Where is written that Thanksgiving dessert has to be pie? Whether you have pie crust-making phobia or you don’t like the thickness of fruit pie filling, or for any other reason, rational or not, you’re brave enough to stray off the straight-and-rather-narrow pie path, aren’t you?
You could make an apple or apple-pear crisp. With its crunchy top and inside pie-like consistency, crisp is basically a streusel pie without the crust.
But what if you want an elegant apple dessert that uses a crust but doesn’t require pastry-making skill? The answer – apple strudel.
A German pastry, strudel is normally a sweet fruit or cheese filling (though there are savory versions) wrapped in thin dough and rolled into a log shape. Individual pieces are cut off the log, so the filling shows on both sides. It is beautiful to look at and even better to taste. The filling is substantial but not heavy, enveloped by thin, crunchy pastry. Perfect after a major Thanksgiving feast.
My version uses store-bought puff pastry instead of homemade strudel dough. But that’s no sin. If you don’t tell your guests about this shortcut, they’ll rave about the fresh and tasty filling and admire the crunch of the crisp dough.
Of course, if you’d rather take the disclose-and-hold-your-head-high approach, you can accept the complements and agree that you’ve found a great shortcut and a fabulous new apple dessert recipe. And in that case, check out my poppy seed cake, my no-secrets-no-shame use of a doctored cake mix.
The trick to using frozen store-bought puff pastry for this strudel is to defrost it just until it is cool to the touch. As you’re rolling it out, if it gets too sticky, put it back in the refrigerator. The dough is pliable, but must remain cool in order to roll properly into the characteristic strudel log shape.
Servings – 6 Cost – $6-7
- 3 apples (approximately 4 cups), peeled , cored, sliced and chopped
- ¼ cup yellow raisins
- 2 tablespoons of rum, orange juice, or cider
- ⅓ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon flour + extra for flouring the area where the pastry is rolled
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
- 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (they generally come in packages of 2 sheets)
- Cutting board
- Measuring spoons
- 2 bowls, 1 small and the other medium-sized
- Whisk or large fork
- Parchment or silicone baking mat
- Rolling pin (or gently use a wine or similarly-shaped bottle)
- Large cookie sheet
- Small ramekin and pastry brush or spoon
- Defrost the sheet of puff pastry (see note above about keeping it cool while working) and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Heat the rum, orange juice or cider slightly in the small bowl. (I microwave it for 20-30 seconds on medium.) Soak the raisins in the warmed liquid for at least 5-10 minutes until they plump up.
- Cut the apples into slices ½ – ¼-inch thick, then chop the slices into about thirds, so you get chunks about the size of a finger up to the first knuckle. This process does not require precision, just end up with pieces rather than slices.
- Whisk the sugars, cinnamon and flour together in the medium-sized bowl. Add the apples and stir.
- Sprinkle the parchment or baking mat lightly with flour. (In the photos, you’ll see that I filled the studel on a pastry mat that can’t be put into the oven and then transferred the roll to a parchment-lined baking sheet. The better way is to make the strudel log directly on parchment or a baking mat. You can transfer the parchment or mat from the counter to the cookie sheet with the log on it – just hold the two ends of the parchment/mat closest to each hand, cradling the strudel log inside. That allows you to move the log without touching it.) Roll the sheet of puff pastry to a rectangle approximately 11 x 16 inches with the long side nearest to you.
- Spread the breadcrumbs in a thick line starting about ⅓ way from the top of the dough followed by the chopped walnuts. Then spread the apple mixture followed by the raisins.
- Roll the strudel dough toward you and try to end up with the seam side down. Place it on the cookie sheet and close up the ends so the filling doesn’t leek out. Brush with the egg mixed with water (using a pastry brush is preferable, but the back of a spoon will do in a pinch) and bake for 35-45 minutes in the center rack. It’s smart to cut several slits in the log before baking (to let the air out as the strudel cooks), but I forgot to do that on this batch.
- Cool the strudel on the cookie sheet for at least 15 minutes before cutting it into slices.
The strudel log is cumbersome to move. Sometimes, I move it on the parchment (usign the cradling method described above), then when it is on the platter, I cut the parchment sides so it doesn’t show. Other times, I cut the strudel into pieces on the cookie sheet and serve them plated.