I Love Chocolate

by Stephanie Zonis


Brownie Strudel

3 strudel rolls for 18 pieces total,
about 8 to 16 servings


Want to talk about cross-cultural influences on desserts? Phyllo dough, which forms the wrapping for these strudels, is traditionally associated with Greek pastries. Brownies are very American, but these include some typical Mexican flavors. This strudel must be served warm (it loses appeal when at room temperature). With the accompanying chocolate drizzle and some good ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, this dessert looks very pretty.

I can only find phyllo frozen in local markets, so that is how I buy it. Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, then let it stand, unopened, at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Once it is opened, you must take care not to let it dry out; being able to work quickly is essential. Note that the brownie filling for the strudel must chill for 2 hours (though I don't think longer chilling would hurt it). This dessert can be made a day or two ahead and stored airtight at room temperature, or the whole strudels can be frozen for longer storage; see below for reheating instructions. I would cut the warm strudel in front of guests, as some of the crisp, fragile phyllo will shatter when you slice it, and this adds to the effect. In any case, these strudels are very delicate, and must be handled with great care.


12 leaves phyllo dough, each about
   17" long by 12" wide, at room temperature
About 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Brownie Filling:
1 oz. good-quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 oz. good-quality bitersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
1/4 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Few grinds finely ground black pepper
Pinch salt
1 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 tsp. hot water
2 eggs, graded "large"
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, divided

Chocolate Drizzle:
2 ozs. good-quality bittersweet chocolate,
   finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream

For Serving:
Chocolate Drizzle
Ground cinnamon
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Good-quality ice cream (vanilla or coffee)
Toasted, cooled pecan halves


For Chocolate Drizzle:
In small bowl, combine chopped chocolate and heavy cream. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water. Cool briefly, then chill until needed, covering tightly when cold.

For Brownie Filling:
In small bowl, combine chopped unsweetened chocolate, chopped bittersweet chocolate, and butter. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); whisk often until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water. Add cocoa powder, cinnamon, pepper, and salt; whisk in well until lumps are gone. Set aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dissolve instant coffee in hot water in small cup; set aside. Place eggs in medium bowl; add brown sugar, breaking up any lumps by hand or with back of spoon. When chocolate mixture has cooled 10 to 15 minutes, add vanilla and dissolved coffee to egg-sugar mixture. By hand, beat until well-mixed, about one minute. Add chocolate mixture (which should still be a bit warm) and stir in until combined. Stir in flour until partially incorporated, then add miniature chips and stir just until they are evenly distributed. (The nuts will be added after chilling.)

Divide the brownie mixture into thirds, using about 2/3 cup for each, and place the thirds into three small bowls. Chill 2 hours, uncovered. During this time, have the nuts chopped, and divide them into equal thirds, placing each third in a separate small bowl or cup. Cover and store at room temperature. Have ready a large baking sheet (mine measures 17" long by 12" wide); line the bottom with baking parchment cut to fit or aluminum foil. Have ready four cotton (not terrycloth) dishtowels, each larger than 17" by 12" (if necessary, heavy-duty aluminum foil can substitute for two of the dishtowels). Have ready a soft pastry brush. You will need a large, flat work surface, so get one ready. Adjust oven rack to center position.

When the brownie mixture has chilled for two hours, you can start assembly. If you lined your baking sheet with aluminum foil, grease the foil with solid vegetable shortening or a bit of unsalted butter, then grease the sides of the baking sheet. If you used baking parchment, just butter or grease the sides (though you might want to place a few small dabs of shortening on the sheet under the baking parchment to hold it in place). Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lay out the dishtowels for the phyllo sheets: place two towels next to one another on your work surface. Dampen the remaining two towels (they should be damp, but not wet); place one near the two towels you've laid out and one near the prepared baking sheet. If you're substituting heavy-duty aluminum foil for any of the towels, use it for the two (dry) towels laid out next to one another on your work surface. In a small pot over low heat, melt the butter, stirring often, and pour it into a small cup. Remove the bowls of brownie filling from the refrigerator; stir one portion of nuts into each bowl (the brownie mixture will be very thick). Place the melted butter, bowls of brownie mixture, pastry brush, a rubber spatula, and a 12" ruler near the two dry towels.

Open the phyllo dough. Gently lay it out flat on one of the dry towels. From now on, you MUST work quickly but carefully. Gently separate 12 sheets from the stack in front of you; transfer them, as one pile, to the other dry towel. Immediately place one of the dampened dishtowels on top of this stack. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the remaining phyllo leaves, then loosely roll up and place in a two-gallon plastic bag. Close airtight and refrigerate for other use.

To Form A Strudel:
Pull back the dampened dishtowel from the stack of 12 phyllo sheets. Gently remove the top sheet and place it on the now-empty other dry dishtowel (immediately replace the damp dishtowel to cover the remaining 11 sheets). Dip the pastry brush into the melted butter, and brush the outer edges of the phyllo sheet with it, then lightly brush the rest of the sheet. Repeat with three more phyllo sheets, to form a stack of four, each brushed with melted butter. Make sure you re-cover the remaining phyllo sheets with the dampened dishtowel each time you remove one to your stack.

Take one bowl of brownie filling; place the filling by spoonfuls in a strip about 2" from one long edge of the phyllo. The strip should be about 12" long, centered with respect to the nearest long edge of the phyllo sheet, and as even as possible. Working from the long edge closest to the filling, gently fold the phyllo stack over on top of the filling to enclose it (you may have to roll/fold the dough over once or twice more to enclose the filling completely). When the filling is completely enclosed, brush a bit more butter on the two short edges of the phyllo stack. Fold each short edge in to the point where the filling strip stops, and pat gently so it will stick. Continue to roll/fold the phyllo stack toward the opposite long edge; when you are about 2" away, stop. Brush more butter onto the remaining 2" section, especially the edges, before you finish rolling the phyllo stack all the way. When the roll is completed, VERY GENTLY pick it up slightly (use one hand near each end) and expose the seam; brush a bit more butter onto that, and make sure it's closed. Again, GENTLY pick up the roll with both hands and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet so that it is parallel with, and about 2" in from, a long edge of the sheet. Brush generously all over with the melted butter, then cover with the second dampened dishtowel (thought I'd forgotten about it, didn't you?). Repeat this process twice more; you'll end up with three beautiful strudels. Make sure you leave room on the baking sheet between each strudel.

Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes, then turn baking sheet back-to-front. Bake 5 to 10 minutes longer (total baking time is 20 to 25 minutes), until a light golden brown all over. If any filling leaks out while the strudels are baking (this happens occasionally), don't worry about it. Remove strudels from oven.

If filling has leaked out from a strudel, gently cut it away with a knife. Place a broad-bladed pancake turner or metal spatula under one short end of one strudel. Fold a length of paper towel to protect your other hand, then place the folded paper towel on top of the strudel; between spatula and your other hand, gently lift the strudel roll onto a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining two strudels. Cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving, or cool completely and store airtight at room temperature for up to two days.

To serve the strudel, you must reheat it if it has cooled to room temperature. To do so, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Place the strudel roll(s) gently and carefully on the sheet. Reheat for 10 to 15 minutes; they may become a slightly darker golden brown, and the outside will feel uncomfortably warm to the touch. You can reheat already cut pieces of strudel, too; follow above directions, but heat the pieces only 5 to 8 minutes. Frozen whole rolls should be defrosted at room temperature, still in wrappings, before being heated as above. While strudel reheats, place the Chocolate Drizzle in a small heatproof bowl. Place bowl over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl) and stir often just until Drizzle is melted and warm. Remove from heat and hot water.

If working with whole rolls, gently and carefully lift the warm strudel roll onto a cutting board. With a large, very sharp, serrated knife, using a sawing motion, cut each roll on the diagonal into six pieces; you'll have to rinse the knife blade under hot water and dry it after every cut. Place one or two pieces on each serving plate. (If working with cut pieces, skip the previous step.) Drizzle a small amount of the slightly warmed Chocolate Drizzle on top of each piece, then top with a pinch of ground cinnamon. Add a scoop of ice cream or some lightly sweetened whipped cream and some pecan halves, and serve immediately with a knife and fork.


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This page created April 1999