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Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Strudel

These are the fastest savory slice-and-bake cookies on the block. The pastry is store-bought phyllo dough, and the filling is made in just a few minutes in a food processor. They are festive and hearty hors d’oeuvres, and their golden orange color flecked with green chives brightens any table.

Since phyllo pastry contains only flour and water, it acts the same way a flour-and-water paste does if allowed to dry out: it gets hard. The simple solution is to keep the unused stack of phyllo pastry covered with plastic wrap and a clean, damp dish towel as you work. If kept covered, the sheets of phyllo remain soft, pliable, and a pleasure to use. You’ll find phyllo pastry in the freezer section near the piecrusts. One last tip: Defrosting the phyllo in its packaging in the refrigerator overnight before will help ensure that the sheets don’t stick together.

Measuring & preparation time 10 minutes

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

5 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped

15 large basil leaves

1 egg

1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

8 oz/255 g cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup/60 ml sour cream

12 sheets phyllo dough, 12 in/30.5 cm long and 8 in/20 cm wide

Directions

In a small frying pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, garlic, and basil until finely chopped. Add the egg, flour, salt, and pepper and process just until the egg is blended into the mixture. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl.

Put the stack of phyllo sheets on a work surface and cover with plastic wrap and a clean, damp dish towel. Place one phyllo sheet on a work surface with a long side facing you. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the phyllo with the butter mixture. Repeat with two more sheets, then top with a fourth sheet. Leaving a bare edge 1 in/2.5 cm wide along the bottom and sides of the phyllo, spoon one-third of the cream cheese mixture in a strip 1 1/2 in/4 cm wide along the bottom edge of the phyllo. Fold the sides of the phyllo in to enclose the edges of the filling, then roll the strudel up tightly. Lightly brush the top with the butter mixture. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and cream cheese mixture to make two more strudels.

The strudels are ready to bake, or wrap them in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months. Frozen strudel does not need to be defrosted before baking.

When ready to bake the strudels, position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas 5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the strudels 2 in/5 cm apart and seam-side down on the baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to score the top of the strudel at 1-in/2.5-cm intervals, cutting through the pastry but not into the filling. This makes it easier to slice the baked strudel.

Bake until golden on top, about 30 minutes, or if using frozen strudel, about 35 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the strudels to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a sharp knife to cut each strudel into pieces where scored. Serve warm.

If serving the strudels at a party, bake one at a time for a continuous supply of warm strudel, or cover baked strudel loosely with aluminum foil and keep it warm for up to 1 hour in an oven preheated to 225°F/110°C/gas 1/4.

Choices

Vary the ingredients and seasonings in the cream cheese filling; for example, season the cream cheese with basil, lemon zest, and garlic, or substitute chopped and sautéed onion, using 1 large onion, instead of the sun-dried tomatoes. Basically, you can use any combination of herbs and vegetables that is appealing.

Makes 24

Recipe courtesy Slice & Bake Cookies by Elinor Klivans, Chronicle Books. Photo credit Yunhee Kim.

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