I only remember hearing about one person who made their own strudel, and that was the mother of Thelma Greenwald, one of our neighbors in Far Rockaway. It required painstakingly stretching dough on top of a flour dusted tablecloth draped over a kitchen or dining room table.
I hadn't thought about strudel in a very long time until my recent travels to Vienna. Despite a touch of lingering jet-lag, I am here to share a recipe for strudel. I just dove in, tablecloth draped over my kitchen counter, a very liberal dusting of flour and my trusty rolling pin. I lived to tell the tale and happily consume the strudel.
(adapted from The Good Cook 'Pies & Pastries,' The Culinate Kitchen and Specialties of Austrian Cooking by Lotte Scheibenpflug)
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled plus 1 tablespoon for brushing the dough
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, salt, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, water, egg and lemon juice. Mix on low speed for 5 minutes until all of the flour is incorporated and you have a smooth, elastic dough. Mix on low for an additional 5 minutes or if you are more of a hands-on kneader, turn the dough out onto a well floured board and knead the dough until smooth and shiny. Place the dough in a well greased bowl, brush it generously with the additional tablespoon of melted butter, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Cover a large table or a kitchen counter (an island so you can walk around it) with a clean tablecloth. Using a sifter or a mesh strainer, liberally cover the tablecloth with flour. Place the dough in the center of the tablecloth and working in all directions, roll out the dough as thin as possible. Carefully place your hands, knuckle-side up, under the dough and very gently stretch the dough, working carefully all around the table. The dough needs to be thin enough to see through- my dough measured 28"x36". Don't worry if you encounter an occasional tear. Brush the rolled and stretched dough with 5 ounces of melted, cooled butter.
3 &1/2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar combined with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
Toss the apple slices with the lemon juice. Once you have brushed the rolled, stretched dough with the melted butter, leave a 1 inch border, then sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs along one of the short ends of the dough. Place half of the apples on top of the breadcrumbs, sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar, the walnuts and the raisins (if you are using them.) Then place the remaining apples and cinnamon sugar on top of the filling. Using the tablecloth as a guide, drape the short end of the dough over the mounded filling, then carefully lift the tablecloth which will help roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, until the filling is completely enclosed in the pastry. Tuck in the ends and don't be afraid- it will be delicious even if it is less than perfect!
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully (it helps to have an extra set of hands) curve the rolled strudel onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the strudel liberally with additional melted butter (about 2 tablespoons should do it.) Bake the strudel at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Serve the strudel warm, preferably with whipped cream or with a dusting of powdered sugar.