After having written this post, I felt the need to get back here to the top and apologise because this is one of those posts where I just couldn’t stop typing, so it’ll take you a veeeeeeeeeeeeery loooooooooooooong time to get to the recipe. I just felt there was so much to say about the topic, so if you get bored, do skip down to the recipe, please!
You’re probably going to laugh at this (I know I would…) but I went to an Apple Strudel Making Party in January. It was combined with a cooking utensils sales show, although the emphasis was on the strudel making. An American lady who learned to make strudel from an Austrian friend decades ago showed us everything you ever wanted to know about strudel making. The best thing was that it was all hands on – from using an apple peeling machine for the first time to pulling the dough without damaging it. And she made it all look so easy, which it is actually apart from getting the dough really thin without doing any damage. An absolutely fun experience all over.
And while the lady was working, I suddenly remembered that we very often had strudel at home when I was a child. While my mother was at work my maternal grandmother would be at our place to look after us and to cook. I can still see her standing at our dining table, which was completely covered in dough, and my grandmother was pulling it to make it even larger and thereby thinner. It is only today that I can appreciate that kind of effort.
My paternal grandmother would make both apple and cheese (Topfen, actually, which is curd cheese) strudel, but my maternal grandmother had something else up her sleeve that topped everything for me – semolina strudel. I decided to make strudel this weekend, trying all three varieties in small quantities, and if it worked, I’d ask my family over at a later date and surprise them with it. I already told my sister about it and she was all for it.
Sadly, as you’ll realise reading this, I wasn’t in the mood to make three different fillings, so I went for the easiest option – apples. After this trial turned out great, though, I know I’ll definitely make semolina strudel as well soon, I just have to do some research (or rather have my mother do that for me…) among the older citizens where I grew up on how exactly to make it. I’ve found different versions online that don’t sound like the right ones, so I’ll have to wait a little for the research results.
The basic dough recipe you’ll find here is the one we got at the strudel making party, which is the recipe of the hostess’s friend. She wasn’t able to say, though, where it came from exactly, so I can’t give you a source. The apple filling is also from that lady.
Just one more thing: if you’re put off by the length of the recipe – don’t be! It’s really not much work, and it’s so worth it to make this! I always shrank back from making strudel because everybody tells you how difficult it is to get the dough to the perfect thinness, and it’s said that it’s only perfect when you can read a newspaper through it. As you can see in the picture below, I didn’t have a newspaper at hand but I’m sure being able to read sheet music through the dough is perfectly acceptable as well… So if I can do it, you definitely can, too!
I also wanted to show you what happens when your dough does tear, and that you can still proceed without worry. As I was using only half of the dough and filling, after rolling it up and having it tear on top I just rolled out another piece of the other half of the dough, as thin as the first bit, and draped it over the torn surface, stuffing it underneath along the way. In the diptych further down, you can see the filling due to the torn dough on the left, the right one is covered with the extra bit of dough.
As for taste – nothing beats homemade anyway, in my opinion, and this was just perfect. Amount of apples (I used 4 for half the amount of dough), consistency of dough, just delicious. I made homemade vanilla sauce to go with it, but in the end only had a spoonful of that as the strudel was perfect by itself.
Basic Strudel Dough
2¼ cups / 300 g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup warm water (can be substituted by 1 egg and reduce water)
2 tbsp oil
Place flour, salt and oil in a food processor or mixing bowl and start mixing. Gradually add water until it forms a ball. Dough should be moist but not sticky. In the food processor, use a dough hook to mix on slow until the dough is very smooth and elastic. [This will take about 10 minutes.]
Cover with a cloth and let rest for at least 30 minutes while preparing the filling. [At this point the dough can be wrapped in plastic and chilled overnight, or frozen for later use.]
6 – 8 tart apples
¼ – ½ cup sugar (to taste, more for very tart apples)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 – 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
½ cup melted butter
sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts (optional)
icing sugar for decorating when cooked
Peel and core the apples, then slice them into small pieces. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon.
To assemble the strudel, cover a large surface (table or countertop) with a sheet or tablecloth (securing the corners if necessary). Flour the surface, then with a rolling pin roll the dough out into a circle as large as you can make it. Place one hand flat underneath the dough and use the other hand to hold the dough in place. Now start stretching the dough from the center out until you have an even, thin sheet of dough. [Remember: the dough is perfect when it's so thin that you can read the newspaper through it!] During the stretching process, make sure that the surface is well floured so the dough won’t stick to it. If you pull holes into the dough, patch them by pinching the edges together. [I find that really short fingernails are definitely preferable here...]
Brush the entire surface of the dough with the melted butter, leaving enough for the finished strudel. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the surface [they will absorb some of the apples' liquid so you won't get a mushy strudel dough], then spread the apples evenly over it, leaving about 2 in / 5 cm along one wide side free of apples. Sprinkle the apples with the cinnamon sugar mixture. [You can also add sliced almonds, chopped hazelnuts or raisins.]
Unfasten the corners of the sheet/tablecloth and lift up the side opposite the margin you left. This will roll the strudel into a log shape. Carefully move the strudel onto parchment paper and slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter, making sure to cover the whole surface.
Bake at 375°F / 190°C for 40 – 50 minutes, until the strudel begins to brown on top. [Note: Mine was done in 30 minutes, probably because I used only half the dough and filling.] Let cool a little, dust with icing sugar, and serve with either vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream. Eat for dessert or as a sweet main course.