I can’t find fresh right now in my local grocery stores, so I’ll have to make do with dried. I can’t wait to try this tonight! I made the artichoke pie last week so have some extra phyllo. Thanks for all the great recipes!

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34 lea December 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

This looks delicious and I would like to make it for my family Christmas celebration. Susan, could this possibly be prepared the day before? Should I make it, take it, and bake it at my destination? Or make it, bake it, and maybe reheat in the oven at my destination? I have never worked with phyllo before, but this looks toooo yummy! Thank You!

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35 Susan Voisin December 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I’m not really sure what would be the best way to proceed. I think of all those choices, I would make it ahead but not bake it until right before serving. Also, you might consider doing everything except putting the top layer of phyllo on the day before and then put the phyllo and sugar on right before baking.

Phyllo is so tricky. If it’s not drying out, it’s getting soggy!

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36 JoAnne September 16, 2012 at 7:19 am

I diced (pretty small) 8 cups of sweet apples from the tree in our yard and added 1 cup thawed cranberries (from Thanksgiving!) and used a large 9 X 13 glass pan. Then I doubled all of the rest of the ingredients, except the sugar. The apples were so sweet that they did not require that much sugar. I also only used two sheets of phyllo on top, because that’s all I had left. It turned out great! I have some photos of it, but don’t want to sign up for Gravatar.

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37 Mari-Ann December 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm

To ask Tom’s question again….where do you find a phyllo dough with no oil in order to follow Dr. Essy’s NO OIL! plans?

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38 Susan Voisin December 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Mari-Ann, I’m afraid there is no fat-free phyllo dough. All phyllo dough contains oil, though the 12 sheets in this recipe contribute less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving.

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39 Kate December 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Susan, this looks delicious!

Your last question in your anticipation section is hysterical.

Have a happy Christmas Season!

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40 janzy September 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

Having not worked with Phyllo before I am wondering if I can make this the night before and then cook the next day. I have an event that I do not have prep time before cooking it

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41 Susan Voisin September 25, 2014 at 11:35 am

I haven’t ever prepared it ahead, and my fear is that the phyllo will get soggy or dried out. If you try it, cover it tightly before refrigerating it.

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