The best Hungarian bakery in New York City, now sadly out of business, was near my apartment. Their mouth-watering strudels included traditional apple, cheese and ones filled with vegetables, including spinach or carrot. Cabbage strudel, mildly sweet and studded with raisins, was my favorite until recently, when I discovered this indulgent pairing of banana and chocolate.
Flaky and crisp outside, inside its finely chopped chocolate melts as this treat bakes. Crunchy, creamy and sigh inducing, the result is surprisingly sensible, nutritionally speaking.
Paper-thin phyllo dough is sold frozen in most food markets. Usually it is used to cover a savory filling like spinach with feta to make the Greek spinach pie, spanakopita, or to layer with nuts for sweet baklava.
Using phyllo requires a particular technique. Here, I simplify what you need to do in several ways. First, you use just one layer rather than stacking several sheets. Using oil to coat the phyllo keeps it pliable and lets you skip using butter. Brushing phyllo with oil also assures you get nicely separated layers, which cooking spray does not do. Sprinkling panko over the phyllo also helps you get lovely, fine layers.
Follow theses simple but essential steps, and even if you are a beginner with phyllo, you’ll bask in success.
- Defrost the frozen phyllo in the refrigerator, and then bring it to room temperature in the package.
- Keep the stack of unrolled sheets covered with a large barely moist, well wrung out dishtowel.
- Recover the phyllo after removing each sheet. Do not skip this step. Even an edge left uncovered will curl up, crack and shatter as fast as you can blink.
- Arrange the oil and brush, bowl with panko and spoon, grated chocolate and spoon in a row above the space where you will assemble each roll.
- Practice separating a sheet of phyllo from the stack, laying it out, replacing the towel over the stack, brushing the phyllo with oil and sprinkling on panko. Lift up an edge and fold it over. Don’t bother to add filling since this is for practice, but do fold in the edges to get the feel of doing it. Expect possible cracked edges, tears or dough drying out. Trust me that they do not matter. Practice a few more times to get the quick rhythm of filling and folding the phyllo.
When making the actual chocolate banana strudel, after applying the egg wash, you can either bake them or wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. When ready to bake, pop them in the oven without defrosting.
Chocolate Banana Strudel
- Cooking spray
- 8 9" x 14" sheets phyllo pastry*
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 8 Tbsp. whole-wheat panko
- 3 oz. dark chocolate 72 percent, finely chopped – until it resembles grated chocolate, divided
- 4 just-ripe large bananas peeled and halved crosswise
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
- 8 large fresh strawberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
Place a sheet of phyllo with narrow end toward you. Brush it lightly with oil. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon panko over phyllo. Set a banana half 2 inches above bottom of phyllo. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chocolate over and around banana. Lifting bottom edge of phyllo up over banana, roll it over, covering banana. Fold in sides, then finish rolling banana in phyllo. Transfer phyllo roll to prepared baking sheet. Repeat, wrapping remaining banana halves. Brush top, sides and ends of phyllo rolls liberally with beaten egg. Using small, sharp knife, make 2 diagonal slits in phyllo to let steam escape. Discard remaining egg.
Bake phyllo rolls for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool baked phyllo rolls on baking sheet for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut bottom tip off each strawberry. Placing strawberry with bottom toward you and rotating blade of a sharp knife at 45-degrees, make 4 or 5 vertical cuts from base to near top, just below hull. Gently press on strawberry to fan out slices.
To serve, transfer warm phyllo rolls to individual dessert plates. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon grated chocolate over each roll. Place a fanned strawberry on plate, and serve.
*If you can find only 13" x 18" sheets, cut in half to make 13" by 9" sheets
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.
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Photographs by Heather Victoria Photography