Friday, December 08, 2006

Strudel di Mele – Apple Strudel

When apple strudel is in the oven, the Christmas Holidays are at hand. Raffaella’s Mother made their family recipe of Strudel, as her Grandmother and Great Grandmother had done years before. Strudel is part of Italian Winter traditions from Como to Udine. Obviously each region has some little quirk that changes the flavor a bit but the basic recipe is the same. Perhaps it means Christmas because the Apples arrive at the fruit stands in late November.

Most people believe that Strudel finds its origins in Austria or Germany. There are those who believe that Strudel is part of the Southern Tirolese region, at one time part of Austria but now Italian following the realignment of the Italian Borders after WWII. The most reliable information I have found indicates that Strudel is a variation of the Turkish Baklava.

In the XVI century Europe was in turmoil, losing it power and in constant conflict. In 1526 the Sultan Sulayman, known as the Legislator, defeated the Hungarian Empire and killed the Emperor Luigi II of Hungary in the battle of Mohacs. In 1529 the Empire was annexed all the way to Vienna. This defeat was the most serious threat to Europe, not for the military battles instead culturally and religiously. The Muslims settled into the regions formally part of the Empire and began destroying everything that was part of the original folklore. The Europeans fought back fiercely resulting in one of the bloodiest periods in Europe’s history. It was not until the treaty of 1699 that peace was achieved and the abandoned the area.

It was during this period of Turkish-European cohabitation and cultural exchange that many traditions from both sides infiltrated their counterpart’s culture. Strudel is one the products of this exchange. Baklava is made with Phyllo dough, while Strudel is made with high gluten flour but the most important variation to Baklava is the addition of Apples, prevalent in Middle Europe. Strudel pastry is very elastic. It is made from flour with very little fat. The pastry is rolled out and stretched very thinly over the back of one's hand. Purists say it should be so thin that a newspaper can be read through it. Then the pastry is laid out on a tea towel, filled and then rolled up with help of the towel. It is baked in an oven.

No matter where this natural sweet originated, it is tradition. Its perfume in the air invokes memories of holidays and family. Strudel in the morning, with a large cup of warm milk and coffee is luxuriously sinful.

This recipe, as most Italian recipes is by weight and not by volume. I suggest you follow the by weight methodology.

Ingredients for the Dough:
10.5 oz. (300 g) All-purpose Flour
½ stick (50 g) room temperature Butter
1 egg
1/3 cup (1 dl) milk
1 ¾ oz. (50 g) Sugar
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling:
2 lbs (900 g) Yellow Apples
1 oz. (30 g) melted butter
3 oz. (70 g) sugar
1.5 oz (50 g) raisins
2 oz. (55 g) Walnuts
1 oz. (25 g) Pine Nuts (Pinoli)
¼ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp ground glove
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
Powdered Sugar

Preparation of the Dough

Mix together the Flour, salt and sugar. Place the dry ingredients on a flat hard working surface in a small mountain. Create a crater in the center. Add the softened butter and egg. Add the milk, a couple tablespoons at a time, and work the ingredients together. Continue working the dough and adding milk until the dough is soft and elastic. A small amount of milk will remain. Set this milk aside for later. This will take about 10 minutes. The dough will not stick to the hands when ready. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour. This is very important.

Preparation of the filling:

Place the raisins in warm water for 15 minutes to soak. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Peel the apples and slice thinly.

In a large bowl mix everything together, except the breadcrumbs and powdered sugar.

Raffaella’s mother created a slight variation. She does not mix everything together before hand. Once the dough has been rolled, she places the sliced apples on the dough, tops with powdered sugar and cinnamon, then place the remaining ingredients on top. Finally she finished with additional powdered sugar.

Putting it all together:

Place the dough on a clean cloth towel and roll thin. It should be thin enough to see through as the photo shows.

Some recipes with call for the dough to be stretched like pizza over the knuckles but I have found this will usually create inconsistencies in the pasta.

With the dough still on the towel, melt the 30 g of butter. Brush the entire surface of the rolled dough with the butter. Some butter will remain after brushing. In a small skillet place the remaining butter and the breadcrumbs. Quickly fry the breadcrumbs.

Distribute the breadcrumbs over the dough, stopping about 1 inch from the border. Distribute the filling over the breadcrumbs.

Lifting one side of the towel begin rolling the dough into a log. Use the towel to help the log advance. Be sure to use caution not to tear this veil thin dough.

Carefully, fold and pinch the ends of the log to close.

Place parchment paper on a baking pan. Using the towel to carry the log. Move the log onto the parchment-covered pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Just before baking brush the log with the remaining milk.

Cook for 1 hour. Remove and let cool on the baking pan.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I have eaten Baklava and Strudel and never did it cross my mind that they were similar. Oh well. I find the Middle Eastern pastries fall into a category all of their own. Baklava is one of many Turkish influences on Greek culture and I often wonder if there is anything left of the original Greek culture after the Ottoman occupation of hundreds of years. So what is commonly know amongst Greeks as "Greek coffee" is in fact Turkish coffee, souvlaki or yiros is Shish Kebab, Rembetika music is definitely sourced from the Middle East. And of course all those delicious Greek cakes that are dripping in syrup are from the Middle East. (Cannot comment as Lexcen)

12:37 AM

Blogger Dianne said...

Mmmmmm! That looks delicious! :)

4:52 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Lexcen I always find it interesting to discover the origins of food and how history relates to culture. As individuals we want to think that our culture is without outside influence but I believe it is a testiment to mankind the ability to adapt and adopt as necessity offers us opportunities.

I also have problems logging into the beta-blogger sites. I now use the "other" option where possible.

Dianne It is fruit and nuts, very little sugar. Naturally sweet and just smells so good early in the morning!

8:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That looks delicious. I am interested in the origin of things like food. Thanks for the article. It shows that there is a lot of similarities in foods across various countries. I didn't know that it is a variation of the Turkish Baklava.

3:20 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Rob Thanks, I enjoyed your site. I found it witty and humorous!

4:10 PM

Blogger Lana said...

WOW you were busy I went to my Google Reader and it said you had 16 new posts wow. I had to play catch up.

9:24 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Bozette So much time and so little to write... or is it the other way around???

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you find it interesting as the blog evolves and becomes an entity of its own.

8:51 AM


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