Have you ever heard of a Sand Hill plum before? Perhaps, a Chickasaw plum? If you haven't, take comfort in knowing that you aren't alone. Until this week, I hadn't heard of them either.
These small, tart and astringent plums are native to Kansas, where I live. They are so called because they grow naturally in sandy soil, which is a bit of an oddity for fruit-bearing trees. They are excellent for windbreakers in fields and atop hills, and even better for the wildlife as songbirds cannot get enough of them. If you love birdwatching and have some sandy soil, may I suggest the Sand Hill plum for your landscape?
These are smaller than your average plum found in in the grocery store, but you may be lucky to find these kind in the farmer's market. These kind of plums are tart, astringent, but have a bright and complex flavor which makes them unique. I love stone fruits because they are most-excellent for canning, jams, pie fillings, and toppers for ice cream.
When I was given these in my CSA share, I admit I didn't know what I wanted to do with them. Oh, sure, you could make yourself a jam or a pie, but that market seemed a bit oversaturated in those kinds of recipes. I didn't just want to make it a syrup or sauce. I wanted so much to make the plum the star of the show, while also showing something fun that maybe not everybody has thought of before. No matter what, you're going to need to process them with quite a bit of sugar, which means there will be some beautiful syrup. This does scream pie! But what is similar to pie without being pie?
And then it hit me...
I know that this is one of those highly regional dishes that everyone does a little differently. I learned how to make strudel many years ago when I worked at a German place. I didn't even really know what it was supposed to look like until I started working there, but I hope I was quick to pick it up. Since then, I didn't make it at home because it was honestly such an ordeal...
Strudel dough is difficult because it must be paper-thin and you need a lot of room to roll it out. I think I've figured out a way to do it, however, in a home setting with only one section of the counter available to roll out. Here's how I did it!
- 150 g AP flour
- 10 g sugar
- 14 g oil
- 80 g warm water
- Melted butter, as needed (I use vegan butter!)
- 430 g (two pints) sandhill plums, pitted
- 200 g sugar
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 2 Tbsp AP flour
- 1 medium pink lady apple, julienned
- Warmed honey, as needed
To start, make the filling by pitting your plums. Sandhill plums are pretty darn small so I find the easiest way to make quick work of them is to use a cherry pitter. You can find these in almost any kitchen store. Once you make work of that, add the sugar and toss them around until wholly coated. Let this sit for an hour or so to really soak up and leach out the moisture. Add the cardamom and pop in a pot.
Bring your mixture to a boil and add the flour, stirring vigorously. When the flour cooks to get it to be thick, add the julienned apples. I ran them through a mandolin to make it easy, but of course, you can make a knife work as well. Let your filling sit in the fridge to thicken and cool.
To make the dough, add your flour, sugar, oil, and water to the bowl of a standing mixer and knead with a dough hook for 10 minutes. Wrap the dough tightly in clingfilm and allow to rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes, ideally two hours. Many will tell you that the longer you let it rest, the better and easier it will be to stretch, and that is true. Hydration of the flour granules over time plus the relaxation of the gluten will allow you to get a much larger stretch and a more pleasant and less tough dough. If I'm being honest, though, I've never noticed much difference in a thirty minute rest versus an overnight rest. Maybe I'm just freaky strong with a rolling pin? Or maybe my hands are warm? Anyway...
For the rolling of the dough, which will give the strudel its signature flake, you must have a large, clean tea towel or linen tablecloth, plenty of flour, and plenty of room. I can only describe this next part in video form. I'll try my best to describe it, though...
Flour your linen on a smooth surface. I like to use this patterned tea towel because I want it thin enough to see the pattern through the dough. Oh, and if you're wearing any jewelry, take it off now. You might also want to give your nails a trim just to be sure. Here's how you do it.
Lay your tea towel/linen/cloth of choice on your rolling surface and grab a cup of flour. Fling a layer of flour all over your hands, your rolling pin, and your cloth. Lay out your dough and start rolling. Do your best to roll it in a rectangular shape. For the first few rolls, be generous with the flour and keep on picking up the dough and flipping it over, much like you would do for a pizza. You want to be a little rough with the dough to start. When it starts getting thinner, keep on adding flour and start rolling out at the edges. Once it's about 1/8" thick, you can start using your hands.
Check out this ASMR-style Reel
I did of this!
Gently begin to stretch your dough from beneath the surface with the back of your hands. You're not going to want to use a lot of pressure, but just allow the dough to relax over your skin as you gently stretch. Work from the edges and work slowly and carefully. Eventually, you're going to be able to stretch it to the size of your tea towel with the goal of seeing the pattern of the tea towel through the dough.
When your dough is thin enough, you're going to spread melted butter all over the surface of the dough using a brush. Be gentle; your dough is paper thin!
Next, spread your filling in a log near the top edge of the dough, leaving about half an inch of allowance to use to start your roll. (Imagine a cinnamon roll situation!) Finally, you're going to fold over the filling by picking up the far edge of the towel and roll everything towards you. let the dough roll over on itself and make a log of layers. You're essentially making a roll-up! The paper-thin dough will stretch even further and the butter will create flaky deliciousness as it bakes.
Brush the top of the roll with butter and pop it in the fridge. You want this to be cold when you bake it, and for the butter to solidify.
When you're ready to bake, you'll want to make sure that your strudel is cold and your oven is hot at 375 degrees F. Sprinkle some sugar on top for an extra little bit of crunch and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden-brown and delicious. While the strudel is still warm, drizzle honey straight on top. I know this seems excessive, but trust me - sand hill plums are quite tart and incredibly astringent.
Allow to cool and serve with some ice cream, whipped cream, or powdered sugar. I love this recipe because the pleasant sour of the plums balances beautifully with the fragrance of the cardamom and floral sweetness of the honey. You can also enjoy this just with some extra honey and a good book.
My husband and son both loved this, even though one of them is a little picky (it's not the baby) to stone fruits. (Do not feed honey to a baby. I simply gave the baby a spoonful of the cooked filling with a little bit of simple syrup to counter the sourness. Please be careful because I don't want to hear about any babies getting botulism.) I think a strudel is an excellent dessert to have in the summer. It has a crunchy, flaky outside with a beautiful fruit-filled inside, and just screams "summer" to me.
I hope you've enjoyed spending a bit of your day or night with me. I hope that I've inspired you to give this a go, if not with Sand hill plums then with the kind of plums you can easily access. Like a pie, a strudel is but a vessel for amazing flavor. As always, thanks so much to my friends at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road
for being awesome. I hope you can find a farm near you to support. Don't forget to check me out on Instagram
if you want to know more. Happy cooking and happy eating!
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