apple strudel.

apple strudel.

It’s a trip to Germany this week at afternoons in tablespoons. Last weekend, Kenan and I planned to head over to Chris and Jodi‘s place to catch up on Lost and do some hanging out. Chris is part German, spent some time in Berlin last year and seems to have a general delight for all things Deutschland. So when I was scheming about things to make for the gathering, I immediately decided strudel would be sufficiently delicious and German-themed. I’d never tried it before, so I thought it’d be fun to give it a whirl.

Ja, voll (yea, verily).

chopping apples

And as luck would have it, my new, hefty, exciting baking tome had a recipe for strudel. I was most intrigued by the dough: strudel is made not like traditional pastry, for which one prepares a dough that has a very high fat to lean ratio and needs to be turned one or two times before use, but rather with a very elastic paste that is rolled out and then stretched until it reaches almost the breaking point. Apples are not exactly in season, but I decided to go with an apple strudel anyway, because none of the other fillings suggested in the book looked alluring, and also because those were the only passable fruits I could find at our local grocery store.

I started on Saturday morning, stopping at the farmer’s market and grocery store to get fruit and other sundries. Back home, I got cooking. I placed some flour, water and salt in my new standing mixer and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, until it got super stretchy and supple and sticky. Then I coated it with some oil, wrapped it up in plastic and set it aside to rest. Resting the dough allows the gluten structure to relax; if the dough is not allowed to rest, it can overstress the gluten and cause the dough to tear and become tough. After a few hours of resting, the dough was ready to roll out.

I laid a linen cloth out on my work surface and dusted it heavily with flour. The fabric facilitates the stretching process and also allows the filled dough to be easily rolled up and transferred to the baking pan. At any rate, I then placed my little doughy friend in the center of the cloth and rolled it out. Because the dough is so elastic, it’s incredibly easy to work with as long as you keep dusting the work surface and the top of the dough with flour to prevent sticking. After it was rolled out, I coated the rolled dough with some butter, covered it, and allowed it to rest for another 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, I prepared the ingredients for the filling. I heated up the oven and then peeled, cored and chopped a mixture apples (granny smiths, jonagolds and pippins) and stirred them together with some sugar and spices. Then I weighed out some bread crumbs and mixed them with some melted butter. After that, it was time to give the dough its final stretching and fill the strudel. I enlisted Kenan to help me with the stretching process, as it’s a bit of a two-person job. We stood on either side of the work table and gently slid our hands to the middle of the dough, lifting and gently pulling the dough toward ourselves. We got a few little tears, which I chalked up to our being first-time strudel stretchers. I was a bit worried about the tears, but I was able to patch the holes up fairly satisfactorily with some of the dough from the sides. Then I coated the dough with a bit more butter, sprinkled the whole lot with the bread crumb mixture, and strewed the apples at the edge. Then it was time to roll everything up, which was a bit of a harrowing task.

You see, when the dough is stretched out, it’s about 21 inches long and 15 inches wide; not exactly petite. But I rolled up my sleeves and went at it, using the towel to fold the dough over the apples and quickly (or rather, as quickly as possible) roll everything up into an at least somewhat picturesque little package. I was then faced with another problem: getting the sizable strudel log (ahem) onto my tiny, Brooklyn kitchen-sized baking pan. The dough, as I mentioned, is already stretched to the breaking point and fairly difficult to handle without tearing, which further complicated an already delicate task. I ended up dealing with the situation by gently nudging and cajoling the strudel onto the pan with a combination of shaking and prodding and then bending the dough into a sort of crescent shape once the bulk of it was safely on the pan. Then I cut some steam vents along the top of the strudel and coated the lot with some more butter. Then it was into the oven with my little German guy.

Baking and Pastry says the strudel should take about 45 minutes to bake, but for whatever reason, my oven took forever with this thing. But eventually, well past the 75 minute mark, the thing looked done: ever-so-slightly golden brown and crackly around the edges and top. I took it out of the oven and wrapped it up for its journey over the Chris and Jodi’s place.

lost and treats.

wall of apples

Over at Chris and Jodi’s place, we ordered some food and settled into a couple episodes of Lost and some growlers full of delicious beer. After we had done a small modicum of digesting, we tucked into the strudel. The crust was incredibly difficult to cut through and necessitated an inordinate amount of sawing. Taste-wise, it was rather bland: the texture was nice, but it didn’t have the buttery tenderness that I look for in a good pastry. The filling was good, but not terribly inspiring or amazing. All in all, I think there are some improvements I could make to this guy, but it’s a pretty good starting place nonetheless.


apple strudel


(adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft)

bread flour 1/2 pound
salt 3/4 teaspoon
water 7.5 flounce ounces
vegetable oil 1 1/4 ounce
extra vegetable oil for coating
apple filling.
apples 2 1/2 pounds

raisins 2 ounces
granulated sugar 4 ounces
ground cinnamon 1/2 ounce
plain dried bread crumbs 3 ounces
unsalted butter, melted 4 ounces

for the dough: In the work bowl of a standing mixer, sift together the flour and salt. Add the water and oil and mix on low speed until just blended, using a dough hook attachment. Increase speed to high and mix until the dough is smooth, satiny, and very elastic, about 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Rub the dough with oil and wrap in plastic. Let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight before use (if you refrigerate the dough, allow it to come to room temperature before working with it).

for the strudel: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about one-quarter of an inch thick. In a large mixing bowl, toss the apples with the cinnamon and sugar. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the bread crumbs with 1 ounce of the melted butter.

Cover a work surface with a large linen cloth and dust the cloth liberally with bread flour. Roll the dough into a rectangle 12 by 18 inches and let relax for 15 minutes, either covered or buttered to prevent the dough from drying.

To stretch the dough, work with two people on opposite sides of the work table. Place your hands under the dough and gently begin to lift and stretch the dough toward you, working from the center out. Continue stretching until the dough is very thin and almost transparent.

Brush the dough with 2 ounces of the remaining melted butter. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the entire surface of the dough and then place the apples in a strip along one of the long edges of the dough. Roll up the dough, starting by lifting up one edge of the cloth, then continuing to use the cloth to help you roll up the pastry so that it forms a tight log. Transfer the strudel to a sheet pan.

Brush the top of the strudel with the rest of the melted butter. Make vents in the top by cutting one-inch slits in the top of the dough at two-inch intervals.

Bake the strudel in the preheated oven until light golden brown, or about 25 minutes (note: it took my oven way, way longer to get the strudel to be this color – just make sure to check the dough regularly after the first 25 minutes to make sure you’re not burning it). Serve immediately, preferably with some ice cream and a nice cold German beer.

party strudel

photographs by the inimitable kenan.

apple strudel.

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