Fall is literally just around the corner— one of my favorite, not to mention, most colorful of the seasons. Fall not only brings color, but also a dazzling array of produce, namely, apples. Apples are just about everyone’s special, versatile fruit. They can go in so many things, such as pies, crisps, breads, sauce, butter, cakes, salads, main courses, and of course, strudel. Apple strudel— that German specialty of pastry, apples, cinnamon that no one can get enough of. But so many people cringe at the thought of making the strudel dough, me included. Many years ago, I came across a much simpler method, which I will now share with you. It was so long ago, I don’t remember now where I read about this, but the results are fabulous.
Here’s the secret (you might already have had an idea that this is where I was going): Phyllo dough. It’s instant strudel dough, or almost instant. You do have to defrost it first. You will need a large area on your counter to spread out the sheets so that the ends overlap, but other than that, there are no special requirements for this strudel. Note that one box of pastry should make two strudels, so if two is what you want, double the ingredients below. Otherwise use the dough for another day. Keep your phyllo damp; if it dries out, it gets brittle. Dampened paper towels work well. So, let’s get into the kitchen (and the faster we do so, the faster we get apple strudel) and get baking.
5 to 6 baking apples like Rome or Cortland ( I prefer Cortland)
1/2 box of frozen phyllo pastry, defrosted according to directions on box
¼ cup sugar (I prefer dark brown), more if you like it sweeter
1/3 cup walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon, or a mixture of spices that you like. Ginger goes well here, too.
Pinch of salt
¼ cup dry, plain bread crumbs
½ cup melted butter
Purists call for peeled, cored apples, but I find unpeeled work just as well and keep all the nutrition of the apple. If apple skins bother you, by all means peel them. Core and slice the apples on the thin side into a large bowl. You should have about 4 cups. Sprinkle with lemon juice to keep from browning. Add sugar, walnuts, spices, and salt; mix well. Set aside.
On your large open counter area, take out the phyllo sheets, about half the package, and spread them out to an area about 18 inches by 2 feet. Brush with some of the melted butter and sprinkle down the middle with the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs help to keep things from getting soggy. Next, spread your apple mixture over the bread crumbs. Fold the phyllo sheets up and over the filling, carefully tucking under the seam. Have a large greased baking sheet close by. Shape the strudel into a horseshoe shape, and tuck under ends. Transfer carefully to the baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown and apples are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Loosen gently and let cool. You may wish to sprinkle a little powdered sugar before serving.
You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at her website.
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