(Sept. 11, 2020) Confessions come in many degrees.
I will be the first to admit I have opted for processed foods and have grabbed meals to go when time is of the essence.
In fact, I will be so bold to say how much I have savored every little morsel knowing it may not be the best thing for me. But when you really think about it, how convenient are packaged foods as opposed to homemade foods.
The ingredients used in pre-made meals have been heated, pressed, dyed and preserved for longer shelf life. As a result, much of their natural nutrients are lost.
Am I suggesting one should forgo processed foods? No, the nature of the times that we live in are geared toward expediency.
But at the same time, we should cherish our heirloom recipes and take the time to make the extra effort whenever possible. Let’s face it, homemade is always better than store bought.
Apples are plentiful and incorporating them into your fall menu is a must. Homemade apple strudel is delicious and far superior to a ready-made option.
There are a few considerations that should be addressed before one attempts this dish.
The first and foremost is the type of dough you decide to go with. You have the option of traditional or phyllo dough.
Traditional dough begins with flour, which consists of starch and protein molecules.
When water is added, it rearranges the molecules in the flour to form a network of protein springs. This network, called gluten, provides structure and stability to the dough.
One might ask why is this important? Strudel dough is rolled out to a very thin consistency, so it is imperative to develop gluten in the proper way. Also, traditional strudel dough needs time to rest before it is rolled out, which adds to its complexity.
On the other hand, pre-made phyllo dough is faster but will not produce the consistency that classic strudel is famous for. In addition, due to the texture of phyllo dough, the top of the strudel will develop an excessive crumbly texture, which will not stand up to the filling.
The size and shape of the fruit is another factor that needs to be addressed.
When the juice of an apple evaporates in the oven, the apple becomes tender and begins to wilt. Believe it or not, but cutting the apples in thin pieces mediates this effect because it reduces the amount of shrinkage and ultimately keeps the filling level.
September is here and changing one’s menu to coincide with the different seasons is a good thing.
Entertaining is based on the element of surprise. If you love apples and fancy the art of baking, consider homemade apple strudel as opposed to apple pie. Enjoy!
2 pounds Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 pinches of table salt
4 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
9 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
½ cup fine bread crumbs
To make the dough:
1. Mix water, 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice and salt in a big bowl.
2. Stir in half of the flour and mix until well combined. Add the remaining flour and again, mix well. Using your hands, knead the dough until it becomes smooth, about 10 minutes.
3. Shape the dough into a smooth ball. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of oil in a small bowl, distributing the oil with your fingers to cover the entire surface of the dough.
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
To make the filling:
1. Toss apples, lemon zest and juice, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, walnuts and raisins in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Stretching the dough:
1. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a lightly floured counter. Always start from the center and roll outward. You will need to add a little flour here and there to help facilitate the rolling process.
In the end, you want the dough to be a rectangular shape, with the longer sides parallel to you.
2. When the dough reaches approximately 13-15 inches in diameter, pick it up and using the back of your hands, particularly your knuckles, stretch it while turning it around (very similar to pizza dough).
3. When the dough starts to gets difficult to handle, place it on a lightly floured tea towel, making sure there are no wrinkles.
4. Combine 4 tablespoons of melted butter with bread crumbs in a small bowl.
5. Lightly brush the dough with some of the remaining butter, then sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on the buttered dough.
6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Filling and baking the strudel:
1. Place the filling on one half of the strudel dough – the longer side parallel to you – leaving a 2-inch border.
2. Lift up the tea towel closest to you, then roll the strudel until you run out of dough.
Place the strudel on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Carefully roll the strudel until the seam side is down, and remove the tea towel.
3. Fold the edges of the dough so the filling will not ooze out. Baste the strudel in butter and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. The time may vary, just make sure the dough is golden brown.
4. Remove strudel from oven and allow to cool slightly. Dust heavily with confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately.
*The dough recipe is taken from the website of Little Vienna.
Secret Ingredient – Homemade. “Happiness is homemade.”