It was rainy, gray Tuesday. I had given myself the day off from doing anything productive. There were a few things on my to-do list, but the weather allowed me to put them off until the following day. With this newfound chunk of time, I decided to tackle an as-yet untried version of a recipe that had intrigued me for a long time. I had heard stories about it from my mother, and had even eaten it, but I had never before attempted it until that day—when time, inclination, my best friend’s mother’s shiva (and JFE®) intervened.
You’ve probably heard of it, and maybe even attempted it yourself, but making pulled apple strudel is an adventure both challenging and fun. I suspect it gets easier the more often you do it, and works best if you have: a partner to help, a card table, a cotton tablecloth, a silicone pastry brush and truly high-quality ingredients.
On that fateful Tuesday, I set out to create the dough of my mother’s tales. She often bragged that my grandmother, Esther Weinstein, a Russian immigrant all of five feet tall and the owner of the Pittsburgh delicatessen that bore her name, made strudel dough for the restaurant on her dining room table, where she stretched it so it covered the whole length of it and was so thin you could see the pattern of the tablecloth through it.
Since the recipe was lost before she could write it down, I had only the memories of the way my mother remembered it and some web research to rely on, as a way to make it myself. But with the aid of a few modern conveniences, I made the dough, put together the apple filling with dried cranberries the way my mother and I did when we made strudel with phyllo dough and rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
The result: a strudel that I think would make my grandmother (and her deli customers) proud, and that I’ll definitely be making again (including for Rosh Hashanah!).