Saturday, April 6, 2013

Apple Strudel

Finding myself with some leftover filo dough, I decided dessert would be apple strudel with vanilla bean ice cream.  It's easy to make and once dinner comes out of the oven I'll have the strudel ready to bake.  It takes about 30 minutes to prepare and another 50 minutes to bake, then a half hour or more to cool.  So it will be just warm, flaky and ready for dessert at the right time.

Julian's Apple Strudel
Strudel is most often associated with the Austrian cuisine, but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Here, apple strudel is the most widely known strudel, and whenever I'm in Austria I always make sure I have it at least once, along with my other favorite Austrian dishes, Wiener Schnitzel and the Sacher Tort, which I've written about previously.

The oldest known Strudel recipe is from 1696, a handwritten recipe is housed at the Vienna City and State Library (the Wiener Stadtbibliothek).  But today I'm using a recipe I modified from Martha Stewart, which is quick and easy to make and comes out perfectly every time.  On her website you'll find many variations of strudel, but I was particularly fond of this one because it adds dried apricots, which blend in and add a subtle flavor to the apples.  But you can also substitute those with raisins, which is more common in Austria.

Julian sugars the buttered filo dough.
The recipe uses filo dough for the crust, which you can purchase from your grocer's freezer case.  It has variations of spelling such as phyllo, filo, or fillo dough.  Whatever spelling is on the package, these are paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough used for making pastries.  About 24 hours before use, place the frozen dough in the refrigerator so it can slowly thaw.  Mine shown here had been thawed for 72 hours as I had used part of the dough for another recipe, and this didn't seem to matter in the final result, although it was more delicate than it had been when more fresh.

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup dried fine breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch)
1 tablespoon flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
12 sheets filo dough (roughly 13 by 16 inches), thawed if frozen
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablepoon sanding sugar (optional)
Ice cream or sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; set aside 3 tablespoons mixture. Peel and core apples; slice, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Toss with lemon juice; stir into sugar mixture with apricots, breadcrumbs, starch and flour.

Lightly flour your work surface.  Gently unfold the thawed filo dough on the counter next to your work surface.  If it has small cracks or rips you may still use it.  Select the top two sheets and gently refold them to making moving them easier.  Move the folded sheets onto your work surface and unfold.

Apple and apricot filling.
Brush the top sheet of filo with the melted butter, and lightly sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture. Move two more folded sheets on top of the surgared sheet, unfold, brush with better and sprinkle with the sugar mixture.  Do this with all of the remaining sheets, two sheets at a time, layering with butter and sugar mixture.

Gently spread the apple filling on filo, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting with a long end, roll up to enclose filling ending with the seam side down.  Carefully move the strudel (using your hands to support it in the center and on the ends onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with remaining butter; sprinkle with remaining sugar.  Add sanding sugar if available.  Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 50 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack or cutting board until just warm.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

A flaky, crispy, fruit-filled treat!

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