Strudel is a world famous dessert delicacy. It originates from Austria where even in the smallest town every morning starts from the smell of apples with cinnamon spreading around. It comes from the bakeries where their caring owners are preparing strudel pastry for the morning coffee of local residents. If you ever try this pastry in one of the local coffee shops, you will always remain a devoted fan of it. Smell of fresh strudel is a smell of home, warm hands and morning freshness…
Word “strudel” comes from German and means “vortex funnel swirl”. Pastry is named this way for a reason – during preparation, dough is twisted to a roll into which filling is placed. Apple strudel (apfelstrudel) is considered classic, but cherry strudel is also very common. Austrian bakers came up with this name in 18th century, however, first known strudel recipe dates back to 1696 and its manuscript is stored in Vienna city library. Some researchers also relate origin of strudel to Byzantine Empire times, but the real popularity it has gotten during Habsburg dynasty rule in Central and South-Eastern Europe.
Today variety of strudel fillings is limited only by imagination and talent of the baker. Apples and cherry are traditional, but in Europe you can find chocolate, wild berries, nuts, bananas, and pineapple and cranberry strudels. It may also not necessarily be sweet – meat, mushrooms, cabbage, onion, fish, seafood, potato strudel is a commonplace.
Strudel is very popular not only in German speaking countries, but also in Hungarian, Czech and European Jewish cuisines. Sometimes it may taste similarly to some eastern pastries such as “pakhlava” and it is nothing to be surprised by – every dish with time acquires a lot of variations introduced by taste preferences of national cuisines. For example Germans like to cook strudel with sauerkraut and replace butter with margarine, reduce amount of eggs and add vinegar. In Balkan countries olive oil is often used instead of butter, in Slovenia cottage cheese is used instead of cream. Local variations of strudel are also made is Moldova and Ukraine.
So even though strudel is Austrian dessert and today is “Russian Monday”, nevertheless strudel is a favorite pastry in Russia and very often served with tea and coffee.
Note: This classic recipe is made with strudel dough, which is wonderful, but can be tricky and time-consuming, especially for a novice. Filo (phyllo or fillo) pastry makes a good shortcut.
Makes: 2 Strudels
For the dough:
- 1 3/4 cup (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 (120ml) water
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
For the filling:
- 4 apples, (peel, core and thinly slice them)
- 1 cup dried fruits, raisins, apricots, plums
- lemon zest from one lemon
- lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup freshly made breadcrumbs
- 4 Tbsp. butter for breadcrumbs
- 5 Tbsp. butter melted, for buttering the dough
- confectioners' sugar for dusting
To make the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together all ingredients for about 5 minutes. The dough should be very soft but not sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature, about one hour.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté for a few minutes until golden brown. Let cool.
To make the apple filling: In a large bowl mix together the apples, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, dried fruits, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Cut the dough in a half. On a lightly floured kitchen towel roll out the dough (1/2). Using your hands, gently stretch the dough thinner on all sides, working your way around the sheet of dough. Stretch it until it starts to look translucent in spots. Let it rest a minute and stretch the areas you think are too thick, again. Your dough should be very thin. Brush dough with melted butter.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Spread the (1/2) breadcrumbs over 2/3 of the dough and pat down evenly. Spoon the (1/2) apple filling on a top of the breadcrumbs, leaving a border all around. Fold in the two shorter sides, then using the towel roll up from one long side, Swiss-roll (jelly-roll) style. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place the strudels on a lightly buttered baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the pastry with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden.
Remove the strudels from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar before cutting into slices for serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or vanilla sauce.