This may sound like just another one of those wonderful regional specialty desserts to you but it is extremely nostalgic and very precious for us. It is one of my Grandmother’s amazingly delicious specialties. It is so much more than just a dessert. It is a feast by itself, with the power of gathering the whole family at my Granma’s house at least a couple of times  or probably even more often than that, every winter. I remember from my childhood that my Grandma used to make very different dishes and baked goods, which most other people we knew had never heard of before. This was because my grandparents had immigrated from Bulgaria when they were young and they settled in Turkey. This pumpkin strudel was one of my Grandma’s very special treats! She used to make a beautifully smooth dough, divide it into eight or ten little lumps of equal size, and let them rest for a little while. Then she would take out her famous ‘oklava’ (a thin and long rolling pin) and roll out each of those round little lumps into practically see-through thin sheets of dough. 
After my grandmother passed away, my mom, my aunt and I made several attempts to recreate her pumpkin strudel recipe. Although we tried very hard and did our best, we were somehow never quite fully satisfied with the result. It was fine and tasted good each time but it just wasn’t the same at all! Then one day I came up with the idea of using store bought phyllo dough to recreate Grandma’s recipe. And after a couple of trials, it turned out to be a hit! There’s no harm in benefiting from contemporary conveniences to adapt an old family recipe now is there?  And as long as the taste and sensation is highly reminiscent of the original traditional recipe – which in our case it definitely was – why shouldn’t we benefit from this most useful modern commodity called store bought phyllo dough?
So, ever since that victorious day of my magnificent discovery I have been making this new adapted version of my Grandma’s pumpkin strudel at least a couple of times each winter for the last three-four years and although I am not able to gather the whole family, my Mom, Dad and I get together for this special occasion. We think and talk of the old days, remember our lost ones with respect and gratitude and happily devour our strudels with some freshly brewed coffee. 
And now I’d like to share this simple but delicious traditional treat with you, while pumpkins are still in season. It may not bring you any memories from the past but it will certainly be a most pleasant experience for you palate, especially if you are a pumpkin lover like me. 
 

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of phyllo dough (you will need about 28-30 sheets of dough)
  • 250 gr butter (1 cup + about 1/4 stick)
  • 500 gr (1 pound + 2 ounces)
  • About 2 cups of caster sugar
  • Freshly ground blackpepper, as needed

Step by step method

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  1. Clean, wash and pat dry with paper towel and grate pumpkin in your food processor.
  2. Heat oven to 175 C (350 F) and line standard oven tray with baking paper.
  3. Melt butter and set aside on your counter. Get the phyllo dough out of the package and lay them on one side of the counter. You will need a clean kitchen towel to cover them while you work since they tend to go dry very quickly and you can’t work with dry phyllo! So don’t forget to keep them covered as you progress.

  4. Put the sugar in a bowl and place it on your working counter with your blackpepper grinder. Gettin well organized before you start will help you to work swiftly.
  5. Place one phyllo sheet on your working surface. Brush lightly with melted butter and cover with a second sheet of dough.

  6. Take about a handful of grated pumpkin and neatly place it on the narrow end. Now sprinkle approximately one tablespoon of sugar over the pumpkin. If you want a much sweeter strudel you can increase the amount of sugar just a little bit.
  7. Now this step is important. After the sugar you will need a light sprinkling of freshly ground blackpepper. Although it is used scantly, the blackpepper is an essential part of this recipe. It gives the pumpkin a little bit of heat and a distinct aroma. If you find it difficult to adjust the amount by grinding you can grind some blackpepper into a little bowl in advance and take a pinch or two for each sprinkling.
  8. Now roll the dough but don’t make it too tight. Brush the overlapping edge of dough with a little bit of butter to help it stick. Place your cylinder shaped roll of dough into your lined oven tray.
  9. Repeat these steps until you run out of pumpkin. You should obtain about 14 to 15 rolls, using phyllo sheets of about 30×40 cm (ca. 11×15 inches). At the end you should have some butter left, with which you should brush the rolls before placing them in a preheated oven.
  10. The baking time will vary among different ovens. But an average of 25 to 35 minutes should be enough to get a nice golden crust. Be careful and keep an eye on your rolls because they should not brown too much!

  11. Once baked, leave to cool slightly in tray. Then cut into serving size pieces and serve warm. Consume preferably during the same day you bake it. My Grandma used to sprinkle them with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, which just makes them look even lovelier than they already are!

Bon Appétit!