The Austrian part of me has been wanting to make Apple Strudel for some time now. My husband, who is of German heritage, returned from a recent business trip to Munich just before Christmas. He raved about the Apfelstrudel (German for Apple Strudel) that he enjoyed there. He was in San Diego on a speaking engagement and I wanted to surprise him upon his return home with homemade Apfelstrudel. One of the reasons this was a secret mission was that if it failed miserably he would not be disappointed.
When I was in college, I was invited to a friends house to make Apple strudel from scratch. She and I pulled the dough into a flaky layer that you could read through. I walked away feeling intimidated by the task. I have several German and Austrian cookbooks that address how to make an apple strudel, but it scared me. I finally found a book that spelled it out beautifully. The book was written by Rick Rodgers, who has authored or co-authored about 20 books and is a culinary instructor. Armed with his “hand holding” I finally got up the gumption to make one. The book I used is Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers. The book is out of print now, but you can still find copies through Amazon. I do highly recommend this book.
I knew two things going in: The dough had to be thin and my first attempt would not be perfect. I was right, but it sure was yummy no matter. I did succeed in pulling the dough into a thin flaky crust, but I also succeeded in putting a lot of holes in it. I baked the poor strudel too long in the end and it started to caramelize more than I wanted, but it was still yummy. Not burnt, but just a few minutes past that golden I was going for. Don’t let the intimidation of the task stop you like it did me for so many years! It is so worth the process and really not THAT difficult. Use a good quality unbleached flour. I love King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour and buy it exclusively now for all my baking. You do need room to pull the dough and preferably a space you can walk around. I used my island in the kitchen, but a table, even a card table, will be large enough. I was surprised to find vinegar in the list of ingredients for the strudel dough, but it is such a small amount you do not taste it at all. I am sure it serves some purpose…I love that this version uses a Kitchen Aid mixer to make it. Many strudel recipes are made by hand. This made it more fool proof for me.
Makes 1 strudel that serves 5-6
Adapted from Rick Rogers Kaffeehaus pages 78-79
- 1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (King Arthur’s brand is wonderful)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 7 Tbsp water, plus more if needed
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
- 1/2 tsp cider vinegar (I used Apple cider vinegar)
Place the flour and salt in the bottom of the mixing bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer (if you have one: you could also mix by hand). Use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients at this point. Combine the liquids in a glass measuring cup. Slowly add the liquids to the flour and salt with the mixer on low. You may need to add more water – I actually added a little flour as it was sticking to the bottom of the bowl a bit (not very much though less than 1 Tablespoon). Scrape the dough into a ball and switch to the dough hook attachment. Continue kneading the dough at medium low to make a soft ball.
Transfer the dough to a un-floured pastry board. Knead by hand and occasionally pick it up and slam it down hard on your board from time to time, this will get the gluten activated and make the dough pliable. Remember you will be stretching it into a very thin layer of dough, much like a filo dough. Pour about 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into the palm of your hand and gently rub the top of the dough with the oil. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes even better 1 1/2 hours or more! I think mine rested for 3 or even 4 hours while I picked up kids from school, carted them to the doctor, returned home with dinner, ate dinner, made phone calls, helped with homework… Yes, it was still okay.. I was tired, but the dough was fine!
Use a table, kitchen island or card table for the next step. Cover your work space with a clean table cloth (if the table cloth has a pattern it is actually an aid you should be able to see the pattern of the cloth through the dough and you can see where the dough still needs stretching) and sprinkle it with flour and rub the flour around to cover the work space. Roll the dough out with a well floured rolling pin (sprinkle with flour between as well, or the dough will begin to stick to the rolling pin- don’t ask me how I know.. I just do!). Roll it out as thinly as you can and then the fun begins.
Wash your hands (wear a t-shirt) and wash your forearms all the way to your elbows. You will be using these surfaces to stretch it out as well.. thank goodness for the invention of gravity, that helps in this process as well! Take off any jewelry or watches that could snag and damage the dough as you pull it. I found that pulling the dough was easiest when using the back of my hand to pull and stretch the dough. My hands would be toward the center of the dough and my arms had dough draped over them — I pulled from the center going out, walking around the kitchen island to work on different parts of the dough. In the end I had an almost 2 foot by 3 1/2 foot dough pulled – I imagine it could have and should have been pulled out more, but it was my first time and this was my first strudel. The edges will be thicker than the inside and that part gets cut away.. I used a knife, in hind sight I should have used my kitchen shears that are used only for food — NEXT time! (My husband likes the sound of that I am sure). Once the edges are trimmed away it is ready to be filled. Choose your filling. This time I am making apple strudel, so I will use apples, but other fillings can also be used.
Apple Strudel Filling:
Makes 1 strudel that serves 5-6
adapted from Rick Rogers Kaffeehaus page 80
- 3 Tbsp raisins
- 2 Tbsp golden rum
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I increased the amount from the original)
- 1 stick butter, melted (divided use)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- prepared strudel dough
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts- I like pecans better)
- 2 lbs tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices (I used 4 Granny Smith apples)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (to toss the apples in to prevent them from browning)
Mix the raisins with the rum and allow them to soak up the rum. I did this before pulling the dough to give it time to absorb all the goodness. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in another bowl and set aside.
In a small pan, heat 3 Tbsp of the butter and add the bread crumbs to the pan. Toast the bread crumbs in the butter over medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are nice and golden brown. Spread the bread crumbs out on a large plate to allow them to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Melt the remaining 5 Tbsp of butter in a small dish. I used the microwave for this it took about 45 seconds on high, but watch it carefully. Use a soft pastry brush (a bristle one may be too rough- use a feather one if you have one.. I don’t have one I used my hands after the butter had cooled some. Remember to reserve some butter to brush the top of the strudel just before baking. Sprinkle the dough with the toasted bread crumbs. Spread the nuts in a 6 inch strip along the long side of the strip, but stop about 3 inches from the short ends of the dough. (I actually made an error here and spread the apples across the whole strudel rather than having one 6 inch strip and then rolling it but NEXT time I will get that right!) You will use the ends to fold over the filling before rolling the strudel up.
Toss the sliced apples in the lemon juice to prevent browning and combine with the raisins. Add the sugar and cinnamon and mix to combine. Spread the apple mixture over nuts. Fold the short end of the pastry dough (the 3 inches) I found the table cloth to be an aid in this next part- using it for leverage to roll the strudel. I used the end with the holes as the inside of the strudel, as you roll it it adds layers (if you did it correctly) and those imperfections will be hidden.
Lift the strudel onto your prepared baking sheet. If you did it correctly the strudel will probably not break. (I did it wrong, so mine did, but it won’t next time! I will read the recipe 4 times instead of 2 times next time! Learn from my mistake will you? lol) Brush the top of the strudel with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter, leaving any solids in the bowl.
Bake in the preheated 400 F oven for about 30 minutes. When it is golden brown remove the strudel from the oven. I should have removed mine at about 25 minutes it got a little browner than I wanted and the juices that escaped actually caramelized more than desired. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. Serve with whipped cream or the vanilla sauce – more like a vanilla custard (Recipe follows).
adapted from Rick Rodgers Kaffeehaus page 18
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 1/2 cup milk, divided use
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (the increased the amount I used after tasting it)
Pour 1/2 cup milk in a Pyrex measuring cup. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the milk and whisk it. Add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk well to combine.
In a small sauce pan, bring remaining 2 cups of milk to a simmer over low heat. Slowly pour the egg and sugar mixture into the simmering milk whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently with the whisk, over low heat just until the mixture comes to a boil. At this point whisk in the vanilla extract. Pour the custard through a fine sieve into your serving dish. Serve warm (If you make this sauce ahead of time, reheat it in a glass bowl over hot water over the burner.) Pour the vanilla sauce over a slice of apple strudel. Enjoy.
This first attempt though it was not perfect, still had my husband who usually has good table manners licking the plate after he finished the strudel. I think it must have turned out well enough! My children loved it as well. They especially liked the vanilla sauce that was with it. Yes, it was time consuming to make, but I think it will only get better as I practice making strudel, so my family can look forward to my making Apfelstrudel again soon.
My strudel dough had holes in it, but it still worked (and I spread the filling across the whole dough, and not along the long edge like instructed-this is your opportunity to learn from my mistakes.)
Strudel before baking – it had some tears, but it was still a beautiful thing:
Here is the baked strudel. You will see that the juices caramelized almost to the point of burning, but the dough itself was golden brown. I should have removed it at 25 minutes rather than going to 30. Do watch carefully towards the end.