Flaky, buttery strudel hiding soft, tart apple pieces, served with a sheen of powdered sugar and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream… and you don’t even need to travel to Vienna for it (though you could. There’s never a shortage of reasons to go to Vienna).
All you need is a bit of time (not that much, most of this recipe is waiting while you can do other things) and your favorite operetta tunes collection (it can even be Beczala, who sings beautifully, although his remarks on regietheater suggest ample space within his skull cavities as one of the reasons).
First of all: making your own apple strudel is not particularly difficult. If you have a sous-chef to help you out with the stretching (no particular talent required, just care and patience), it’s even fairly easy. You get to adjust the levels of sugar and butter, y0u can play with the filling, and you skip all the additives that the frozen pre-cooked strudels have. Plus it tastes so much better than the ones from the supermarket freezer.
This recipe is my personal strudel favorite at the moment, which means it’s a little lighter on the sugar (I don’t like my desserts too sweet) and omits the raisins. Go all out on raisins or, even better yet, rum-soaked raisins, if you like – I’m simply not that fond of raisins. Also, feel free to change the sliced almonds for walnut chunks (which is the original recipe), or hazelnuts, or whatever is your favorite, or on hand. Or kick the nuts out altogether. Strudel, it turns out, is a fairly forgiving concotion. Whatever you enclose in it will most likely come out delicious….
Ingredients (makes a light afternoon treat for 4):
- 100g plain white flour
- 50ml water (room temperature, more or less)
- 1 dash of salt
- 1/2 tbsp. sunflower oil (or any oil with a neutral taste)
- some additional sunflower oil for basting/painting (1/2 tbsp.)
- 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
- 3 tbsp. butter (it tastes btter with actual butter, although you can also use some more of the neutral-tasting oil)
- 3 tbsp. sliced almonds (or choopped walnuts, or hazelnuts, or/and raisins…)
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. sour cream
- 3 medium-sized apples
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- vanilla ice-cream and some powdered sugar for serving
- Mix the flour, dash of salt, water and 1/2 tbsp. of sunflower into a crumbly mass with kneading pegs. Then knead to a dough with your fingers and shape it into a ball.
- In a small bowl (big enough to hold the dough), pour the other 1/2 tbsp. of sunflower oil and place the dough on top, turning it into all directions until the whole dough is coated with oil.
- Leave the bowl to rest for 30 minutes in a warm place – atop the heating, or inside the oven that you’ve previously had on 50°C for a couple of minutes. Bascially, the grease needs to permeate the dough so that it will be flexible enough for the stretching later.
- While the dough is resting, heat up a pan with a spoonful of butter, then slowly roast the breadcrumbs over low heat until golden.
- While the dough continues to rest, peel the apples, slice them very thinly and place them in a bowl. Pour the lemon juice on top and mix with a hand to make sure the apple slices are evenly coated with lemon juice. Add the almond slices.
- When the half hour is up, line the kitchen counter with an old kitchen towel, sprinkle it generously with flour and then, with a rolling pin, roll out the dough atop the towel, as thin as possible. Make sure there is enough flour underneath, the dough mustn’t stick to the towel.
- Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter and use one to paint the entire dough surface thoroughly. If you need more, use more.
- Cover the dough with another towel or with cling film and let it rest for another five minutes in a warm place. Warmth is important for the stretching that will follow. If your kitchen is too cold (mine is at times), you can cheat – carefully roll up the dough and put it once more atop the heating or into a mildly warm-tempered oven.
- After these five minutes, you need your sous-chef, if available. You can also do the stretching on your own, it’s just a little more tricky. You can at this point also preheat the oven to 190°C (360°F).
- Back to the stretching: Douse the back of your hands in flour, gently insert them between the dough and the towel, and then simply stretch and pull, then rotate after a while. If you work with a second person, have them pick up the dough on the opposite site, also resting in the flour-dosed backs of their hands, and stretch and pull together. Be patient, and go slow. And don’t despair if their are tears appearing, or if you don’t get the rims super-thin.
- The golden rule is that you have to “be able to read a newspaper through the dough”. Recognizing the pattern of the kitchen towel will do, though. It also doesn’t need to be that evenly stretched – it takes a few times to get the hand of it.
- Once you’re satisfied with the stretching (or despairing over it – but never mind, as long as you have enough dough to enclose the filling, it will also taste fine with just one layer. It just won’t be as decadent and flaky as several thin layers), gently lower it back onto the towel (if it fits. If it doesn’t, no problem, just make sure it doesn’t stick to anything.
- To the bowl with the apples, add the sour cream and the sugar. Stir well with a spoon.
- Then, using about one third of the dough surface, pour the breadcrumbs onto the dough. They need to go first because they prevent the filling from soaking through. Then, atop the breadcrumbs, place the filling in a heap, nut using up more than the same third of the dough surface. It can also be a quarter (If your dough didn’t stretch as well, use half. You need just enough dough left to close the strudel). The remaining dough surface, paint once more with liquid butter.
- Up next: Rolling up the strudel. With the help of the towel, starting on the side with the filling, lift up the dough and roll it over and then keep rolling until you’ve reached the end of the dough. The ends, you can simply pat close (which makes for nice crispy corners) or fold under.
- Make sure the finished, closed strudel is still resting on the towel because that makes transferring the strudel to the baking tray (lined with baking paper) a lot easier. So, gently transer and nudge the strudel onto the baking tray and once more paint its surface with melted butter.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, in the lower third of your oven, until the surface looks lightly toasted.
- After removing the strudel from the oven, slide it onto a serving plate or large wooden board. Give it a couple of minutes to cool while you fetch the vanilla ice-cream from the freezer, then sprinkle the surface of the strudel with powedered sugar (works best through a fine sieve).
- Cut into slices and serve immediately, with a scoop of ice-cream on the side.