Chef’s tips: How to make the perfect apple strudel

The first recipe for apple strudel dates back to the 17th century. Source: Getty

It’s fair to say apple strudel is one of those classic recipes that’s hard to say no to come dessert time. This old-fashioned, traditional Viennese dish typically uses a simple ingredients list of apples, raisins, sugar and cinnamon, and is encased in a thin sheet of flaky pastry.

While the delectable dessert is perfect on its own, it tastes even better with a vanilla sauce, whipped cream or a scoop of ice-cream, and is a surefire winner to dish up to guests after dinner. 

The origins of apple strudel 

The first recipe for apple strudel dates back to the 17th century. Most fascinating however, is where it comes from. While strudel comes from the German word ‘whirlpool’ (referring to the way the pastry is rolled around the filling to form many layers), the dessert is actually a traditional Austrian pastry originating from Vienna, Le Cordon Bleu’s pastry chef Daniele Panetta explains. Apple strudel has since become one of Austria’s national dishes.

However, the paper-thin pastry that defines strudel (as well as other closely related pastries like baklava), was actually invented in Istanbul under the Ottoman empire around 1500.

What’s the secret to strudel success? 

Even though the steps to perfect apple strudel are easy, strudel dough has a reputation for being notoriously difficult, so keeping a few tricks on-hand can make all the difference. 

When making the pastry dough, Daniele says not to add all the liquid (milk, water or a combination of both) at once. “Reserve 10 per cent of the liquid to assess how much more is required as you go,” he recommends.

Make your pastry dough the day before, wrap it in glad wrap and let it rest overnight in the fridge. Daniele suggests resting the dough for 18 hours minimum and if possible even for as long as 24 hours. The most important thing is to get the pastry super thin. How thin? Daniele recommends making it so thin you can read a magazine or book from underneath it!

The quality and freshness of ingredients has a major impact on the outcome of your apple strudel, particularly the fruit. Daniele advises picking apples with no bruises or marks. His favourite are Granny Smith due to their sweet and sour flavour.

For extra texture, he recommends adding sultanas to your apple mix. Sometimes when a strudel is overcooked it can turn the filling into puree, adding sultanas ensures there is still something to chew on.

Another hot tip is to use either breadcrumbs, sponge crumbs or uncoloured macaroon crumbs in your filling to absorb any moisture from the apple.

Sounds tasty? Here’s how to make it! 

Apple strudel 

Ingredients

Dough

  • 125g of bakers flour (strong flour) – make sure you buy bakers flour and not plain – also known as bread flour
  • 10g of egg yolks
  • Between 70-80ml of liquid – amount depends on your flour
  • 15g of melted butter
  • A pinch of salt
      •  

Filling 

  • Half a kilo of apples – cored, peeled and thinly sliced  – not cubed! (refer to Daniele’s tip on how to pick the best apples for your strudel filling)
  • 50g of sugar
  • 60g of sultanas (refer to Daniele’s tip)
  • 50g of apricot jam/quince paste/pear jam 
  • 1 x tablespoon of melted butter
  • 1 x tablespoon of breadcrumbs/ sponge crumbs/ macaroon crumbs  
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Add flour to a big mixing bowl, metal is better.
  2. Make a well in the centre and then add yolks, salt, liquid (milk) and melted butter and mix with your hands.
  3. Suggest to start with 75 ml of liquid and then see if you need more or less (refer to Daniele’s tip on adding liquid to the dough).
  4. Mix it with your hands – consistency should be firm and smooth.
  5. Once you’re happy with the dough, wrap in cling film and put back in the bowl and let sit overnight in fridge.
  6. The next day: The trick with filo pastry dough is to get it paper thin. To do this you will need lots of flour and lots of space.
  7. Take the dough from the fridge and lay it out on your flour covered dining table and dust the top with flour as well.
  8. Roll, roll, roll and stretch, stretch, stretch (stretch with your hands).
  9. Meanwhile to make the filling: Add apples, cinnamon and sugar to a pot to caramelise and then add sultanas and the jam/quince.
  10. Separately in a frying pan, brown the bread crumbs and the butter – you need to reduce the butter so the breadcrumbs can absorb the liquid from the apples and add texture to your filling.
  11. Depending on what kind of strudel you want to make (traditional or not ) you can mix the crumbs through your filling or keep it to the side and sprinkle on top.
  12. When baking the strudel use baking paper or a silicon matt to ensure it is cooked evenly on the bottom.
  13. Roll, fold, roll, fold. The traditional method is to spread the apple filling over the dough then sprinkle the crumbs on top of the filling and then fold it into a parcel – meaning the ends are folded in to the centre and the pastry is sealed on all sides.
  14. Fold in the longer edges of the dough in towards the filling and then, starting from the longest end closest to you, use the cloth to help roll the strudel up, making sure the ends are sealed. Roll, fold, roll, fold.
  15. Brush your rolled strudel with melted butter. Bake the strudel.
  16. Bake at 200°C or 190-195°C in a fan forced oven. Remove when golden brown and enjoy straight away!

Have you made apple strudel before? 

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