The Original Viennese Apple Strudel is deliciously crispy, with wafer-thin pastry and a juicy apple filling. Unlike many bought products, which are often made with puff pastry, the delicious secret of this famous pastry roll lies in the thinly stretched strudel dough. We can guarantee you: the homemade strudel dough really has nothing to do with the puff pastry version in terms of taste and consistency and is worlds more delicious. Admittedly, it requires a little effort, but it’s not as difficult to make as you might think. The secret is simply to be patient and use the right ingredients.
The right flour is very important for the success of the strudel dough. Gluten is the magic ingredient that helps us to produce a stretchy, thin dough. So we need wheat flour that contains a lot of gluten – don’t be afraid of this substance, it is not at all harmful to your health unless you happen to have a real intolerance to it. We recommend finely ground flour type 405 or even better “Wiener Griessler”, it is very fine and perfect for making strudel dough (see the ingredients section for more). It is specially ground so that it absorbs liquids very slowly but evenly – ideal for thin and elastic doughs. Remember: don’t compromise on flour. Please don’t just use anything that happens to be lying around at home, as this will be incredibly annoying when you pull out the strudel dough later.
So let’s get to work. First we sift the flour to loosen it finely into a bowl or onto the work surface where we knead the dough. A pinch of salt, the warm water, vinegar and oil are added right away.
We highly recommend kneading this dough by hand, even if you have a food processor that could do the job. The hand-kneaded dough is simply better. Maybe it’s the warmth of the hand that makes the difference.
For a good strudel dough, you have to put in a bit of a workout. The strudel dough has to be treated with qute some effort for at least 10 minutes. We actually set an alarm clock, because when kneading, it is usually hard to imagine how long 10 minutes will take. It is best to work with the heel of your hand and give the dough real force. In the end you will get a very elastic, soft and at the same time solid dough. Put the finished dough in a bowl and cover it well while you let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
While the dough is allowed to relax, we start on the filling. Sultanas are not obligatory, of course, especially smaller children often don’t like them, but Breadcrumbs are very important to give the filling the right consistency. We practically never buy breadcrumbs, but process our stale bread instead. You can find instructions on how to make them here.
Now clean and peel the apples. We are deliberately talking about cleaning, because for apple strudel you can also use apples that have simply fallen from the tree. In terms of taste, tart and firm apple varieties are best. Please avoid the “supermarket varieties” like Pink Lady and the poison-green Granny Smith, which are mostly grown overseas. Firstly, they taste rather boring, but they are also criticised because they have a very bad eco-balance and are equally detrimental for the farmers and for the diversity of varieties – more here.
We find apple peeling and cleaning meditative. Ultimately, everyone has their own method, but we prefer a small peeling knife, which gives us a better “grip” on the round apple, and we work our way down in a spiral from top to bottom.
After peeling, the apples are cut in half. With the small paring knife you can cut out the core and remove the blossom and the stem. To prevent the apples from turning brown, let them bathe in water with lemon juice before cutting them into fine slices (this is very important for the consistency!).
This is also a big difference from the store-bought strudel, which often contains large, cube-shaped pieces of apple that simply don’t combine to form a filling. For fans of the original Viennese apple strudel, this is a real horror. You should also add a little lemon juice to the slices. Now, in a large bowl, we mix apple slices, almonds (or sliced hazelnuts, depending on taste), sugar and sultanas. The apple slices can be mixed well, it doesn’t matter at all if the slices already partially disintegrate during this step. The filling is particularly tasty when everything is well combined.
Now we produce our caramelised bread crumbs in a pan. Butter, sugar and breadcrumbs go into a large pan and are stirred slowly and constantly over a moderate heat with a wooden spoon. Patience is key here, too. It is amazing how long it takes for the crumbs to turn brown. You should definitely resist the temptation to turn up the temperature out of impatience, because too much heat will burn the sugar and the crumbs. When this happens, the crumbs taste bitterly like burnt toast and not deliciously like toffee. When the sugar starts to melt, you have to be especially careful that nothing burns. So it’s best to keep stirring.
The dough has now rested and it’s time to stretch it out. It works best if you first roll out the dough with a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle). When the dough is only a few millimetres thin, you can carefully lift it up and place it over the back of your hands. Gravity now does the magic, the dough becomes longer and longer by itself.
Gently move the dough in a circle on the backs of your hands until it has become as thin as a fine fabric. Don’t be too ambitious – if you overdo it, the dough will get holes. Now carefully place the dough on a clean, floured tea towel and gently smooth it out. The size is perfect when it has become as big as a typical tea towel. Now carefully spread a little cream or melted butter on top of the dough, some also use a little sour cream. To avoid destroying the dough, use the back of a large tablespoon for this. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the dough with the caramel crumbs, starting from one narrow side – you can even spread the mixture on up to three-quarters of the dough. The less you leave uncovered, however, the more difficult it will be to roll up the strudel accident-free.
Now carefully and evenly spread the apple mixture over the crumbs. Leave a small border, which you fold over with the help of the cloth. Now carefully roll up the strudel from the covered narrow end with the help of the tea towel. The uncovered end closes the strudel. Then roll the strudel with the end downwards into a buttered baking dish. It doesn’t matter if it gets a little wider, but of course it shouldn’t tear.
Now put some melted butter on the strudel so that the dough does not dry out or even burn too quickly during baking. Depending on the size and thickness of the filling, the strudel needs about 40 minutes in the oven on the middle tray at 180 degrees (top/bottom heat). You can tell that it is done by the soft browning of the top. A little caramelised apple mixture might ooze out on the side, this is quite normal and does no harm at all.
By the way, the original Viennese apple strudel is served neither with vanilla sauce nor with ice cream, but only very delicately sprinkled with a little icing sugar. Puristic.
And may the taste be with you.
Ingredients (for 4 people or 8 as dessert):
200 g type 405 flour or Viennese semolina flour (Austria: W480 griffig / France: T45 / Switzerland: Spezialmehl / USA: cake flour / UK: plain flour)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
approx. 125 ml warm water
1 pinch of salt
1 tbsp white vinegar
Caramel crumbs for the filling:
100 g bread crumbs
50 g butter
50 g granulated sugar
1.5 kg apples
80 – 100 g cinnamon sugar
100 g sultanas
1 handfull of grated almonds or haselnuts
Juice and grated zest of one lemon