Aunt Jeannie’s Apple Strudel
This is the strudel my Aunt Jeannie taught me to make when I was at her house for a sleepover the night my sister was born. But there was a snowstorm so we could not make it to the hospital. Dying with anticipation to meet my new baby sister, my aunt Jeannie distracted me by teaching me to stretch the strudel dough so thin that you could read through it. Inhaling the sweet smells and learning how to core the apple comforted me and helped pass the hours.
I learned how to measure, whip and separate eggs. She also taught me the magic of transforming recipes using swaps from her bag of tricks. If you were missing a couple of ingredients and could not get to the store—or in our case could not even open the door because the snow was so high—or if you wanted to lighten the sugar, butter or dairy content in a recipe to make it a little healthier and a little more waistline friendly, my aunt had the all the tricks. When I left her house, I had not only a new baby sister, but also several baking secrets—many of which were top secret—including Land O’ Lakes margarine, which Jeannie said tasted like butter in baked goods but was much better for your heart and figure.
When we finally made it to the hospital and I saw my precious baby sister, the feeling was indescribable. She was swaddled in a blanket and was wearing a little beanie. I was so excited to hold her. I remember having to wash my hands up to my elbows before I could touch her, but my hands were too cold, so the nurse put a towel over them and then laid my sister in my arms. I was a little frightened at first. She was smaller and more perfect than I had imagined. From the first second I held her, I was never the same. I loved her instantly, and my life was forever transformed.
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work space)
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1⅓ cups warm water
- 4 tablespoons oil
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ⅛ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 4 apples, chopped, peeled and cored (Aunt Jeannie always preferred tart apples)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- ½ cup dried fine breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup ground walnuts (optional)
- ¼ cup raisins
- Parchment paper or vegetable oil for the baking sheet
- ½ stick (¼ cup) melted butter for brushing the dough (or oil, to keep it pareve)
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the center and drop in the beaten eggs, water and oil. Mix until dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured workspace and knead the dough until it is smooth. Place the dough ball in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile begin to prepare the filling by combining the sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside 3 tablespoons of this mixture. Mix the chopped apples with the lemon juice and lemon zest; stir into the sugar mixture and add the breadcrumbs, nuts (if desired) and raisins.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly. Cover a table with a lint-free tablecloth or tea towels and lightly dust with flour. Place the dough on the floured workspace and roll it out. Gently stretch it until it is paper-thin. Brush the dough with melted butter. Spread the filling across the rolled dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Starting with a long end, roll up the dough to enclose the filling; place the strudel, seam-side down, on the baking sheet. Brush the top with butter and sprinkle with the set-aside sugar and cinnamon. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before slicing.
- *Note: Depending on apple sizes, there should be a little extra filling for nibbling.
- Recipe reprinted with permission from My Fat Dad, A Memoir, of Food Love and Family with Recipes by Dawn Lerman (Berkley 2015).
- Photo by flickr user Javier Lastras.