I have a dear obsession with orchard fruits. I can't wait to be be back in Ontario, travelling down Highway 8 from Hamilton to Niagara. My home girl Babcia beside me, talking about how much the road has changed from when she moved there 60 years ago. It will officially be summer when I bite into a fragrant peach, my hands sticky from the juice. Until then, cherries will fit the bill. Fresh from the market, they're as delicious and sweet as can be. 
This recipe from Lidia Bastianich sounds like a dream, and I plan on making it before the short cherry season is up. I think I'll skip the hand made pastry and go for the ready made stuff though. For the pastry recipe and to see a picture of the finished dessert, go to the link at the bottom of the page.

Ricotta and Cherry Strudel

The filling
Breadcrumb mixture

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unflavored dry breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons sugar

Ricotta filling
2 pounds fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably large-curd)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 pounds fresh cherries, pitted, drained, juices reserved, or two (12-ounce) packages frozen dark sweet pitted cherries (about 3 cups), thawed, drained, juices reserved
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maraschino liqueur or Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Powdered sugar

The filling
The strudel dough is sprinkled with a breadcrumb mixture and topped with drained ricotta cheese and drained cherries. The remaining cherries and juices are turned into a cherry sauce.

Breadcrumb Mixture
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir constantly until light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 6 tablespoons sugar; cool.

Ricotta filling
1. Line large strainer with double layer of cheesecloth; set over deep bowl. Place ricotta cheese in strainer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (liquid will drain from cheese; discard liquid). Transfer cheese to clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Using electric mixer, beat 1 3/4 cups sugar and 3 tablespoons butter in medium bowl. Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat until smooth and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Add drained ricotta, lemon peel, orange peel, and vanilla; beat just until blended. Refrigerate filling while preparing cherries and rolling out dough.

1. Stir drained cherries and 11/2 cups reserved juices, 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and liqueur in medium bowl; set aside at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

2. Drain cherry mixture, reserving liquid. Place 2 cups cherries on layers of paper towels; reserve remaining 1 cup cherries for sauce.

3. Transfer reserved cherry liquid to small saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 1 cup cherries. Cool sauce completely.

The dough
Strudel Shortcut
No time for making dough? Follow recipe as directed but replace the strudel dough with purchased thawed frozen phyllo sheets. You will need 32 thawed frozen phyllo sheets (14x9-inch size) from one 16-ounce package and 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted. Place large kitchen towel on work surface. Slightly overlap four 14x9-inch phyllo sheets, forming 22x17-inch rectangle atop towel. Brush with butter. Repeat 7 more times with remaining phyllo and butter, forming 8 layers total. Assemble as directed with prepared breadcrumb mixture, ricotta filling, and cherries. Roll up strudel; brush with butter. Bake at 375°F until phyllo is golden, about 1 hour.

Putting it together
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush 18x12-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. 

Brush dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over dough, leaving 1 1/2-inch border on all sides. Starting at long side closest to you, about 2 inches from edge of dough, spoon ricotta mixture lengthwise in 3-inch-wide log, leaving 3-inch plain border on short sides. Press 2 cups drained cherries lightly into top of ricotta mixture, spacing evenly.

Roll up
Starting at long side closest to you, fold up dough over filling. Gradually roll up strudel, enclosing filling completely. Fold short ends of dough under; pinch to seal.

using towel as aid, transfer strudel to prepared baking sheet, seam side down and bending into crescent or horseshoe to fit sheet. Brush 2 tablespoons melted butter over strudel. Cut several 1-inch-long 1/8-inch-deep slits along top.

Place strudel in oven; reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake until firm and light golden, about 1 hour. (strudel may crack and juices may spill onto sheet). Run thin knife under strudel to loosen. Cool on sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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18/7/2012 11:48:14 pm

I bought my first batch of local peaches last week and yesterday stopped at a roadside stand for the first local corn. God, I love this time of year. (Minus the whole melting in the heat, refusing to leave the house part of it ...)

18/7/2012 11:52:39 pm

Completely jealous! Maybe we should all go for the drive together?

19/7/2012 12:47:01 am

I think that's a great idea!

19/7/2012 12:51:51 am

Unfortunately our ideas are just theories. Babcia's going to complain that it's silly "what do I need peaches for?? My legs hurt, what if I have to go pee?" etc., etc..

19/7/2012 02:33:18 am

Then you can continue your drive to my house and i can help you eat it all :)

19/7/2012 05:32:41 pm

I love it too!

19/7/2012 10:02:10 am

I *love* that answer Prego!!!!!!!!

sarah ...
19/7/2012 11:41:44 pm

By then you will have a baby to snuggle .. its well worth the trip !


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