This is my first try at apfelstrudel, and though there’s always room for improvement, I was so overwhelmed by the results, I had to share it! I thought it’d be difficult and end up with a dough full of holes if I managed to get it thin enough to read through it. I researched all I could, read various recipes, watched videos to get a feel of what I was to do and put it all together in a recipe picking ideas from here and there. Though it is mostly known as an austrian specialty (from Viena) it is a dessert inherited from the austro-hungarian empire, which in turn adapted it from the turks. So, you can find excellent versions from Slovenia, Hungary, Trentino in the Alto Adige region of Italy and Austria amongst others.
Anyway, about the recipe, making the dough was a clear choice, as phyllo is too brittle and though it gives a crunchy result, it doesn’t take up flavours as well. I gotta also say that 3 days later, the strudel made with homemade dough is still crunchy!Just had to think about flour choice to have enough gluten to get that elastic but strong network (in Austria they seem to use a 700 type flour, with a higher gluten content, for what I’ve managed to find). Then, deciding the kind of apple to use, cooking or dessert apples, sweet or sour. I went for granny smith, as I wanted sour notes and figured they would lose less water to get the dough soggy. Maybe next time I’ll try “reinetas” (very sour cooking variety) or a mix of both, to get a more compote-like texture. I also preferred thinly sliced apples rather than grated ones and to marinate them a while before using to let the flavours blend before baking.
All strudel recipes include some ingredient to soak up the juices released from the cooking apples, traditionally breadcrumbs, either fresh or crisped golden with a bit of butter for better flavour (even with some sugar to lightly caramelise). I went for those, which I often use as sweet “migas” (crumbs) in various desserts. But other choices include finely processed almonds or walnuts (other than the ones added for a crunch) or crumbled up cookies, wafer etc. so choose to your preference.
Finally the distribution of filling before rolling; many recipes distribute all filling ingredients throughout the whole stretched dough, while others only across the bottom third. I though this to be better as the roll is reinforced so the filling doesn’t pierce the dough through the final layers. Also, it results in really crisp, well defined outer layers encasing the soft interior. So, unless (and even still if) you are using grated apples as a filling, I’d definately go for this procedure for a flaky outer layer that doesn’t get soggy. Whichever choices you make to adapt the recipe to your taste..do try it! It is easier than it seems, you just gotta keep some key points to get the dough right and the rest comes along and sooo very worth it!!Once you get the hang of it, you’ll want to adapt it to other fillings, sweet or savoury!
(for 1 50-60cm long strudel or 2 half the size)
For the dough:
200g of AP flour
20g butter or vegetable oil
pinch of salt
about 90g of lukewarm water*
*you can substitute some water for an egg (the original recipe I meant to use included 1 small egg, as most recipes do) but I forgot to add it! but since the Rick Rodgers recipe used by Daring Bakers did not include I went on with it. Also you’ll see some recipes substituting water for milk, but it isn’t as common.
For the filling:
3-4 granny smith apples (about 700g, peeled and cored)Also:
about 60g of brown sugar (granulated white can be used instead too)
60g of chopped up walnuts (I used pecans)
20g of raisins (you can add more to taste, or skip them)
some rhum to hydrate the raisins, about 30g
50g of fresh bread crumbs
25g-30g of butter to toast the breadcrumbs
100g-125g of butter, melted (or even better, clarified) to drizzle/brush over the stretched doughI suggest you first watch this video by Greg Patent to get an idea of the texture of the dough and the technique for stretching the dough. For stretching and filling this other video from an german bakery in Argentina is a good aid. Finally, in spanish this series of 3 videos by crazy argentinian chef Ariel Palacios is great to get an idea on some keys for a great elastic dough, though he makes it a bit more complicated. You can also refer to this excellent post for some step by step photos.
some icing sugar to decorate
So let’s begin with the dough! simply place the flour in a bowl and mix in the salt to distribute it a bit. Add the egg, melted butter (or oil) and add the lukewarm water with some vinegar as you stir with a spatula or scraper until you get a rough mass.
*I think the lukewarm water is used to help developing the gluten, also the dough stretches best at room temperature rather than cold (some traditional recipes even suggest placing the worked dough on a warm bowl or over a warm place).
Place the dough onto a work surface and knead it a bit. It ought to be slightly tacky at the beginning. Neither excessively sticky (in which case add some extra flour) nor hard, in which case add extra water.
Then you can knead the traditional way or slam it against the surface to work it for over 5 minutes until you get a smooth and soft dough. I checked gluten development with a membrane test, just to make sure, and it was almost fully developed.
Then, coat with some vegetable oil and wrap with cling film to rest for at least half an hour. I left it for about an hour, as I find longer resting helps with stretching afterwards. I read a Viennese trick to help making the dough elastic, but haven’t tried it: to place the dough in a bowl and cover with vegetable oil for at least 15 minutes. I just cannot be bothered to use that much oil just for this purpose…
Meanwhile prepare the filling. You could keep everything separate and arrange it over the pastry as you fill it, but I think macerating all together blends the flavours better. Plus you remove excess water from the apples. So, peel and core the apples and cut in half or fourths into thin slices. Drizzle with some lemon juice to avoid browning.
Grate in the peel of half a lemon (optional but it is sooo good!orange can go well too), add the sugar and cinnamon to taste (if you use sweet apples I suggest you cut down on the sugar).
Hydrate the raisins with the rhum. The quick way is to place in a small pan, cover with the rum, bring to a boil and simmer until the rhum is completely evaporated. Let cool and add the the apples as well.
Chop up the walnut to the size you like, I wanted them finely chopped.
Prepare the bread crumbs, just place bread in a food processor to get coarse crumbs and then fry with the 30g of butter over medium heat until you get a nice homegeneous golden colour. If you like, you can finish it off in the pan adding a pinch of cinnamon and a bit of sugar to let it caramelise a bit. Remove and cool.
Time to stretch the dough. Ideally do so in a table where you can go around, at least 2 or 3 sides to help you with the stretching from all sides.
Get an old smooth blanket or table cloth and place it over the table. This will help rolling later, as it will be so thin, it would break otherwise. Flour lightly and roll with a pin at first as thin as you can. Then, the hand stretching begins. Roll up your sleeven and lightly flour your forearms. You can use either, your palms or the back of your hand, whichever works best for you to stretch, just make sure you have no watch, no rings that could damage the dough (watch out for long nails too!).
Begin tugging softly in a center to otward motion going around the dough to do so evenly from all sides. Continue until you can read through it or see your patterned tablecloth! If you get any holes, though some recipes suggest patching, I wouldn’t bother, as it will be rolled over, so it’s not that big of a deal, until it is all broken up!
Aim to get bigger than 60 cm x 90cm, as the thicker sides with be cut/ripped off. When ready do cut the thicker sides and drizzle the whole of the surface with the melted or clarified butter.
I found it best to lightly distribute it with my hands as a brush can damage the thin dough. Some recipes even suggest drizzling after filling to avoid that precisely. Try what works for you.You don’t need a lot of butter or it will be greasy rather than absorbed by the dough (as in puff pastry). So just enough for a light coat to avoid the paper thin dough from drying out.
Then, distribute the bread crumbs throughout the whole surface (it could be just the bottom third, as the apples, but since it will not wet the dough, I preferred it throughout to enhance the layers). Then, the nuts (if they are very roughly chopped you may prefer to add them just to the bottom, as they can damage the layers. Finally place the macerated apples (not taking their juices in the bottom of the bowl, which can be used to make a sauce, they are sooo tasty!) in the shape of a log in the bottom.
Take the end of the cloth closer to you and roll away to encase the apples. “Strudel” in german literally means vortex, which is the motion of rolling the dough with the help of the tablecloth. If needed, add a bit more butter in the end, so the ends sticks.
The ends you can tuck underneath or twist (if too long, cut off a bit).
Now another tricky part…tranferring to your baking tray! You supposedly should use the cloth to slide it into your tray, but mine was so long, I used a thin board (left over from some Ikea furniture) which I used as a baguette board.
If the log is too long, you can either cut into portions that fit, in this case, in half (some people divide the dough in half to begin with to make two strudels, but I find it a waste of time) and bake it as such, or even stretch some leftover dough to close the open ends (no apple fell off during baking in my case, though).
Brush with extra melted butter and place in a 180ºC (fan assisted) or 200ºC preheated oven for about 40 minutes until nicely golden. Halfway through baking, brush with butter again and if you like at the end of baking a light brushing too.
Give it at least 20-30 minutes to cool a bit, sprinkle icing/confectioner’s sugar to taste and enjoy!!!