From what the Austrian Tourism Board reports on its website, Apple Strudel is a Viennese specialty, and the recipe it offers there recreates a pastry that has become symbolic of the country. Maybe, maybe not, but the country’s German cousins might have a competing claim or two of their own.
No matter the dessert’s true origins, it is a masterpiece of flavor, with a buttery, thin, layered crust containing stacks of gossamer-sliced apples surrendering their sweet tangy juices. Before the nectar is sampled, though, first it mixes with the cloves and cinnamon which accent the apples, as well as the ground hazelnuts and the rum-laced berries that fill the rest of the crust.
It’s the Middle European version (be it Austrian or German) of apple pie, with the puff pastry proving a French influence. The light, flaky, buttery crust is perfect here, as it builds beautifully to the apples’ sweet spiciness, without competing with it, let alone overpowering it. The service returned effectively.
One element that isn’t Middle European is the cranberry. This “foreign” ingredient hails from the New World, and its inclusion isn’t the recipe’s fault. The original instructions call for raisins, though, and they’re one thing this site cant’s abide. Dried cranberries are similar, and they work well with apples. Unlike raisins, too, cranberries actually are edible (sorry raisin-lovers, but that’s a fact).
So here we have it, the pride of Vienna. Quite a city, to be sure, and strudel is yet another honor. Or do the laurels belong elsewhere? Well, you see, it’s complicated…actually, who cares? What matters is that Apple Strudel is scrumptious and that, after following this week’s instructions, it will be from…right here!
Apple Strudel (*1)
For the strudel:
- one sheet puff pastry dough, thawed
- 3 pounds apples (*2)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons raisins (*3)
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to prevent the sliced apples from browning
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- one egg, beaten, for coating the crust
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
For the crumb filling:
- 1 and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (*4)
- 3 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Lay a piece of parchment paper on the counter and unfold the puff pastry sheet onto it. Take another sheet of parchment paper and put it on a baking sheet. Meanwhile, put the raisins (um, cranberries) in a small bowl and pour the rum over them.
Next, move on to making the crumb filling. Place a medium skillet over a medium flame, then add the butter. When the butter melts and begins to bubble, stir in the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring frequently, until they’re golden-brown. Stir in the hazelnuts, then cut the flame. Set aside for later use.
Core and peel the apples, then slice them thinly. Work with one apple at a time, and as you finish slicing each one, place the slices in a large bowl and sprinkle some of the lemon juice over the apple. When you’re done, pour in any remaining lemon juice and mix it in thoroughly but gently.
Add the sugar, ground cinnamon and the ground cloves. Mix them in, again, thoroughly but gently. Preheat the oven to 350°.
Using a spatula, distribute the apple mixture evenly down the length of the puff pastry, leaving half an inch of pastry along both sides uncovered, and making sure the apples cover only the middle half of the pastry. A quarter of the pastry’s height, both immediately above and below the apples, should remain uncovered.
Take the crumb mixture and sprinkle it evenly atop the apples. Next, drain any excess rum from the raisins/cranberries and distribute them atop the apples too.
Take the half-inch of pastry at either end of the apples and fold it in toward the middle. Next, fold the “flaps” of pastry immediately above and below the apples over the fruit and pinch together the seam where it meets in the middle.
Using the parchment paper as a “sling,” carry the strudel to the baking sheet and center it above the sheet. Quickly invert it, seam-side down, and taking care that the strudel is entirely on the parchment paper that lines the baking sheet. Brush the strudel, top and sides, with the beaten egg, the cook for 45 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
1 – Many of the original recipe’s amounts were specific, while others were annoyingly vague (i.e., “a suitable amount” or “some”). I replaced the latter with the quantities that I found worked best.
2 – This works out to about six medium apples. A combination of sweet and tart varieties yields the best flavor, so I selected three Galas and three Granny Smiths.
3 – Um, no. Yuck! Try dried cranberries instead.
4 – As cranberries prevent this from being a purely Austrian/German pastry, why not use panko (Japanese bread crumbs) elsewhere in the preparation? Their coarser texture allows them to absorb more of the apples’ magnificence.