Or So Vienna Says


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.

NOTES:

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.

 

25 thoughts on “Or So Vienna Says

  1. Have no idea what is wrong with me today. Instead of Viennese I read Vietnamese and wondered for a moment how they came to adopt strudel as a favorite dessert (must have had your previous post in mind there).

    But then instead of reading Middle European I read Middle Eastern and thought I had no idea they were such a big cranberry fans.

    Just completely goofy I know but two things are for certain… apple strudel is just divine and I totally agree with your assessment of raisins. Two thumbs up for the cranberry substitution!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, first of all, thanks much, JoAnn!

      Thrilled to meet someone else who’s not exactly raisins’ #1 All-Time Fan. Oddly, I can remember liking them as a small child, but then something happened around 6 or 7 – I have no idea what – which put me off them for good. “For good” emphatically.

      Your transferring regions is funny, and is oh-so-familiar. Every Christmas, my mother makes Viennese Walnut Cookies, among others. Into my teens, actually, I thought they were Vietnamese. Come on, Vietnam and Vienna, one of you two is going to have to change your name, all right?

      Though I’m mostly of British descent, the biggest single line item is German. That said, the Deutsche have no idea what they’re doing in the kitchen. Except for desserts.

      Every delectable strudel, every luscious streusel, nearly makes up for sauerkraut and all the unfortunate -wursts. Nearly, but not quite. No wonder my ancestors immigrated 300 or so years ago!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! First of all, the Viennese Walnut cookies sound delicious!

        Second, I’m the same with raisins. I ate them maybe til I was 7 and was old enough to realize I didn’t have to eat them just because other people in my family like them…. an early push for independence!

        I have German ancestry as well and I can remember my parents eating sauerkraut and loving it… can’t ever forget that smell! I’m not too much of a fan although I do like it on a reuben once in a while. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They (the cookies) are epic. One of these days, around Christmastime, I’ll have to try my hand at them.

        Oh my, you too, with sauerkraut’s dreadful aromatics? For me, they’re enough to squelch any appetite. A couple years ago, back when we still gathered in groups, I was at a MLB game, and I had an itch only a $12 hot dog could scratch. The other team was at bat, but as it still was mid-inning, I figured the lines would be short. They were – bonus!

        However, the concession had a vat full of sauerkraut for those (with dead taste buds, apparently) who wanted it on their franks. Right then and there I lost the hunger that had obsessed me just minutes earlier, It didn’t return, either, until hours later.

        Forego a perfect, quintessential, experience, a hot dog at a baseball game? Curse you, sauerkraut!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yes, that is indeed a very powerful effect to ruin a baseball game! I was talking to a coworker just today who says she has a similar kind of reaction to cheese, especially ricotta cheese. Now I found that pretty remarkable and quite sad as I do love cheese, especially ricotta cheese.

        The only food item I’ve ever had that much of an adverse reaction to was years and years ago one of my first jobs was in a deli. They had something there called head cheese… one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever encountered and even all these years later I remember that smell. Most shocking is that once in a while someone would pass up all the nice varieties of roasted turkey, ham and roast beef and order that disgusting stuff. I would have to slice it up and it was all I could do not to hurl! 🤢🤢

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well I…um…excuse me… Great, there went dinner. Thanks for the evocative description, JoAnn!

        Actually, I can imagine your travails. Let me guess. The people who ordered head cheese called everyone “Chief,” and kept promising the stuff would “put hair on your chest,” right? The same sort of person who asks for the neck and gizzards every Thanksgiving.

        I can appreciate your colleague’s disdain for cheese, especially ricotta. For years, I was much the same way, though I’ve gained an increased appreciation lately for the firmer Italian entries, such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Asiago. Nothing wrong with a good Gruyere, either. Now, that beyond-dreadful yellow glop slathered over nachos still is horrible. One of my archenemies, actually.

        Enough with disgusting foods already! Let’s put ourselves in the mind of much, much better fare. Start thinking of Thai cuisine….and Strudel. Blackout Cupcakes and coconuts. A tender, juicy filet mignon…

        Like

      5. Thanks, JoAnn. Just maybe.

        Of course, Mom has perfected the recipe. And our ancestors didn’t even hail from the Austrian part of the German diaspora. Bavaria and Prussia, both to the north of Vienna, and north also of Viennese Walnut Cookies’ birthplace. Of course, like I mentioned, my British heritage outpaces my German ancestry anyway. Like most Americans, I’m a mutt.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, more than just saying it, my friend. What do you think I’ve been doing once (and sometimes twice) a month now for lo-these-many years? I do remember the promises made to me when I was five, after all:

      “Eat your vegetables and you can have dessert.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! I’m not the only one! My sister thinks I’m weird for not liking raisins, but… what’s there to like? Of course, she’s never “fed” a doll a grape, only to extract it from said doll’s throat weeks (months?) later…

    I’d probably exchange the rum too, but other than that, absolutely wonderful. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why, thank you, Rachel!

      Egad! That whole doll experience is horrifying, and would be enough to put anyone off raisins, even if the things were edible. Which they’re not.

      Would you believe you’re not even the first person who left a comment on this thread disclaiming raisins? Initially, I thought I was the only one who felt this way, but apparently not…

      Forming a League of Raisin-Despisers would be a good idea, too, if we weren’t so busy already with this whole Failed Assassin thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, but you remember how that whole Tomato v. Tom-ah-to debate ended, don’t you? That’s why there’s a Committee of the Misguided just four blocks west of us.

        Not nearly as eclectic a membership as is ours, nowhere close to as well-provisioned a headquarters either, but they all were League members, originally, before the tomato argument became pitched, and several dozen quit the League in protest.

        It’d be a shame if that happened again, except this time the sundering would be about dead grapes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I merely recognized where you were going, Rachel, and continued along that path. You’ve brought so much life to our organization in the several months you’ve Acting President, you wouldn’t want to sidetrack your progress.

        Not this time, raisins, not this time. This is Rachel’s moment!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Jenn!

      Honestly, I wish to God the fact about raisins weren’t so, as I can’t stand them. Still, what to do when striving for authenticity? Hope a substitute does the recipe justice, obviously.

      Especially as the raisins in the original are rum-soaked, there’s no avoiding their influence. It turns out dried cranberries did the job, though. The end product was similar to other strudels I enjoyed while avoiding the raisins with a surgeon’s precision. It was nice, for once, to go all-in when raisins weren’t poised to ruin everything!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for noticing, Tamara! It is, especially when you substitute for those diabolical raisins.

      Soft pretzels, pumpernickel and Wiener Schnitzel aside, there’s not much German/Austrian chefs get right. Aside from desserts, that is. When it comes to satisfying the sweet tooth, though, Germans are up there with the French.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As do I, Tamara!

        In fact, they’re responsible for bringing me back around to mustard, after convincing myself for years it was inedible. Now, Dijons, Dusseldorfs, and plain ol’ grain mustards find themselves in all sorts of situations. In fact, whole mustard seeds are destined for an appearance or two here over the next year or so.

        Liked by 1 person

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