Whether I like it or not, the fall is definitely here. It fell into place sometime while I was blissfully basking in the Mexican sunshine and now there's no going back (well, ok, maybe there is - I leave for Texas and Wisconsin on Monday morning and plan to entirely indulge in the 90 degree weather the former has to offer). The cardigans are out, the wind has changed, and the leaves, unbelievably enough, have started to turn. So I said to myself: Why not just embrace it this year rather than mourning the summer and whining about the impending winter? After all, Fall is the perfect time to "turn over a new leaf," dontcha think?
(that would be my lame drum/symbal combo for my lame Fall joke in case you couldn't tell)
Vienna shines best when the leaves are orangey-red and the air is crisp, clear, and the baroque Viennese architecture glows naturally, richly, warmed by the maturing, aurulent world around. Vienna is best when the breezes seem to be singing mozart, hidden violins and cellos and harpsichords streaming from slightly opened windows, and it's still not too cold to roam the cobbled streets to admire the Stephansdom or stroll the grounds of the beautiful Hapsburgian Schönbrunn (and yes, I do know calling it "beautiful" is redundant) while munching on Mozart Kugeln.
Yes, and most importantly, Fall in the Austrian capital is the perfect time to stop off at a cafe for a Viennese Coffee and some Sacher Torte, for deliciously sweet warmth on a plate. But if you're not a Sacher Torte kind of girl (or guy, for that matter), then the fall with its heavy orchards, is the perfect time to eat Apple Strudel, one of Austria's national dishes. Which is why I, in the forceful throws of Autumn's beginnings in London, have chosen to offer up a recipe for a slightly unorthodox but nevertheless delicious little kiss goodbye to my dear old summertime.
In my best attempt to rationalize what is simply intrinsic whimsy and overzealous tastebuds, I will try to explain why I decided to make Apple Strudel today:
(instead of a million other things I felt like eating)
4. Baking puts me in an autumnal mood and I figured I'd better jump into it head first seeing as the weather already has!
3. It gave me an excuse to familiarize myself a little more with Phyllo pastry. Having had many a run-in with bad Baklava, and knowing that Strudel has its roots in that dessert, I figured I'd see what the fuss was all about.
2. I dislike pastries as a general rule (except for Pain Au Chocolat, which I can eat in copious amounts at any time and any place, preferably toasted), and thought maybe if I baked it myself I might like it better. It worked - I do like it slightly better now - but I still wouldn't order Apple Strudel at a restaurant over, say, brownies, chocolate cake, sticky toffee pudding or even apple pie (which I don't like very much either).
1.Most importantly, though, Matt loves pastries, so I figured I'd throw the good old husband a bone of love while simultaneously getting my bake-on. :)
of the somewhat unorthodox persuasion
adapted from this recipe
Note of warning and explanation on the proclaimed unorthodoxness of this Strudel:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
6 Granny Smith apples (about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup plus 11 tablespoons mixed equal parts white and brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (or cranberries if you're cool)
1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped,
1 1/4 cup pecans; 1/4 cup coarsely chopped, 1 cup finely chopped
6 (17x13-inch) sheets phyllo pastry or twelve 14x9-inch sheets phyllo pastry, thawed if frozen
1. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples and sauté until tender, then add 1/2 cup sugar and the salt; stir until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add raisins and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
2. Remove mixture from heat and stir in coarsely chopped pecans and hazelnuts. Spread the apple mixture evenly onto a baking sheet and allow to cool completely in the fridge.
3. Meanwhile, double-line another baking sheet with parchment paper and melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a small dish.
4. Transfer 1 large phyllo sheet to the lined baking sheet (if using small phyllo, place 2 sheets of phyllo on baking sheet, overlapping slightly). Brush lightly with melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar mixture and 3 tablespoons finely chopped pecans. Repeat with 4 more large phyllo sheets (or 8 more small sheets), melted butter, sugar, and pecans. Top with remaining phyllo sheet; brush with butter.
6. Place the strudel, seam side down, on the parchment. Tuck in the ends to enclose the filling. Brush the entire strudel with butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
7. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the strudel until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut into 8 slices.
Serve warm with a big old scoop of vanilla ice cream. :)