Apple Strudel
Strudel di Mele

serves: 10 servings

Strudel is a Mittel European dessert that is very common in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia and on the peninsula of Istria, where I grew up. In both of these areas, the crossing of cultures is quite evident. But strudel is loved everywhere, where it is served warm with vanilla sauce and cinnamon ice cream. A simpler way to serve this strudel at home is with a sauce made of melted vanilla ice cream spooned around the slices.

ingredients
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 lemon
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup bread crumbs, dry, plain
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 pounds tart green apples
olive oil
confectioners' sugar

directions


Make the strudel dough and let it rest.

In a small bowl, toss the raisins with the rum. Let them stand, tossing occasionally, while preparing the strudel. With a fine grater, remove the zest from the lemon. Squeeze the juice from the lemon, strain it if necessary and combine the juice and zest in a medium-size mixing bowl.

In a medium-size skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon. Add the remaining cup of granulated sugar and the rum and raisins to the bowl with the lemon juice and zest.

With a paring knife, peel the apples and cut them into quarters. Cut away the seeds and cores and cut the apple quarters into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. As you work, add the apple wedges to the bowl containing the lemon-sugar mixture as you work to prevent them from darkening. Let the apples stand, toss them occasionally, until the sugar begins to dissolve and the apples are coated with the syrup.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and brush a large baking pan with olive oil. Lightly flour a large, smooth wooden or marble surface. With a rolling pin roll out the dough from the center to the edges into a very thin rectangle that measures about 36 x 24 inches. The dough will give you a little fight at first, but will relax more the more you roll it. As it gets thinner, you should be able to pull and stretch it gently with your hands to coax it into the shape you want. Don't worry if the dough tears a little in spots, you can patch it later, or if it doesn't form a perfect rectangle. Flour the rolling surface and pin lightly as you work to prevent the dough from sticking.

If necessary, turn the dough so one of the longer sides facing you. Place a kitchen towel or length of double-thick cheesecloth so it is under the entire far side of the dough rectangle by about 4 inches. (This will help you move the strudel to the baking sheet once it is formed.) Spread the bread crumb mixture evenly over the dough leaving a clean 1 1/2-inch wide border on all sides of the rectangle. Dot the bread crumbs with small pieces of the remaining 1/4 cup of butter. Arrange the apple mixture in a long mound along the side closest to you. The mound of apples should measure about 4 inches wide and as long as the bread crumb mixture, leaving the 1 1/2-inch-wide border clean.

Fold the clean border closest to you over the apples. Begin rolling the strudel into a fairly tight roll, starting at one end of the apple mound, giving it a half-roll and gradually working your way down the roll. Repeat as necessary, working your way down gradually down the roll each time. Don't worry if the roll is uneven or tears in places. You should end up with a fairly even, lumpy looking roll that is centered, seam side down, on the kitchen towel. Use the towel to transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet, bending the strudel into crescent shape if necessary to fit it on the pan.

Cut off any excess dough from the ends. Seal the ends of the strudel by folding the ends of the roll underneath and pressing them firmly with your fingers. Brush the strudel lightly with olive oil and place in preheated oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375. Bake 30 minutes. Check the strudel: the top should be a light golden brown. If deeper in color than that, reduce the temperature to 350. Rotate the baking pan in the oven so the strudel cooks evenly. Continue baking until the strudel is deep golden brown and the crust is firm, about another 30 minutes.

Remove the strudel from the oven and cool 30 minutes. With two metal spatulas, carefully lift the strudel to a wire cooling rack and let stand until completely cooled.

To serve, cut the strudel into 1-inch thick slices and sprinkle them with confectioners' sugar.