Since Europe takes a four day break for Easter, we decided to take one too. To Austria we went, for some end-of-season skiing and to explore Salzburg and Tirol. There was quite a bit of driving involved as well, where I once again realized the monster I had created. Nate has always been an adventurous person, and that translates into the foods he will eat. He'll try the stinkiest fish or the scary looking chicken's feet. As a self-professed foodie, having a partner who isn't squeamish about food is like having a golden ticket. But, since he's been eating with me he's learned terms like mouthfeel, balance and presentation as well. Fruits and vegetables must be fresh and crisp. Sauces and pastry fillings must be smooth and strained. Combinations of textures are noticed. He's the first point out that the chef used a bit too much gelatin in the panna cotta or that the chocolate mousse a little grainy meaning the chocolate wasn't properly melted or the eggs weren't strained.
Because we were confronted with apple strudel every time we stopped anywhere in Austria - every restaurant, coffee shop, street vendor, and ski chalet had it - it was often the topic of conversation. In my previous post I mentioned we differed on whether or not raisins should be included in an apple strudel. Traditionally, it seems to be. And Nate likes them and thought they should be included. What does he know? The only time I ever tolerated raisins was when they were stuck to peanut butter slathered on celery. Not in my oatmeal or cereal. Not in my bread pudding. Not even in my oatmeal-raisin cookie. And, Not in my strudel.
We did agree that we don't like our strudel super-sweet. The tartness of the apple must be noticed. Even a tart apple has an immense amount of sweetness, especially when cooked, so not too much sugar is included in my recipe. I also went with these tart Bramley baking apples.
Keeping all this in mind I decided to use Edouard Nignon/Pierre Herme's 20-hour apple method for part of the filling. I figure they know a thing or two about apples in desserts and Nignon was the chef to the Emperor of Austria way back when. In a nutshell, 20-hour apples are peeled, cored and sliced thin, pressed into a buttered pan, brushed with butter, sprinkled with sugar, wrapped in plastic, then in foil, weighted down and baked at a very low temperature for 10 hours. Then its left to cool in its own juices for another 10 hours. The result is an intense apple flavor that melts in your mouth. Start these the morning before you want to bake your strudel and let it cool overnight.
While this method provides an unbeatable apple flavor, I didn't want the final strudel to be just intense apple mush inside. So, to the 20-hour apples I added freshly diced apple. The freshly diced apples are tossed with toasted (in butter) breadcrumbs which help to absorb the liquid of the apple.
For the dough...strudel dough is like fresh pasta to me. It's not as hard as it seems, but worth the effort. Though with strudel dough it does help to have a lot of kitchen space - especially an island or a large dining room table. Of course, like pasta, the boxed kind is acceptable. You can buy strudel dough, but its often easier to find phyllo dough. For more on strudel dough and a good recipe check out the Daring Bakers who did strudel last May.
- 1 full 20-hour apple** recipe using 4 pounds of tart baking apples
- 1 pound of tart baking apples, peeled, cored and medium diced
- 1/3 cup sugar (add more if you like things a bit sweeter)
- 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
- pinch cinnamon
- Strudel dough
** General method for 20-hour apples within the post above, more detailed recipe to come soon. The original post provided a link to 20-hour apples but the link is no longer valid. Sorry, but I will get the detailed recipe posted shortly!
The day before you want to bake your strudel make the 20-hour apples. On strudel day, start by making the strudel dough. Then make fresh apple filling by toasting 1 cup breadcrumbs in a shallow pan with about 1 Tbs melted butter. Use homemade or good quality breadcrumbs. Please don't use the breadcrumbs that come in those Pringles-type cans. I reserved a few tablespoons to sprinkle on my strudel dough as I rolled it up. Toss cooled breadcrumbs with the freshly diced apples, sugar, and cinnamon.
Gently lay the 20-hour apples along the entire length of one side of your strudel dough. Add the freshly diced apple mixture on top. Gently roll the strudel, sprinkling reserved breadcrumbs. Place on a sheet pan lined with foil and parchment. Brush with butter. Bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown at 375F.
Let cool to slightly warm or room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Serve with fresh cream or whipped cream if you'd like.
It was just perfect. The combination of the 20-hour almost apple jam and the slight crunch of the fresh apple created the perfect filling. Now the apple strudel discussion has ended...on to the next debate...