Prunes really get a bum rap.  Who doesn't associate them with dentition-challenged grandmas and grandpas who can't chew much except pudding and.... stewed prunes? They're also unfortunately stuck with the unglamarous but very true reputation of being an ace laxative. Sorry, needed saying. Last week, out of the blue, I was hit by an inexplicable craving for this dark, sticky, chewy treat. Yes, I said treat.

Forget everything you thought you knew about them and start thinking of them as dried plums instead, with all the luscious goodness you would associate with plums, concentrated into morsels of tasty, ferric and almost chocolate-like intensity. Got you now? You do have to make a point of getting the best quality  prunes you can find. Try to save a few dollars, and you pay a much higher price when you sink your teeth into dry, leathery, acidic and dusty tasting specimens that tend to reek of tobacco. Ugh. No wonder they have far more detractors than admirers.

To get the best out of them, they should be soft (squish them through the packaging when no one's looking *shhhh*) dark, sticky and very moist. When you sniff them, what should hit your nose is a pronounced fruitiness with the faintest whiff of cocoa or tobacco. Good quality prunes taste a little like raisins, but are much less sugary, a little musky and much more complex in flavour, with wine like overtones. And you don't like them because.......they sound so good?!?

I hope I won't incur the wrath of anyone with a German or Austrian grandmother who makes the best strudel in the world. I do take licence here but let me just say that the word "strudel", which is German, means whirlpool in Middle High German,  and does not denote the specific use of any particular kind of pastry or filling. The alternating whirls of filling and dough in my own rendition, covers my non-German, non-Austrian posterior, very nicely. *phew*

I made these for brunch but there's no reason why you can't have them earlier, or later in the day, with coffee, tea, even a glass of slightly sparkling Moscato and a side of stewed, lightly lemony pears with whipped cream, for a post dinner treat. I was going to just do them with prunes, simmered in tart orange juice, Limoncello and cinnamon but then what did I spy, but piles and piles of deeply blushing Forelle pears - the very first of the season!!! They weren't as ripe and luscious as I like my pears to be, so I held out on the pear cheesecake I've been dreaming about for the last few weeks.

Forelle pears are often intensely sweet and retain a crunch even when very ripe, with beautiful red flushed skins. They are best for eating or turning into pies, tarts, crumbles........ and this. You can use more butter than I did, for the filling, but not less, please. In fact I thought I should've been more generous, but hubby has been complaining again about his expanding girth, so I held back. But, when he had finished his first slice, which was punctuated with "" between bites, he asked me to pile the butter glaze on for his subsequent servings (six in all). So much for restricting the butter, or for watching waistlines ;)

Prep 30 mins      Cook 25 mins      Makes 2 strudels or 16 slices


300 g (3 cups) plain or all purpose flour
1 level tsp baking soda
1 level tsp sugar
1/2 level tsp fine salt
75 g (1/2 cup) firm butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
180 ml (slightly over 3/4 cup) buttermilk or a mixture of milk and 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice


3 generous Tbsp soft butter
3 - 4 level Tbsp soft brown sugar
2 level tsp ground cinnamon or mixed cake spice
120 g (1 generous cup) pitted prunes, cut into small pieces
2 small to medium sized ripe pears, peel and cut into small, thin, slices


3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp milk
A very generous pinch salt
5 generous Tbsp icing (confectioner's sugar) sifted


Preheat oven at 220 C (430 F). Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Put the butter in the flour mixture, coat it with flour and squeeze the butter into ever smaller pieces, while rubbing into the flour, until you have a bowl of very coarse crumbs. You don't have to rub it in too throughly. There should be some small lumps of unmixed butter throughout the mixture.

Combine the vanilla and buttermilk and pour into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula until a shaggy dough forms. Use your hands to push mixture together until a dough forms. Avoid kneading.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of baking parchment and roll out to a rough rectangle of about 40 cm (16 in) by 25 cm (10 in). Spread rectangle with butter. Combine the brown sugar with the spice and scatter half the mixture over the butter. Cover evenly with the prunes and pears, ensure as best as you can, that there is an even distribution of both over the surface of the buttered and sugared dough. Sprinkle fruit with the remaining brown sugar and spice mix. Lightly press the fruit into the dough so it doesn't fall off when you start to roll up the dough.

Starting at the longer end of the rectangle,  roll the dough up as tightly as you can, as you would for a jelly or Swiss roll. Make sure dough seam is down and roll back and forth gently to dispel any air pockets inside. Neaten ends and shape roll with your hands so that it is even down its entire length. Cut roll equally into 2. Transfer rolls with parchment paper, unto a large baking tray.

Slice each roll into 8 slices with a very sharp (preferably serrated) without severing the slices. They should all still be just joined to each other at the very bottom. Starting either from the front or back of the roll, push each slice alternately to the left and right. Push slices down gently onto each other. Repeat with the other roll.

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 180 C (350 F) and continue to bake a further 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately slide rolls off parchment and onto a cooling rack so bottoms don't get soggy. Allow to cool completely.

When rolls are cold, prepare glaze. Put butter, milk and salt into a small pot. Heat only until butter melts. Turn off heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm. Whisk in the icing (confectioner's) sugar until smooth and thick. Drizzle or drown rolls with glaze and allow to set before serving.


Note : If you prefer, combine all glaze ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on full power for 20 - 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and whisk like mad until thick and smooth. Use as above.