Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Apple Strudel

I give up on bakeries in London. They claim to sell Apple Strudel but the product you get is not Apple Strudel as we know it. Certainly not as New Yorkers know it.

So, I finally gave up and decided to make it myself. I've made apple strudel for many years when I couldn't buy the real stuff at a good Jewish/German bakery but never tried in London as the apples in the UK are nothing to write home about. They're great for cider and make very tasty apple sauce but they just aren't pie apples being the wrong texture and generally insipid. However, yesterday a neighbour stopped by with a bag of apples she had just picked from an old tree on her allotment garden. They looked gorgeous and the flavour - wow, spicy and  sweetly tart, yum! Strudel and pie - here we come!

So, here's the recipe. If you are in the US, try using Winesap apples or similar spicy, strongly flavoured firm apples.

Ingredients for the filling:
800g/1lb 12oz cooking apples, peeled, cored, cut into small chunks
50g/2oz unsalted butter
100ml/3 fl oz water
100g/3½ oz caster sugar (granulated sugar in the US) - cane sugar, please!
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cinnamon - to taste
large handful of fresh breadcrumbs (you must use fresh, not bought dried stuff)
Optional: 3 Tbsp raisins soaked in rum or OJ to plump them (I'm a purist and omit these.)

For the pastry:
50g/2oz unsalted butter, melted
5 sheets filo pastry
fresh breadcrumbs
icing/confectioners sugar, for dusting
Greaseproof/baking parchment paper

Preparation method
1. If you are going to use raisins, soak them in a bit of rum or OJ before starting.
2. Peel, core, and cut apples into small chunks.
3. Cook the apples in a pan with the butter, water and sugar for 5
minutes, or until the apples have softened slightly, but still retain their
shape and are al dente.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cinnamon, raisins (if you're using them)
and the breadcrumbs and stir to combine (the breadcrumbs will bind
everything together). Set aside to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
6. For the pastry, cut a piece of greaseproof paper a little larger than your
baking sheet to assemble the strudel on. This will also help you to roll it into
the assembled shape. Unroll the filo dough sheets and cover with a dish
towel to prevent it drying out. Spread out one sheet of filo on the paper,
and brush with the melted butter. Lightly scatter with a bit of the breadcrumbs
and a bit of sugar.  Repeat the process with all four sheets, placing
them on top of each other, brushing with melted butter each time and
scattering a bit of bread crumbs and sugar on each.
7. Spoon the apple mixture along the long side of the pastry about an inch from
the edge and roll up, longest side first, into a parcel, seam-side down. If you
have too much apple mix, just hold that aside. You can either roll the finished parcel
onto the baking sheet and discard the paper or trim the paper a bit and use that to
lift the parcel onto the baking sheet and let it bake on the paper.
Press down the ends of the parcel gently to seal in the filling.
8. Brush all over with the remaining butter and bake in the oven for 25 -30 minutes,
or until the top is crisp and golden-brown. (Check the strudel after 15 minutes;
if it is browning too quickly, reduce the heat a little. )
9. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet. When cooled, carefully
slide the strudel onto a platter or cutting board and dust with icing/confectioners sugar.