Our Favorite Fall Dessert: Apple-Cranberry Strudel
This Austrian dessert is the perfect addition to your seasonal menu. With layers upon layers of shatteringly thin pastry surrounding a spiced apple and cranberry filling, it is the perfect end to an autumnal feast. Here we show you how to make your own version of this delicate pastry step-by-step.
- 2 pounds apples, roughly chopped
- 1 ½ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- ¾ cup sugar
- cup walnuts, finely chopped 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ cups all-purpose flour 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 5-6 ounces water
- teaspoons vegetable oil 2-3 ounces butter, melted
- cup bread crumbs, toaste
- ounces butter, melted
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup confectioners sugar
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
Firstly, a note on house-made pastry: Some say that store-bought phyllo dough will do the trick for strudel and many a cafe and restaurant rely on this ready-made option. However, in order to make a really fine strudel, you have to make your own pastry. The difference between house-made pastry and frozen phyllo is startling. Homemade strudel pastry is soft and elastic while the phyllo is brittle and papery. Homemade pastry has a far richer flavor than the stubbornly plain phyllo and seals in the moisture of the apples better resulting in a gooey sticky-sweet filling. The reasons to make your own pastry go on-and-on but suffice it to say that flavor and texture-wise there is really no contest.
For the Dough:
Combine flour, salt, water and oil in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the paddle attachment begin mixing the ingredients on low until just combined.
Transfer the dough from your mixer to a lightly floured counter top. The dough should still be quite shaggy at this point. Begin kneading by hand, about 5-8 minutes until the dough has transformed into a smooth and supple ball. Once you have achieved the desired consistency, lightly oil the dough. Place the dough back into your mixer bowl and cover, allow it to proof undisturbed for the next hour.
A note on apples: The things we look for in an apple that is to be eaten as a stand-alone are very different from the set of criteria one should apply to apples that are going to be baked. We look for a firm apple, that is just a smidge tarter than what you’d want to pair with peanut butter. The Granny Smith has both these qualities in spades, but there are a few other options that we like too. Honeycrisp, sweeter than Granny but with an amazing crisp texture is a great option. Jonagold is reminiscent of honey, and Braeburns bake up juicy but not mushy. Try mixing two of the aforementioned varieties for a strudel filling that marries tart and sweet flavors perfectly.
For the Filling:
While the pastry dough is proofing prepare your apples, by peeling coring and dicing them until you have two pounds. Blitz the walnuts until they achieve an even well-chopped consistency. Once your ingredients are prepared, gently toss the filling together in a large bowl until well combined.
Stretching the Dough:
Once the dough has rested sufficiently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 10×12-inch rectangle.
Cover a large table with a clean tablecloth, preferably patterned, and lightly flour the surface to prevent any sticking. Transfer the rectangle of dough to your prepared tablecloth and begin stretching the dough. Working from the center outward, use the back of your hands to stretch the dough. Continue stretching, slowly and carefully to avoid ripping the dough until it has reached a mass of 20×30-inches and you can clearly see the pattern of the tablecloth through the dough. This is the sign that you have stretched your pastry thin enough.
Clean up the rough edges of your dough with a sharp knife, and take a moment to preheat your oven to 350 F (176C).
Filling the Dough:
Lightly spread the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the surface.
When filling the strudel some recommend evenly distributing the filling over the entire swath of dough but I recommend a different approach.
Working from the shorter side of the pastry, gently pour the cranberry-apple mixture over just the bottom-third of the sheet of dough. Leaving roughly 3-inches of dough visible at the bottom and about 2-inches on either side. The layers of pastry keep their integrity better and result in a lighter finish.
Rolling the Dough:
Using the cloth, gently lift the dough and roll it onto itself, continuing to roll until all of the dough is surrounding the filling. Carefully transfer the now formed strudel to the lined baking sheet. Brush generously with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the strudel for thirty minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender.
Allow the strudel to cool thoroughly before sprinkling with powdered sugar and slicing. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and an additional sprinkle of powdered sugar.