When my grandma was younger, she was a talented baker (I shared a recipe of her Curabiè biscuits last year). Her most popular cake was the strudel, or strucolo de pomi as it is called in Trieste, the city in the north-east of Italy where my mum’s family is from.
The Apple Strudel is a traditional Austrian dessert (apfelstrudel), but it’s popular in many European regions that once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, such as Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy.
My mum, who inherited my grandma’s baking skills, claims she never achieved making a strudel as good as my grandma’s. I made one a few weeks ago for the first time, the verdict from my family is that it didn’t have the thin and soft pastry with a spiced and tasty apple filling that my grandma makes.
The secrets to replicating her delicious strucolo de pomi are: always making the dough yourself and stretch it as thin as paper, so that it melts in the mouth when you are eating it. The pastry should not be thick or crunchy. Another tip is using different varieties of apples to get the perfect mix of sweet and sour taste, and also leave them to soak with sugar for a few hours before cooking them with breadcrumbs and cinnamon.
For the dough
- 250g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 2 tbsp warm water
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the filling
- 1 kg mixed apples
- 150 g sugar
- 1/2 small lemon
- 100 g bread crumbs
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 100 g raisins
- 1-2 tbsp rum or brandy
- 50 g pine nuts
- 2 tbsp cinnamon powder
- 1 egg yolk for brushing the cake
Peel and chop the apples into small pieces. Place them in a colander over a bowl and cover them with the sugar and lemon juice. Let them macerate for a few hours to release water. Leave the raisins to soak in a small bowl with the liquor.
To prepare the dough, sift the flour on to a clean work surface. Add a pinch of salt and make a well in the middle. Pour the oil, egg, egg yolk and two tablespoons of warm water. Mix the ingredients into a soft batter then knead with your fingers until you obtain a smooth dough, not sticky. Add flour or more water if necessary if too wet or too dry.
Wrap the dough in a clean table cloth and leave it for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Now prepare the filling. Fry the breadcrumbs in a large pan with butter for a few minutes. Add the cinnamon, apples, raisins and pine nuts into the pan with low heat and mix well.
Stretch out the dough into a rectangle (long and narrow) on top of a sheet of baking paper. Make the dough as thin as paper. Distribute the filling on the dough, leaving one centimeter out on each side.
Gently lift the edge of the paper and carefully roll the strudel, sealing the edges with your fingers. Transfer the baking paper with the strudel to the oven tray. Brush the strudel with one egg yolk (diluted with a tsp of water if necessary).
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
Serve warm. Sift icing sugar over the strudel just before serving.