Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple Strudel

I got a whole lot of apples from a friend who has apple trees and doesn’t know what to do with all the damn apples that all come in at the same time (lucky me!) so… you’ll be seeing apples heavily featured in the next few posts (pears too, got lots of pears as well). I do, of course, cook and purée most of these totally organic, free fruits that I occasionally get (one of the pleasures of living in the country!) for the Girl and Boy but there’s only so many fruit jars you can stick in your fridge, freezer and cupboard before you start looking insane, so the excess fruit gets eaten by the adults. Not a bad compromise.
This is what you need:
4 large apples whatever you think cooks well, mine came from a friends’ apple tree and neither of us know what they are called (and am too lazy right now to do an internet search, sorry…)
Puff pastry sheet – in Italy I use the ready-made, refrigerated not frozen, Buitoni pasta sfoglia rotonda. It’s a round sheet of puff pastry approximately 25cm (10in.) in diameter. Use whatever you like, frozen is fine too (defrost it!) you can even make it yourself, but I can’t help you there yet… maybe in a few years!
½ cup brown sugar – the recipe I followed called for 1 cup sugar, which is what I used, WAY, WAY too sweet!
1cup raisins (ideally, golden raisins, but I had sun-maid so that’s why mine are so dark)
1tbs cinnamon - 1tsp vanilla extract -  1 lemon - 1 egg yolk
The husband would have like some pine nuts, or almond slivers too, but there was nary a one to be found in our house so can't tell you how that would have done, but I think it would have done quite well...
This is what you do:
1.       Peel, core, pit and slice 3 apples, then grate the 4th apple. If you’re going to peel and cut the apples and then get distracted, like I tend to do, I suggest you stick them in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice as you go so they don’t get all dark and ugly, though it is just an aesthetic concern as the darkness and ugliness of your apples in no way affects the final product.
Buuuuut, don’t put the grated apple in the water, just drizzle it with some lemon juice, it’ll still get dark, but it gives it a nice tangy note.
2.       If you’re using nice plump golden raisins, you’re good to go, but if your raisins are a little dry and sad looking (like they’ve been sitting in your cupboard, ignored, for years) soak them in a some water for a few minutes and they’ll plump right up, I like me a plump raisin.
3.       Drain your cut apples (NOT the grated apple!) and your raisins and mix in a bowl with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and any lemon juice you’ve got left (just a few drops are fine)

4.       Now spread your puff pastry on a sheet of parchment paper on a shallow baking pan, I prefer metal ones to glass or ceramic because I feel that they heat better on the bottom and the puff pastry cooks more evenly.
5.       NOW get your grated apple (finally) and spread it down the center of your pastry, and then arrange the rest of your apple concoction on top. If you’re using a round pastry you want to make a rectangle with your filling down the center, so you’ve got two larger semicircles on the sides and smaller ones on the ends.
6.       Delicately close the pastry on top of the filling and wet the top edge with your fingertips so that it sticks to the bottom flap. And then close the two ends.
7.       Paint on your egg yolk, I actually forgot to, it doesn’t change the taste at all but it’s just not as pretty. Finally, cut steam vents on top.
8.       Stick in oven for 30 - 35 minutes*

*About cooking times: When I’m baking I tend to always set my timer a few minutes earlier than the cooking time indicated (in this case, I set it at 25 minutes) so that I can check on whatever I’m baking, as I’ve learned that you can always keep baking something, but you can’t unbake once you’ve burned it… imagine that… in this case I baked it for the full 35 minutes.
*I have a ventilated or convection oven, so it tends to cook faster than unventilated ovens. Just so you know.


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