Apple strudel is a specialty that's made and eaten not just in Southern Germany, Austria, and Hungary, but all over the the Northeastern mountains of the Italian Alps called the Dolomites. Everyone has a favorite recipe and some are partial to the dough that's rolled so thin you could read a recipe through it. I once watched a cooking demonstration in the kitchen at Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace where the cook stretched the dough so finely that she did that exact thing.
But the other type of strudel - and my favorite - has more bite to it. It's made with what is called "pasta frolla" in Italy - a rich, buttery pastry made with an egg that's also used to make a crostata. After a bit of experimenting, I think I've succeeded in coming close to what became my daily afternoon snack break on the slopes. Oh, to be skiing down those glorious mountains again and stopping for a break at a little refugio instead of stuck home with a sore throat and cold. Well, even if those Alpine peaks are just a memory, I've still got the snow here in New Jersey, and now the strudel too.
3 1/4 cups flour
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cups sugar
rind of one lemon, grated
pinch of salt
one large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely grated breadcrumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup white raisins, soaked in rum
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of grated nutmeg
Place flour and sugar in mixer with grated lemon rind and salt. Add cold butter in small pieces, mixing until butter breaks down into small bits. Add egg and mix just until mixture holds together in a ball. Remove from bowl and roll out in a rectangle over a floured surface until the rectangle is about 18 inches x 9 inches.
Peel and core apples, then slice finely. Mix together with 3/4 fine breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/2 cup white raisins that have been soaked in a little rum and drained. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Place the apple mixture in the center of the rectangle. Using a spatula or a scraper, gently fold the pastry on one side over the apples. Moisten the other long end with water and roll the strudel over on itself until the pastry covers the apples. It helps to have another person helping. If there are some tears in the pastry, it's no big deal. Seal both ends.
In order to carry the strudel to the cookie sheet without breaking in two (or more pieces), I used a long French chef's knife and slid it under most of the strudel, in a way that most of the strudel would rest on the knife. With my other hand, I took a kitchen scraper and shoved that under the part I couldn't reach with the knife. (Where is l'ingeniere when I need him?) Then I picked up both the scraper and the knife and transferred the strudel to a greased cookie sheet. (Gosh, that cookie sheet is a mess.)
Brush the strudel with beaten egg and bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown, turning it once in the oven.
Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve with whipped cream if desired. It's also frequently served sitting in a puddle of vanilla sauce. (You'll just have to imagine the vanilla sauce.)
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