Apple strudel (strudel di mele) is a very popular cake in Italy and, from its name, we can also easily understand its origins. Austria is the strudel homeland and the recipe found popularity in those regions of Italy (North East) subjected to the Austro-Hungarian empire ruling of the 19th century. Trentino Alto Adige region of Italy, a region where many of its inhabitants still speak German despite being Italian, is the main promoter of this wonderful cake, thanks to its cultural connections with Austria. In my family Strudel has always been very popular thanks to my mother, who comes from an area of Italy bordering with Austria and Slovenia (Tarvisiano). However, considering that the recipe contains raisins, pine kernels, cinnamon etc., its true origins can be probably traced back to the Middle East culinary tradition; in fact the strudel has some remote affinities with the Turkish Baklava. How did it go to Austria? Well, Turkish invasions that took place in East Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries could be the answer. Anyway, here I will show you how to make it and I will try my best to keep it simple and effective.
Ingredients (Metric & Imperial measurements):
Nutrition facts: Calories 650 per serving.
Ingredients (U.S. measurements):
Note: I bought the ready rolled puff pastry sheet in the supermarket, size about 350 mm x 225 mm (14" x 9"). Supermarkets nowadays offer a wide range of choices. You can also make the strudel using filo pastry, but you need to use about 6 layers, one on the top of each other and each layer needs to be brushed with melted butter.
Firstly, 1 hour before you start making the strudel, soak the raisins into the glass of rum.
After 1 hour, separate the raisins from the rum using a sieve.
Put the raisins into a small container and set aside. Keep the rum; at a later stage we will use some of it (2 or 3 dessert spoons will be added to the strudel filling).
Next, peel and slice the apples (into small slices about 2-3 mm thick). Put the slices into a large bowl.
Add some lemon juice and mix to distribute the lemon juice all over the apple slices.
Add the raisins.
Add the pine kernels.
Add the orange zest.
Add the cinnamon.
Add the sugar.
Add the apricot preserve.
Finally, add 2 or 3 dessert spoons of rum. And the rest, drink it!
Mix everything together to evenly distribute the various ingredients.
Cover the bowl with cling film and set it aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it as filling.
Now, put the butter into a pan over a medium heat. When the butter starts bubbling, add the breadcrumbs and toast for few minutes until lightly brown.
This is what you should have.
Put the breadcrumbs into a small bowl to cool down.
Meanwhile, spread some flour onto a working surface.
Unroll your pastry and start stretching it with a rolling pin. Usually ready rolled pastry is too thick for the purpose of making strudel, so you need to enlarge the sheet and make it thinner (about 2 mm thick).
Next, drag the sheet over a tea towel and give it a gentle stretch using your hands. Then you can cut the border with a pastry wheel, just to give the sheet a decent rectangular shape!
Next, spread the breadcrumbs over the pastry sheet.
Then, take the large bowl from the refrigerator and put the contents in the centre of the pastry sheet, as shown in the photograph.
Fold one side of the sheet (the longer side) over the filling. This operation will be easier if you help yourself lifting the tea towel from its corners and folding it towards the centre of the pastry sheet.
Do the same with the opposite side.
Take a large tray and cover its bottom with a layer of baking paper. Brush the paper with melted butter or margarine. At this stage switch the oven on and set it at 180ºC (355ºF).
Next, put the egg yolk into a small bowl and add the milk.
Beat the egg yolk and milk with a fork until they are evenly mixed.
Brush the egg batter all over the strudel.
Cover the tray with foil, try to keep the area in the centre lifted. The foil will protect the strudel from burning during the first stage of cooking. Now, put the tray in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, take the tray out of the oven and remove the foil.
Put the tray back in the oven and cook for another 15 minutes.
When finished, the strudel should look like this.
Set the strudel onto a wire rack to cool down.
When the strudel is tepid, cut a slice and put the slice onto a plate. Garnish with some icing sugar.
There you go! Apple strudel served with vanilla ice cream.
Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.
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