Due to an unexpected day of fun in South Bend to watch some college football, my weekend got cut a bit short. Unfortunately, my to-do list did not, and I spent most of yesterday cooking, cleaning, and laundry-ing. Mostly cooking.
On that to-do list was to make apple strudel from Austria to round out my vacation destination dishes.
Despite my initial and long held belief that apple strudel, or apfelstrude, was of German origin, turns those it was those Viennese in Austria that made it famous, and it is today regarded as one of Austria’s national dishes. This became obvious after we saw it on every menu at every restaurant. Of course we had to “see who’s was best,” and ordering strudel became a given every time we sat down. So THAT’s why my pants are tight…
Plus, it’s fall. Apple Season!
Another fun fact that mom and I picked up in our travels was that Austria, besides being known for wine, is also quite famous for apricots. As we strolled down the cobbled streets of the quaint little village of Durnstein, we found shop after shop stocked with every variety of apricot treat: soaps, lip balms, candles, candy, brittle and, my favorite, the liquor.
All week I was looking forward to rolling my sleeves up to give an authentic strudel recipe my best effort. However, as I found myself running through the market in a crunch for this week’s ingredients, I stopped squarely in front of the freezer section debating whether or not to screw tradition and just use phyllo dough rather than make the dough from scratch. After all, apple strudel was influenced heavily by the Turks and their baklava, would it really be soo bad to cheat a little?
In the end I decided that it’d be a disservice to the recipe as well as to you to not give the dough my best go. You’re welcome.
How did it go?
BUY THE PHYLLO.
Throwing the dough together took no time at all, but I could not get it to be as thin as it needed to be. Or even. Or without holes. Despite spending over an hour trying to work the dough into a manageable 2’ x 3’ rectangle, this is what I got.
Yeah. At 8 pm on a Sunday night. NOT the relaxing way to end the weekend I had anticipated. I could have just scrapped it midway, but I didn’t’ have the phyllo alternative on which to fall back.
I’m not sure why I had such a problem with it- maybe by the time I figured out HOW to work with the dough, I had already screwed up the texture and consistency to get it to do what I needed it to do. In any case, the filling was phenom, and therefore I think I’ll cheat and be semi-homemade next time.
I made the filling my own by making a few nominal tweaks to the original filling I found. One change that I did make was that I dressed the apples in some of that apricot liquor. Good decision to balance out the bad dough decision. I also did not add raisins but there were raisins that I picked out of every strudel we ate. Again, personal choice.
I’m posting the original dough recipe that I got from Chef In You in case you want to give it a go. Maybe you will have better luck than I did. The author of that recipe sure did, and got good pictures to boot, so I’d check it out.
I’m not sure why my game was off- too tired? Too uninterested? Who knows…Also, I’m posting this recipe in the order in which you should do things- you don’t’ want to sugar the apples too early otherwise they’ll get too syrupy and be a mess.
For the filling:
3 TB apricot liquor (you can also use golden rum)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup pancko bread crumbs
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 lbs tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ “ thick slices. I used 3 Granny Smiths and 3 Gala
You know that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks’ character is describing how his wife could peel an apple in one perfect swirl, and then Meg Ryan proceeds to do the same thing? I always think of that when I’m peeling apples and therefore peel my apples as such. Just a little bit about me.
For the dough:
1 1/3 cup unbleached flour
8 Tb water, plus more if needed
2 TB vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
½ tsp cider vinegar
First, make the dough:
- Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Add a little more water if necessary if the dough is too dry.
- Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
Second, toast the breadcrumbs:
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
Next, work on the dough once it’s been set.
- It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle.
- Flour the dough as well as you can. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough.
- The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long. It should be tissue-thin by this time and ready to be filled.
Now work on the filling and assemble:
1. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. (oops, I did this wrong. do what I say, not as I do…)
2. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip. Mix the apples with liquor, cinnamon and sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
3. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Tuck the ends under.
4. Put on a baking sheet lined with parchment (carefully! I used two spatulas) and brush with remaining butter.
5. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Wait 30 minutes before cutting into it with a serraded knife.
I served mine with whipped cream. Obvoiusly.
Flavor-wise…It did really come out pretty fabulous.