Strudel is the name given by the Israelis to the @ sign. When you know that strudel means whirlwind in German, it is easy to understand why!
Apfelstrudel (apfel for apples) is the Austrian version and more specifically a Viennese pastry, much like Sachertorte. This specialty is indeed a well-traveled treat! This dessert has traveled from the Ottoman empire – it is a distant cousin of baklava – to come and settle in Central and Eastern Europe. It then crossed the seas and oceans and was introduced to Israel, the United States and Argentina by European Jewish communities.
Apfelstrudel whose recipes somewhat vary from one country to another, is actually one of the jewels of Jewish Ashkenazi cuisine. It is the star of the tables on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday during which apple is honored.
For the occasion, apple is dipped in honey before praying for the year to be as sweet as this association. Ashkenazi communities wish a git Juhr, a good year in Yiddish.
But the Apfelstrudel is not only associated with Rosh Hashanah. It is found on many other tables during holidays and other occasions throughout the year, like for example Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which takes place a few days after Rosh Hashanah, when it is eaten to break the fast.
The recipe for apfelstrudel is somewhat technical and the difficulty lies in the working of the dough, which is called strudelteig. Don’t worry, it is not rocket science! Especially when the dough is well prepared, but it takes some skill that is acquired with practice.
The method is to first lay out all the dough and then stretch it as thinly as possible using fists and forearms under the dough. To consider a strudelteig successful, it is said that one must be able to read a newspaper through it.
A good Austrian wife knows her strudelteig, and is able to stretch the dough without the slightest hole.
For my first attempt, I actually did pretty well with only two tiny holes in my dough. With a little effort and a little practice, I will soon be able to find an Austrian husband!
This technique of stretching the dough very thinly, brushing it with melted butter to separate the layers and then rolling it is ultimately nothing less than the ancestor of puff pastry making.
For the less adventurous, do not let yourself be discouraged by this step!
Start by preparing your apfelstrudel with store-bought puff pastry. All you’ll have to do is spread it as thinly as possible with a rolling pin. Also, as I often read during my research, you can replace strudelteig by phyllo dough, by brushing each sheet with melted butter, using the technique that we had already gone through when preparing Bulgarian banitsa.
I am pretty satisfied with my first homemade apfelstrudel, and I even had the stamp of approval of my Ashkenazi friend Michael. Thank you Michael!
- 2 cups flour
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons oil + 1 tablespoon
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 2 lb apples
- 1 cup raisins
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- Lemon juice
- Rum (optional)
- 3 tablespoons icing sugar
Prepare the dough by kneading the flour, egg, oil, pinch of salt and water for 10 minutes. The dough should be soft and elastic.
Place the dough on a lightly oiled surface. Brush the dough with the tablespoon of oil so it does not dry out as it rises and does not crack later.
Cover and let rise 1 hour in a warm, draft-free place.
During this time, macerate the raisins in the rum (optional).
Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a hot pan until frothy. Add the bread crumbs and heat until golden brown, stirring constantly.
Add the ground hazelnuts and leave on medium heat for 2 more minutes.
Peel and core the apples. Cut into thin strips. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
Mix icing sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples directly or mix in with the bread crumbs.
Place dough on a large cloth previously generously sprinkled with flour. As kitchen cloths are rarely big enough for this step, preferably use a fabric tablecloth.
First, flatten the dough with the palms of the hands, then spread with a rolling pin as thinly as possible.
Then slide closed fists, palms down and forearms in the center of the dough and stretch from the center to the edges gently, taking care not to pierce.
If a hole appears nevertheless, pinch the dough to fix it, or take some dough from the edge to seal the hole.
Stretch the dough as thinly as possible in all directions.
Cut and discard the edges which are inevitably thicker.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and brush the dough.
Evenly spread the bread crumbs and nuts over about half of the dough approximately 2 to 4 inches from the top of the dough. Add the apples mixed with the drained raisins.
Then roll the apfelstrudel by starting with the portion of the dough without filling, then with the help of the cloth fully roll the rest of the dough.
Close both ends by pinching the dough so that the filling does not leak during cooking.
With the help of the cloth, gently tilt the apple strudel on a baking tray lined with a sheet of parchment paper. The "welding" of the dough should be underneath.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, and brush the apfelstrudel generously.
Bake for about 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 F.
Wait until the apfelstrudel has cooled completely before sprinkling the sifted icing sugar.