After three attempts, two days, and one satisfying result, I can honestly say I know something today that I didn’t know a week ago.
Well, make that, I know a lot of somethings, and they all have to do with one thing. The kind of thing that’s no small feat, especially when you’re a slow learner (hand raised!) and prone to catastrophe (why yes, that was me that put wax paper in the oven on attempt #1…).
It’s time to celebrate, because I now know how to make the perfect apple strudel.
There are bigger accomplishments to be made in life than this, I know. But there are few I’d be more happy about, and few I’d be more excited to share with you.
So, here is the story:
You could say things began last Saturday, at an evening wedding on the lake, where all the tables in a big white tent in Michigan were topped by gorgeous, green apples and a certain beautiful bride insisted we take a whole basket home with us.
She’s always generous like that (have you read her blog?), and with our arms full while we walked to the car, we brainstormed about what to do with them.
But you could say this story starts even earlier than that, decades earlier in fact, in a small Maywood kitchen where my grandma liked to bake, and in the house I grew up in, where my mom liked to recreate her recipes.
I found the original version of this strudel, one carefully recorded in Grandma’s handwriting, one in Mom’s, tucked into an overflowing cookbook. Do you have one of these, the kind of book you have to hold carefully, or papers start falling out?
Although there were many (crucial! important! why-don’t-you-guys-write-this-stuff-down-type) instructions missing, my third attempt at following it was a charm, particularly when I enlisted my mom’s trained eye for help.
I discovered a few secrets along the way, and I’d like to share these with you now:
Secret #1: With Apple Strudel, It’s All About Technique
There are many things you can fudge on: slice the apples or dice the apples, add nuts and raisins to the filling or leave them out, make one strudel or make them two at a time (the way the women in my family liked to).
But one thing you can’t alter is the way you roll out the dough, and spread the filling in a compact, uniform mountain right in the center.
It should be high and even, and just in the center of the dough. This is key.
Secret #2: You Don’t Have to Chill the Dough
To me, discovering this was mind-blowing.
I mean, the original instructions insist you have to refrigerate the dough, wrapped in wax paper, for eight hours or overnight.
But nonetheless, my Mom has never done this, and I’m guessing Grandma didn’t either.
I could launch into a long aside here about how home cooks really should write their recipes down accurately, with useful notations. This would be so helpful for posterity, or for struggling granddaughters at the very least! But I already whined about this to my mom and at least once already in this article, so I’ll just assume you all know this already and we’ll move on.
If your kitchen is particularly hot, feel free to chill the dough. But learn from my experience and the details (eventually, when I realized which questions I needed to ask) passed down to me, and know that you don’t have to.
Secret #3: You Control the Dough
I could have called this one “Use Lots of Flour” or “This Is Why You Don’t Have to Chill It.” But I think it’s more important to mention control here, because the power is literally in your hands when you make this recipe, and I want to emphasize that.
You’re not going with a tube of pre-made crescent dough here, though that can be helpful to make a super easy apple dessert when time is not on your side!
Going all in and completely homemade will have its challenges, which I’m preparing you now for them.
The dough will seem very sticky and elastic when you first start to work with it, but you are free (as free as can be!) to add flour to get those stuck pieces off the parchment paper, to make the dough easier to manipulate, and to help you to create the perfect texture.
You’ll know when it’s just right because the dough will roll out easily without sticking uncontrollably to whatever surface you’re working on. It’s magical. You yield the power to make that happen, and a sprinkling of flour is your friend.
Secret #4: It’s OK If It Leaks in the Oven
Listen, this pastry dough is thin – that’s what makes it all flaky and buttery and delicious. The filling is wet, so you may have some leakage. And that’s totally fine.
We’re talking perfect strudel here as in perfectly delicious.
Will your homemade creations be picture perfect every time? Maybe not. Mine certainly weren’t.
But they were made with love, and trust me when I say that no one complained about a visible seam here or there, a slightly asymmetrical shape, or a little bit of leakage.
Use a rimmed baking sheet, and make a little parchment paper wall around the strudel if you want, rolling up the edges for a little extra protection.
Whatever happens, if you follow the recipe, it will still taste good. And practice makes perfect.
All these secrets would mean nothing if it weren’t for the results: a long, golden strudel with a flaky crust surrounding hot, apple-pie-like insides filled with nuts and raisins and gooey sweetness.
This is an apple strudel that you should be excited about. I know I am.Print
This just might be the perfect apple strudel recipe, and we guarantee that it’s a lot easier to make than you might think.
For the Pastry:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 large egg yolk
For the Filling:
- 3 medium apples, thinly sliced into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks
- 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4–5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts (or any nut you like)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2–3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
For the Egg Wash and Garnish:
- 2 tsp cold water
- 1 large egg
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
To Make the Pastry:
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut butter into flour until the mixture is crumbly, not fine.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup water and egg yolk. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir to combine with a fork. Knead the dough right in the bowl for a couple seconds until smooth.
- Form the dough into a ball. If you wish, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. At least 4 hours is suggested when working in a hot kitchen, or up to 8 hours/overnight.
To Make the Filling:
- Combine all filling ingredients except the butter and powdered sugar in a bowl. Toss well to coat the apples.
- Filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
To Make the Strudel:
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- Set a piece of parchment paper that fits within a rimmed baking sheet on the counter and flour it lightly. Set dough on top, and flour it lightly. Place another piece of parchment on top of the dough.
- Roll the dough out as thinly as you can, sandwiched between the parchment, so it forms a rectangle longer in length than width, about 9 inches by 14 inches. If the dough is sticking, add flour. If it’s too cold to work with, let it sit on the counter for 15-30 minutes, until more pliable.
- Place the filling in a mound in a straight line along the length of your dough. This should be like a mountain with no peaks, all uniform, pressed together compactly, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches high (see picture above for a rough idea). Dot with butter on top.
- Carefully roll parchment on sides up and over the filling, one side at a time, peeling parchment back from dough after you’ve set it. Then roll up the ends. Gently press together the seams.
- Transfer the dough with the bottom parchment to a rimmed baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg and 2 teaspoons cold water to make an egg wash. Brush all over the pastry. Use a fork to pierce air vents along the sides of the strudel. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Pastry
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: apple, strudel, dessert, pastry
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Pastry Ingredients
Separate the yolk from a large egg. You can reserve the white to make meringues or an omelet, or discard it.
Measure out all of the ingredients as listed on the ingredients list for the pastry.
Step 2 – Make Pastry
Add the flour and salt to a medium bowl. Stir to combine.
Add the butter for the pastry, cutting it into the flour until the mixture is crumbly with some pea-sized lumps.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the water and egg yolk. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Use your hands to knead the dough in the bowl a few times, until it’s smooth. Form the dough into a ball.
This isn’t what my mom does, or what I do, but if you don’t want to bake right away or if you’re a fan of giving butter pastry a chance to rest, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Place the dough ball in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, up to 8 hours or overnight.
Step 3 – Slice Apples, Chop Hazelnuts, Cube Butter, and Measure Remaining Filling Ingredients
Wash 3 apples and cut them into thinly sliced matchsticks, about 1/4 inch thick. You can leave the skin on for this, there’s really no need to peel the apples.
When selecting your apples, make sure that you review our guide to cooking with apples. Personally, I love using Granny Smiths for this recipe, but you can use other tart varieties as well.
Chop enough roasted hazelnuts until you have 1/4 cup total.
Cube the butter into small chunks.
Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list for the filling.
Step 4 – Make Filling
Add all of the filling ingredients except the butter to a medium bowl. Toss the ingredients together well until the fruit is coated evenly with the dry ingredients.
Note: the filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400˚F.
Step 5 – Roll Out the Pastry
Place a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside a rimmed baking sheet on the counter. Flour it lightly, and set the dough on top.
Flour the top of the dough lightly, then place another parchment large piece of parchment paper on top.
Roll out the dough, rolling over the top layer of parchment paper. If the dough is sticking, simply add more flour.
If you’re using refrigerated dough and it isn’t rolling out easily, let it rest on the counter for about 15 to 30 minutes, until it’s more pliable.
As you work, remember that the bottom piece of parchment will go on the baking sheet while it’s in the oven. If it gets too messy or if it tears, you can start with a fresh one.
Roll out the dough until you create a thin rectangle about 9 inches wide by 14 inches long. It should be about 1/4 inch thick.
Add the apple filling in a straight line down the length of the dough, right in the middle.
Step 6 – Assemble Strudel
You will want to press it together and form it up high like a mountain, or more like a mesa or plateau that’s all uniform in height without a peak on top. Be sure to press it together well to compact the mixture. It will be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height.
Distribute the cubes of butter evenly over the top.
Carefully roll up the parchment on the sides, up and over the filling, working with one side at a time. Carefully peel back the parchment to remove it from the dough once you’ve set it.
Roll up the ends of the pastry and gently press together the seams to make sure they hold.
Transfer the strudel with the parchment paper on the bottom to a baking sheet.
Step 7 – Bake
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 2 teaspoons of cold water. Brush the egg wash evenly on the top and sides of the pastry.
Use a fork to pierce the sides of the strudel. This will allow air to release during baking. Pierce it a handful of times on either side. I pierced mine about 5 times per side.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and fragrant.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
Can I Freeze Apple Strudel?
In my opinion, this apple strudel is absolute perfection on the same day that it is made. But it will keep for at least 1 to 2 days at room temperature.
If you do want to bake this pastry ahead of time and save it for later, allow it to cool completely first. You can freeze it after wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap, then a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
To reheat, unwrap and bake at 350˚F until it’s crisp and warmed through, for about 15 minutes.
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What occasion will you bake an apple strudel for? Tell us in the comments below. And once you try the recipe, be sure to come back and rate it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 30, 2010. Last updated March 4, 2020. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.