OMG it’s taken me forever to finish this post! But finally, here it is, the apple strudel challenge post.
Ever since I can remember, the Mister and his mother (MIL) talk longingly about grandmother Gram’s apple strudel. We don’t know the origin of Gram’s recipe but it’s very similar to German apple strudel, down to the bread crumbs. But the dough recipe is different it that it doesn’t contain any eggs. MIL has never made it before so the Mister decided to throw down a challenge to me to recreate Gram’s apple strudel. The challenge was actually given to me over a year ago but it took me this long to actually get the nerve up to accept it. One of my major hold back was that I didn’t have a whole lot to go on. I’ve searched the Internet and have found some good references, especially the one posted by Janet of The Taste Space with pictures and great directions. Janet was kind enough to share her Oma’s recipe, which was the closest to what I knew about Gram’s recipe. It all came together when the Mister brought home Gram’s old recipe book a few months ago. Well looky here, a recipe for strudel dough!
MIL wasn’t sure if the actual dough recipe in the book was her mom’s or something she had written down from some publication but it was a start. MIL and I discussed the dough some more and the filling. I decided to use Janet’s recipe for the filling but decided to go off Gram’s recipe. This would be test strudel #1. Oh yeah, better make some notes. Here’s my book and my chicken scratch, hehe. Does anyone else do this when testing a recipe??
Anyway, the very first dough was only a half recipe since I only wanted one test strudel to get a baseline. I decided to add vinegar to the dough since quite a few strudel dough recipes add it and I figure the tenderizing effect of vinegar to crust would help here. Based on the results, I think it was a good addition, certainly didn’t hurt. The other modification I did was the fat. MIL said Gram only used Crisco. Her MIL always used butter and she said it wasn’t nearly as good or flaky as her mom’s (nothing is better than our mom’s version, right?). I wanted the dough to have a buttery flavor so I went with butter for the dough but took a page out of my pie crust recipe with half and half on the butter and Crisco as the wash for the dough. That also proved to be a good decision. I’ll clarify later in the post.
Most recipes called for mixing and kneading (and pounding) by hand. I decided to use the food processor to get the dough going. Hey, it works for pie crust, why not strudel? I have a very old (17-yrs old) 7-cup processor, worked just fine for one strudel dough but for the full recipe, I’d have to divide the ingredients in half. So do what you need to do if you’re going the food processor route.
Put flour, salt and sugar in the processor, pulse to mix everything. Then with the processor on, slowly add the liquid (1/2 stick melted butter and enough water to make 1 cup of liquid). Run until the dough comes together into a ball. Now comes the muscle work. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface. I used a knead for 10 then pound with rolling pin for 10 method. I didn’t want to knead for 20 minutes and since whacking the crap out of a flour dough will help develop the gluten, I used both to speed it up. I probably could of just whacked the shit out the dough for 10 minutes but the dogs get scared with all that pounding. I also like the process of kneading dough so why not? I’ve made the dough a few times now and found that alternating between the two (knead 10x/pound 10x) ) for about 15 minutes produces the easiest to stretch dough. Once I got all my aggression out on the dough, it was time to let it rest.
Put some oil (vegetable) in a bowl and then put the dough in, roll it around to get the oil all over, cover and let rest in a warm area for at least 2 hours. Speaking of warm, the warmer the room the better it will be for stretching dough. While the dough is resting, start prepping the work area for stretching. I decided to use the kitchen island for the test since it was taller than the dining table.
I used a large clean sheet (no fabric softener or sheet!). Used pins to hold the sides together. I chose a patterned sheet to help gauge as to how thin the dough is. Ideally I should be able to read a newspaper through it.
Side bar: on my second strudel test, I decided to use the dining table. Pretty much the same set up. One of the dogs, Cole (pictured below), thought maybe we were playing castle or something. The good thing about the table is that it’s smaller than the island and the dough can actually overhang over the sides. Problem is that it’s lower and I had to slouch down while stretching, which was very hard on the back. Think I’ll stick with island even though it was a little harder to get around the dough. I also don’t have to drape down towels on the carpet.
Now that the staging area is set, time to work on the filling.
The apple filling consisted of three different kind of apples (Granny Smith, Jonagold and McIntosh), bread crumbs (1/2 C), sugar (3/4 C), cinnamon (1 tablespoon). Peel and cube the apples, about 1/2″ cubes. Mix everything together in a bowl. Let sit until needed. There will be lots of juice released, which is good all that liquid will make the strudel a bit gummy.
Right before getting ready to stretch the dough, I melted an equal portion of Crisco and butter in a small sauce pan. Since this was going to give the dough its flakiness, I thought the combo of fat would be good. As I said, it works for pie crust.
Put the butter/Crisco on the lowest heat setting on the stove and keep warm until needed.
After a nice long rest from all the beating, the dough should be supple and smooth. It should be very elastic when pulled on. See how the dough stretches?
Dust the sheet with flour and put the dough in the center of the table. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle, as far as it will roll out. Once it’s rolled out, grab the edge with fingers and start to pull gently. This takes a bit to get going but it will. I think this was probably the toughest part for me the first go-around. I think a video of this would be helpful, maybe one day I’ll get around to it.
Time to stretch! Sorry there aren’t any action shots here since I couldn’t stretch and take pictures at the same time. I used my fingers with palms up and worked hand over hand to stretch the dough out from the center. It helps to have one hand in the center while the other one gently (gently!) stretches out from the center. You can see in this photo that you can start to see the pattern from the sheet through the dough.
I was able to get it to stretch fairly thin, about tissue paper thin. The edges will be thick but that gets cut off and you end up with this. MIL said this is usually fried in oil then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. I didn’t do it but will try it in a future strudel.
Once the dough is stretched, grab the warm melted Crisco/butter mix and liberally drizzle it all over the dough. I used a silicone brush and gently brushed out the butter, taking care not to tear the dough.
Now for filling. I added the filling along a long edge about 3 inches from the edge. But first, I sprinkled bread crumbs, about 3-4 inches wide. Then the apple filling on top. I then folded over the edge to cover the filling.
Time to roll! I undid all the clips, grabbed the sheet by the ends and gently lifted so that the strudel starts to roll. I trimmed the sides a bit since there were so much dough. I trimmed it to about 2″ overhang and then folded that into cover the sides (keeps the filling in). Pull the sheet towards you so that the strudel doesn’t go flying off the other other end of the table! I tried to keep the bulk of the strudel in the center of the table.
Rolling, rolling, rolling. Keep that strudel rolling! Once you get to the end, roll the strudel seam-side down. Have your sheet pan handy here. Also make sure it’s brushed with the Crisco/butter mix. I used parchment paper and then brushed the top.
Carefully lift the strudel into the pan. Bend it so that it fits in the pan.
Now again liberally, and I mean liberally, brush the top with the melted butter mixture. All shiny.
Now here’s where you’ll need to decide what you would like to do. Gram always made the strudels up to this point and then refrigerated until the next day before baking. The first test I did, I did not do this. It turned out good but it wasn’t as flaky as I had expected. The second ones I made, I did let it sit overnight and what a difference it made in the flakiness of the dough. Granted I thought the dough was better the second time but I think leaving it in the fridge was the key to the flakiness. The melted Crisco and butter had time to re-solidify, similar to a pie crust that’s been rolled and then refrigerated before baking. The solidified fat creates air pockets and flakiness!
As far as baking temp and time, what worked best was using the convection baking setting, preheat at 425 degrees F. Bake for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Oops, forgot to take a photo before we started to cut up the strudel. That’s powdered sugar on top cuz that’s the way Gram did it! Yum yum yum!
Here is the second test apple strudel I made a week later. I also made a cheese strudel the same day but I’ll save that post for another day since this is a rather long post already.
For those eagle eyes, I used a silicone baking sheet the second time. I didn’t notice a difference on the bottom of the strudel so your choice.
So what was the verdict you ask? The Mister said it was exactly the way he remembered it. MIL said the dough was spot on although. The dough needed a few more layers so that led to an increase in dough ingredients in the final recipe. Verdict on the second one? I got a gold star from MIL since it was right on the money and now we can all enjoy Gram’s apple strudel.
So how would I rate this whole process? In all honesty, I didn’t think it was as daunting as it all had seemed. Sure I had to learn some new techniques but really once I got down to it, learning curve wasn’t that steep. I got pretty good at stretching the dough by the second time that I was even able to get it thinner than the first one. Certainly a bit more work than making pie but both MIL and the Mister would much rather have apple strudel than apple pie. I think I might actually prefer the strudel over pie too. Certainly addictive.
Hope everyone has begun thinking about Thanksgiving, just around the corner!
- ½ stick unsalted butter, melted
- Water, enough to make 1 C liquid when added to the melted butter
- ¾ tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2¼ C all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 cups (~2 lb) apples, peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¾ C sugar
- ¼ C fine bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp Crisco
- In a food processor using the metal blade, add dry ingredients and pulse several times to blend. Add vinegar to butter-water mixture and stir to combine. While the food processor is running, slowly add liquid. Run until dough forms a ball.
- On lightly floured surface, knead dough 10 times then beat dough with a rolling pin for 10 times. Alternate between kneading and pounding for 15 minutes. Dough will become bumpy (bubbly) on the surface and soft.
- Rest dough in a well-oiled bowl, making sure to turn cover entire dough with oil. Let rest in a warm area for at least 2 hours.
- Dough will be supple and smooth at the end of rest period. Dough should stretch easily when slightly pulled.
- While dough is resting, prep work area and prepare filling.
- About 30 minutes towards the end of rest, mix all apple filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- In a small saucepan on low heat, melt 3 tablespoons each of unsalted butter and Crisco together. Keep warm until needed.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F on convection baking setting. If oven does not have convection, use same temperatures but will just need to bake a little longer and will need to rotate pan half way through baking.
- Cover work table with a clean tablecloth or bed sheet. Lightly dust sheet with flour. Put dough in the center of the table. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as long and narrow as possible. Brush the top of dough with melted Crisco/butter mixture.
- Using tips of fingers, gently stretch dough from the center and out. Go around the dough stretching until it becomes tissue thin. Cut or tear away the thicker edges around the stretched dough.
- Drizzle and brush the top of the stretched dough with melted Crisco/butter mixture, taking care not to tear the dough.
- Along a long edge of stretched dough 4 inches from the edge, sprinkle bread crumbs about 3-4 inches wide.
- Drain excess liquid from apple filling. Spread filling on top of bread crumbs.
- Fold dough edge over to cover filling. Fold the short side edges over to cover the ends. Lift the sheet slowly to gently roll the strudel.
- Grease a sheet pan with Crisco/butter mixture. If using parchment paper or silicone baking mat, grease the top of sheet/mat. Lift strudel into pan, making an “S” shape to fit. Generously brush the top and side of strudel with Crisco/butter mixture.
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees F. If using convection baking, bake for another 20 minutes. If using standard baking, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the strudel is golden brown.
- Cool a bit before serving. Best served warm.
- Reheat in oven at 325 degrees F for about 7-9 minutes to crisp up dough.