The Real Strudel (my mom’s recipe from Slovenia)

how to make strudel

My Grandpa was sent to Slovenia (at that time part of Italy) because anti-fascist. He met a beautiful woman and got married. I have a few images of my Grandma: she passes away too early for me to enjoy her. As I said, I have few pictures in my memory that remind me of this tall lady with a classic flowery apron, working on the wooden board, with a huge rolling pin. I remember the smell of the wood burning stove in the time she was telling me stories by stroking me in the rocking chair. 

I have no impression of her dishes, no memories at all. In this case, my mother came to help me: she prepared fantastic recipes and explained me their secrets and stories. One of those was the strudel. And here we are.  

Strudel can be savory or sweet, depending on the meal or occasion. The dough is much easier to manipulate if you let it rest overnight and work it cold, but you can also let it rest in the refrigerator for as little as 1 hour. If you find it difficult to stretch, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before beginning to work with it.

How to make Strudel dough

  • 300 gr. Flour
  • 60 gr. Butter
  • 5 gr. Salt
  • 1 egg
  • 10 ml. sunflower oil
  • 240 ml. water

This are some of the advantages of the Strudel:

  1. Easy recipe
  2. Preparation: 30 min + dough resting
  3. Cooking time: 40 min approx.
  4. Make 6 servings.
  5. Not expensive

Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. In that hole place part of the water, egg, oil, and salt. Not all the water!!!! Why? The strudel dough (also called pasta matta-crazy dough) should be slightly tacky (not sticky) but not dry. If it seems dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing for a full minute before checking the texture.

Mix for 10 minutes. At this point, the dough should have formed a ball and should appear relatively smooth. 

Transfer the dough to a medium-sized oiled bowl and turn the dough over a few times to coat it lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The finished rested dough is now ready to be stretched and filled.

Remove the strudel dough from the refrigerator. Lightly oil your hands. The dough should stretch easily. Start by stretching the dough a little like a pizza, trying to keep it rectangular as you work. Once the dough is no longer easy to manage with your hands, lay it down on the covered table. Use a rolling pin to achieve a rectangle 30 X 40 cm approx. The dough is strong, and you should be able to stretch it without major tearing. Do not be alarmed if the dough tears (you will be rolling it up, and the tears will get rolled up and hidden inside). The goal is to get it so thin you can see through it. Once the dough is stretched to the edge of the table, use your fingers to pull gently around the edges to make sure they are not too thick.

How to make Strudel filling

  • 750 gr. Apple Golden (Delicious, Jazz or another apple that you like)
  • 60 gr. Sugar (brown if you prefer)
  • 60 gr. Breadcrumbs
  • 60 gr. Raisins
  • 60 ml. Rhum
  • 50 gr. Butter
  • 50 gr. Walnut
  • ½ lemon zest and 1 lemon juice

Traditionally you may use cinnamon and pine nuts. It is up to you!

For the filling: Peel and core the apples (some person does not) and chop them into thin slices. Place immediately in a bowl with the zest and juice of the lemon and toss. Add sugar and set aside. Soar the raisins with Rhum.

In a small skillet, toast the breadcrumbs in half of the butter over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the breadcrumbs become coated in the butter. Set aside.

Brush melted butter over the whole pastry. Scatter half of the toasted breadcrumbs over the pastry, leaving a border of about 10cm. Combine the chopped apples with chopped walnut and the raisins and toss to combine. Place the apple mixture over the breadcrumbs and finally add the rest of the breadcrumbs on the top.

Gently fold the pastry from the long side, then roll to close the pastry firmly (but not so tight that it stretches and breaks!). Fold the ends underneath. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with melted butter to cover entirely. 

Bake the strudel at 180ºC for about 30/45 minutes (depends on your oven!!), or until the top is golden brown. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a baking rack. You can serve this warm or cold, with a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar or a dollop of unsweetened, fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Personally, I love strudel warm with a simple vanilla sauce!!!

Interesting Strudel Fun Facts

You may not think of strudel as a classic Italian dish: the name strudel is not Italian!

German, isn’t it?? This is what makes regional Italian cuisine so interesting. The country’s geography (its borders, its landscape) and history (German, French and Spanish presence), play a big difference in the character and traditions of each region.

Apple Strudel is the defining dish of Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region. This autonomous province borders Austria to the north and is squeezed between the Veneto and Lombardy regions to the south. And remember that the region was part of Austria until after the First World War: this helps explain why this Austrian favorite is also beloved in Italy. Strudel’s history goes back even further, though: It was brought to Austria by the Turks (there is an unquestionable similarity between strudel and the more ancient baklava).

You may find the Strudel made also in puff pastry; it is ok but not the traditional!

The main ingredients used in this beautiful, mountainous region have long been cultivated and made there: apples, cheese, and speck (dry-cured, smoked ham made from pork thighs — like slightly smoky prosciutto). As such, you would typically make this dessert with sweet, pale yellow Golden Delicious apples, which are grown in the “Non Valley” (Val di Non) all year round. They are great in this dessert because they turn meltingly soft when cooked, but you could also use the Granny Smith apples. Or the new generation Jazz apple. In the summer, you can also use fresh apricots or berries.

Despite the look of the recipe ingredients and method, this is a simple dessert to prepare and will not take nearly as long as you might think.  

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