apples

After three attempts, two days and one satisfying result, I can honestly say I know something today I didn’t know a week ago—well, make that, I know a lot of somethings, and they all have to do with one thing, the kind of thing that’s no small feat, especially when you’re a slow learner (hand raised!) and prone to catastrophe (why yes, that was me that put wax paper in the oven on attempt #1)—I now know how to make the perfect apple strudel. There are bigger accomplishments to be made in life than this, I know, but there are few I’d be more happy about and few I’d be more excited to share with you.

So here is the story.

green apples in basket

You could say things began last Saturday, at an evening wedding on the lake, where all the tables in a big white tent in Michigan were topped by gorgeous, green apples and a certain beautiful bride insisted we take a whole basket home with us, because have you read her blog? she’s always generous like that and, our arms full while we walked to the car, we brainstormed what to do with them.

chopped apples

But in another way, you could say the story starts even earlier than that—decades earlier—in a small Maywood kitchen where my grandma liked to bake and in the house I grew up in, where my mom liked to make her recipes. I found the original version of this strudel, one in Grandma’s writing, one in Mom’s, tucked into an overflowing cookbook, the kind you have to hold carefully or papers start falling out, and although there were many [crucial! important! why-don't-you-guys-write-this-stuff-down?] instructions missing, my third attempt at following it was a charm, particularly when I enlisted my mom’s trained eye for help.

strudel filling

Secret #1: With apple strudel, it’s all about technique.
There are many things you can fudge on: slice the apples, dice the apples; add nuts and raisins to the filling or leave them out; make one strudel or make them two at a time (the way the women in my family liked to). But one thing you can’t alter is the way you roll out the dough and spread the filling in a compact, uniform mountain right in the center. It should be high and even and just in the center of the dough. This is key.

strudel ready to bake

Secret #2: You don’t have to chill the dough. This is mind-blowing. I mean, the original instructions insist you refrigerate the dough, in wax paper, for eight hours or overnight, but: Mom has never done this, and now I’m just guessing Grandma didn’t either. I could launch into a long aside here about how home cooks really should write their recipes down accurately! for posterity! for struggling granddaughters! But I already whined about this to my mom, so I’ll just assume you all know this and we’ll move on.

baked strudel

Secret #3: You control the dough. I could have called this one, Use lots of flour or This is why you don’t have to chill it, but I like mentioning control because it emphasizes how the power is in your hands, literally. The dough will seem very sticky and elastic when you first work with it, but you are free (as free as can be!) to add flour to get stuck pieces off the parchment, to make the dough move around better, to just get it feeling the way you want. You’ll know when it’s the right amount because the dough will roll out easily and yet not stick uncontrollably. It’s magical.

slice of apple strudel

Secret #4: It’s OK if it leaks in the oven. Listen, the pastry dough is thin (that’s what makes it all flaky and buttery and mmmm), and the filling is wet, so you may have some leakage. That’s totally fine. Use a rimmed baking sheet, and make a little parchment wall around the strudel if you want, rolling up the edges. It will still taste good.

apple strudel and a fork

All these secrets would mean nothing if it weren’t for the results: a long, golden strudel with flaky crust surrounding hot, apple-pie-like insides with nuts and raisins and gooey sweetness. Have it with hot coffee! Top it with vanilla ice cream! Eat it on its own! This is an apple strudel to be excited about. And I am.

New Pantry List! You asked for a list of ingredients I’ve been using regularly, and you’ve got it! Check out the Food Loves Writing pantry list to see!

Apple Strudel
Makes one strudel (easily doubled to make two at a time!)

Pastry Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup unsifted white spelt (or regular) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of cold water
1 egg, white and yolk separated

Filling Ingredients:
3 medium apples, washed and thinly sliced into little matchsticks, skin on
4 or 5 Tablespoons Sucanat (or some other sugar)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts (or any nut you like)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
+ a few (2 to 3) Tablespoons of butter for dotting on top
Optional: if your apples are more sour flavored, you may want to add extra raw sugar like I did, to taste. If your filling seems too watery, you may want to add a few extra Tablespoons of flour like I did; I think I added three.

Directions:
1. Make the pastry: In a medium-sized bowl, cut butter into flour until the mixture is crumbly but not fine. Add salt. In a separate container, mix water and egg yolk; then add this liquid mix to the flour mixture, mixing with a fork. Once it’s combined, knead the dough right in the bowl for a couple seconds until the dough is smooth. At this point, you may refrigerate it in plastic wrap while you make the filling, or chill it for eight hours or overnight; or if you want to make the filling ahead of time, you can go ahead and use the dough right away for your strudel.

2. Make filling: Combine filling ingredients (except the butter) in a bowl, tossing well and adjusting cinnamon, sugar and/or flour to taste.

3. Make the strudel (*here’s the tricky part!): Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Set a long piece of parchment paper on the counter and flour it lightly. Set dough on top, and flour it lightly. Then place another piece of parchment on top of the dough. Roll the dough through that top layer of parchment. If the dough is sticking, add flour. If it’s too cold to work with, let it warm up. Keep in mind as you work, the bottom parchment will go right on the baking sheet, so if it gets too messy or whatever, you could start with a fresh one.

You want to roll the dough out as thinly as you can, longer in length than width. When it’s the way you want it, take off the top parchment and move the dough and its bottom parchment to a rimmed baking sheet you’ll stick in the oven. You can trim around the parchment to make it fit better, if you’d like.

Place the filling in a straight line along the long length of your dough. It’s like a mountain with no peaks, all uniform, tall with apple mixture and pressed together compactly (see picture above for a rough idea). Then carefully roll parchment on sides up and over dough, one side at a time, peeling parchment back from dough after you’ve set it. Then roll up the ends. You can gently press together the seams for extra hold.

Use a fork to make tiny openings along the sides of the strudel so air can release later. Brush egg white (remember the egg yolk from the pastry dough? Here’s how to use the other half of the egg!) all over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. When done, the strudel will be golden and fragrant.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. Lisa

    this looks delicious! you reminded me I haven’t made strudel in AT LEAST 2 years! I usually make it with phyllo dough (the way the women in my family always have even after they left Austria). Have you ever had a poppyseed strudel? It’s my absolute favorite of the strudel family but I’ve learned mass quantities of poppy seeds are not always popular amongst those that aren’t accustomed to them.

    I’ll have to get more apples and make a strudel soon! (where has september gone??)

  2. Jacqui

    yay! so glad you put those apples to good use (i knew you would!). and can you believe it — after shoving apple-filled baskets and brown paper bags into guests’ arms at the end of the night, we actually almost got rid of all of them. i knew food centerpieces would be a good idea. especially when this strudel is involved. :)

  3. jessiev

    well we were traveling in ireland and scotland for a month with limited internet access. i come home yesterday, to falling leaves and a chill in the air, and what do i find? THIS INCREDIBLE recipe for something i NEED to make, right now. thanks to you, your gramma, and also to your friend that gave you the glorious apples, for this inspiration!

  4. Shannalee

    Rachel, Ha!

    Lisa, I would love to try a poppyseed strudel! I’ve never even heard of it before!

    Jacqui, Definitely! Food centerpieces are a total win – beautiful and useful! Thanks again, friend!

    Heather, Well at least you are making your own family recipe to pass on, right? : ) The pastry dough was the best part – I still can’t believe how well it ended up working!

    Maddie, Ha! How did you know?

    Anna, Well thank you for coming over here and commenting! We had a great time at the wedding – I could tell you and your family did, too. : ) Thanks for hosting us!

    JessieV, Ireland and Scotland sound wonderful!

    PostCollegeCook, The same one! She lived on Augusta – they built the first house there back a couple decades ago!

  5. Mariana

    This is soooooo good! And surprisingly easy to make! I thought the dough would be really hard to handle but it wasn’t at all! It’s such a cooperating willing dough! (Yeah, I’m excited, I can see why you were too!) The only thing I would add as a tip is to roll the dough out as an oval to make the edges a little bit thinner, because mine had so many layers at the ends that the middle ones were a little bit raw. But otherwise it’s sooooo yummy!

  6. Megan Gordon

    Nothing like a good family recipe. And appropriate timing as I’m reading your post while sitting at my kitchen counter waiting for the second round of pop-tart dough to chill….first round: utter failure. We shall see. But I love your tips. The more successful bakers I’ve been hanging out with lately are the ones that have more of a ‘it’ll be fine’ mentality whereas I tend to be an anxious baker. So I’m trying that hat on for a while. Happy weekend!

  7. Alicia

    See, I think this post proves that you are destined to be a cook/chef/baker. You were given apples and immediately thought about what you’d make with them. I, on the other hand, go apple picking, come home with nearly 1/2 a bushel of apples, make all these plans to make stuff with them, and more times than not, end up just eating them before I get around to it. But this looks deeeeelicious! It’s nice that you can make good things GREAT.

  8. Jess

    Beautiful, Shannalee! It’s a special kind of satisfaction when you pull that just-right thing from the oven, isn’t it? (And I agree with Maddie, up there, that those special apples can only have helped matters.)

  9. Shannalee

    heather, Yes! That’s exactly right: white spelt flour has nearly identical taste/texture to all-purpose in baking.

    Mariana, Oh, I’m so glad you liked it! And the chocolate/pear combo sounds awesome – I wish I could taste yours!

    Megan, It honestly encourages me to know other people have cooking failures. I’ll tell you what my dad told me when I recounted attempts #1 and #2: you learn by trying! that’s the only way! : )

    Alicia, Ha! Well, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with eating apples by themselves, and I definitely did that with at least two of our lot. Do you have any apples left? This strudel is just waiting….

    Jess, Indeed! And no question: wedding apples make the recipe. : )

  10. Abby

    This was absolutely delicious. I’ve been hesitant to make strudel in the past; one of my ex-boyfriends once took a strudel-making class in Vienna, where they instructed him to roll the pastry thin enough to be able to read a newspaper underneath. Completely intimidating! But you made it seem refreshingly doable, and lo and behold, I had a flaky, tasty apple treat last night without too much work. Thank you!

  11. Shannalee

    LimeCake, Thank you!

    Abby, Yay! Thanks so much for coming back here to let me know! And I know, it can seem super intimidating with instructions like those (which are right, you do want the dough super thin!) but I’m so happy you conquered it! Flaky and tasty without too much work = awesome.

  12. Jenny

    Hi! This is Happy Jack’s sister. I made your apple strudel last weekend for our father’s birthday. It was delicious!!!! That pastry was so flaky and perfect! Do you have any pie crusts like that too?

    I’m thinking about that strudel again as I write this–I seriously may need to make another just for me this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  13. Laura

    It’s in the oven – had to make another batch of dough to plop on top to seal. Hopefully, it will still work out. This was the first time I ever attempted something like this, and the dough stuck like crazy. Guess I should’ve kneaded more flour in first. My boys want us to try it again next week. :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, I’m so glad, Laura! If I can be of any help with questions about the dough, please email me through the contact page! I know sticky dough is tough — but I’m glad the results were still good! : )

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