Saturday, September 12, 2009

Apfelstrudel: An Autumnal Kiss Goodbye to Summertime

I always unabashedly salivate over good Granny Smiths.

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)

I've been to Vienna thrice. Twice in the summer and once in the Fall. There are few places this applies to but I will say it unequivocally about Vienna: it is a delightfully autumnal city.

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:

4 Random Reasons Why I Made 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. :)

* * *

Viennese Apfelstrudel
of the somewhat unorthodox persuasion
adapted from this recipe

Serves 8

Note of warning and explanation on the proclaimed unorthodoxness of this Strudel:
I love this recipe because of the copious layering of sugar, nuts and butter. I guess apparently real apple strudel is traditionally made without nuts, but I love nuts, so I went there. When you choose to use nuts the "right ones" to use are walnuts, almonds or pinenuts. Naturally, I used pecans and hazelnuts instead, which may or may not be considered blasphemy by certain purists. You've been warned. I also did not add cinnamon because I'm not a huge cinnamon fan in pastries - I didn't find the strudel lacking in that department. Oh, and I was tempted to use cranberries instead of raisins but held back because Matt complained. He won that battle. This time.


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.

Phyllo dough, b
utter, nuts and sugar...mmmm....

5. Spoon the cooled apple mixture lengthwise down the phyllo, starting 3 inches in from 1 long side and leaving 2-inch border at short sides. Using the parchment paper as an aid, roll up the strudel lengthwise and seal with melted 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. :)
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  1. The apple strudel sounds scrumptious! Excellent with hazelnuts & pecans!

  2. Forget orthodoxy! Your apple strudel looks perfect (though Matt really should give in to the cranberry).

    Although it's been a week since you've gone, hope you're having safe travels to Texas and Wisconsin!

  3. Thanks :) Actually, as an addendum - Matt went to Oktoberfest a couple of days ago and had apple strudel. He suggested layering the apples in between the dough as for thought.