Pulled Apple Strudel
On a rainy 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.
- 3¾–4 cups high-gluten bread flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 medium tart apples, like Granny Smith
- ½ cup white granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup chopped slivered blanched almonds or walnuts (optional)
- 1/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ cup unsalted melted butter or for vegan option use coconut oil
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix a soft dough by combining 3¾ cups bread flour to start, water, oil, white vinegar and salt. Process on medium-low for about 20 minutes. While the dough is going from a big messy glob into a soft, shiny ball, grate or dice the apples, and combine with sugar and cinnamon, and if you are using them, nuts, raisins or dried cranberries. Add lemon juice or zest.
- Form the dough into a ball, place into a metal bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for about an hour in a warm, draft-free spot.
- Prepare the card table by covering it with a cotton tablecloth, dusting it with flour and rubbing the flour into the cloth to keep the dough from sticking. You’ll use the cloth to help roll the strudel. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour the ball of dough and set it into the middle of the table. Using a rolling pin, roll it out as much as possible. At this point, my circle (which didn’t look that circular) was about 20 inches across.
- The challenge and the fun: With lightly floured hands (remove your rings) lift the dough into the air and stretch it as much as possible, using your forearms to help you pull it to as large a piece as possible. This is the part where having another person to help is a real advantage. When it is too large to handle, put it back on the table and pull and stretch it as far as possible, to the edge of the card table. Cut the thicker edges off, and discard the excess dough or save for another purpose. At this point you should be able to see through the thin dough. If there are some holes in the dough, don’t worry! When you roll it up, that won’t matter.
- Assemble the strudel. Using the silicone pastry brush, spread the dough with melted butter or coconut oil, if using the vegan option. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on top of the dough. Add the apple mixture to a third of the dough surface. Begin to roll the strudel by lifting the edge of the tablecloth to help roll the dough around the apples. Add more of the filling. Roll again and brush each section with butter or oil. Repeat until you use all of the apple mixture.
- After it’s all rolled up into a log, fold the edges under and place on the baking sheet. Brush again with butter or oil. You’ll need to form the strudel into a worm shape or an “S” to fit it onto the baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for about 30 to 45 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. Cut into thick slices and dust with confectioners’ sugar.