Classic Northern Italian Apple Strudel ~ Strudel di Mele
I know what you’re thinking! That apple strudel only comes from Germany and Austria. Well that’s partially true. But most people are unfamiliar with the northernmost region of Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige where the apple is the queen of the land and where one of the most PRIZED apples in all of Europe is grown! Because of it’s geographic location it has a sort of blended cuisine. So it’s normal to enjoy pasta with a dessert of Northern Italian Apple Strudel!
With over 18,000 hectares (picture 15,000 baseball fields) of apple orchards spread throughout the region, South Tyrol is the largest self-contained apple-producing region in Europe. **
from “South Tyrolean Apples: Mountains of Goodness in Italy“, August, 2021
Last week I took us on a warm visit to the Amalfi Coast in celebration of all things lemon since they are in season now. But today I’m taking you to the exact opposite direction . . . to northern Italy where apple festivals have been taking place.
When my cousin, Silvia, in northern Italy (in Modena, Emilia-Romano) greeted me with a torta di mele (apple cake) when I once visited in October with my parents, I was so surprised! I didn’t realize that Italy had such a strong apple tradition
I’m grateful to two fellow food bloggers that were the source of inspiration and recipes for this post: Domenica Marchetti, author of a popular food website: Domenica Cooks. Additionally Domenica is a respected Italian cook and well-published cookbook author. Domenica also leads tours in Italy ever year. I was so fortunate that she came to Charleston, SC where I attended one of her cooking classes with my mother. It was Domenica’s article published in La Cucina Italian magazine, Strudel di Mele di Livia: Livia’s Apple Strudel that compelled me to pursue making her Apple Strudel. I am forever getting fantastic baking ideas from home-town native, and family friend, Liz Berg, author of That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Liz has a crazy-good Apple Strudel recipe that I loved so much with Calvados liquor added. Oh my!
I hope you enjoy this version of their combined recipes!
INGREDIENTS FOR APPLE STRUDEL
- phyllo / puff pastry
- Calvados liquor
- plain breadcrumbs or Panko
- slilvered almonds, walnuts, or pecans
- sultana raisins
- fine (caster) sugar
- light brown sugar
- corn starch
- vanilla bean
- unsalted butter
- zest from lemon
- egg for egg wash
HOW TO MAKE APPLE STRUDEL STEP-BY-STEP
#1 Preheat your oven to 375 F degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
#2 First thaw out frozen puff/phyllo bread OR make your own pastry dough. Since I teach full time, I don’t have any extra minutes in any day, so I buy store-bought pastry dough. Remove the dough to a lightly-floured, flat, wooden surface and knead until the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate.
#3 Put the raisins in brandy or Calvados liquor to soak while you continue cooking.
#4 Toast the breadcrumbs with a tablespoon or so of butter for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool down the breadcrumbs before using them in the recipe.
#5 While the dough is thawing, make the filling.
#6 In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of apple juice with the Calvados liquor, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. Allow this to simmer for 5 minutes until it is halfway reduced. Discard the vanilla bean and cinnamon. In a medium bowl mix together the (chunks, slices, or grated) apples, white and brown sugar, slivered almonds (leave some for sprinkling on top of unbaked strudel), lemon zest, cinnamon, and half the melted butter.
#7 Roll out the dough. Brush melted butter all over one side (facing up) of the dough. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top. Sprinkle a handful of sugar all over. Add the filling down the middle of the dough. Sprinkle the brandied raisins on top (not using any of the liquid).
#8 Roll up the strudel at one end and pinch the two ends shut. You can also cut the dough into strips and fold over the filling to look like a braid. Brush with egg wash or plain melted butter, sift powdered sugar all over the top. Then sprinkle with slivered almonds.
#9 Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until golden brown. I also cover the top of the strudels with aluminum foil towards the end of the baking time to prevent darkening.
#10 When finished baking, remove the apple strudel to cool off on the baking sheet. This makes it easier to cut.
#11 Prepare a vanilla sauce and drizzle a pool on a saucer. Place the strudel on the sauce.
Generously sift powdered sugar all over the apple strudel to give one final chance to be a bit sweeter!
PUFF PASTRY or PHYLLO DOUGH?
Apple Strudel is usually made with puff or phyllo pastry. Pie dough is used as a quick substitution but lacks the texture made with either pastry dough. You can also make it yourself, but I prefer those made in-house from a bakery or bakery department. For this strudel, I chose to use store-bought frozen phyllo dough because I’ve always had good results from them.
But you may have seen recipes calling for simple pie dough. While pie dough might be easier to make, apple classic apple strudel needs to be flaky and crispy on the outside.
HOW TO DEFROST STORE BOUGHT PUFF and PHYLLO PASTRY?
It’s always important to follow the directions on the box. Only thaw out the amount that you will use because frozen-thawed-refrozen pastry dough does not taste good at all. In general thaw out pastry dough on a large, floured, wooden cutting board and allow it to sit for 1 hour to 1-½ hoursi at room temperature. You can also thaw it out in the fridge when in a frozen state. For this, give the pastry dough an overnight stay in the fridge.
WHAT ARE THE BEST APPLES TO USE FOR APPLE STRUDEL ?
I always use a blend of apples when I bake. The flavor is so much more interesting this way. But the best are the seasonal and local apples from your region. Some apples might be juicier than others. So use your preferred apples. I am using in this recipe Honeycrisp and Jonathan’s in this recipe.
TOASTED PLAIN BREADCRUMBS . . . Why?
To give an extra crunch and flavor in Apple Strudel, plus not to have our bottom of puff pastry saggy from juicy apples, we will toast breadcrumbs to be added on the bottom and the top of the puff pastry. Also, for and extra buttery flavor, we will add extra slices of butter on the top of the apple filling.
Should you Grate, Slice or Cut Apples into Chunks?
Many cooks swear that grating apples create a more light and creamy filling. My family prefers chunky apples and so that’s just the way we roll around this acreage. No matter how you want your apples to be inside the strudel, you MUST make sure to strain half of the juices puddled at the bottom of your bowl. Any more juice then that will cause the bottom of the strudel to be soggy.
HOW TO STORE APPLE STRUDEL
Apple strudel is best when it is fresh and warm out of the oven. . But you can keep it in room temperature for up 2-3 days, depending on the temperature inside the house. During hot days it can spoil fast, so after 1 days store it in the refrigerator.
Apple strudel doesn’t freeze very well since the extreme cold causes the wonderful flaky pastry to ‘wilt’ and lose its crispy structure. And if you use ready-prepared dough over freshly-made dough, don’t refreeze it because it’s already been frozen once.
Other apple recipes on the blog that I think you’ll enjoy:
Torta de Mele ~ ~ Italian Apple Cake
PIN FOR LATER!
Northern Italian Apple Strudel ~ Strudel di Mele
- 5 medium sized apples: #1 choice: Honeycrisp, #2 - Braeburn, or #3 - Gravenstein. Peeled, cored, and cut into ½ inch slices (or chunks) and some people grate the apples
- ¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp apple juice or cider, divided
- 1 vanilla bean
- Juice of 1 lemon + zest of one lemon
- 1 cup sultana or golden raisins
- brandy or grappa
- ⅓ cup LIGHT brown sugar
- 1 Tsp Calvados for the apple filling PLUS 1 cup for the raisins to marinate
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ⅓ cup LIGHT brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 10 sheets of phyllo/filo dough at room temperature
- ½ cup butter, melted
- slivered almonds or pine nuts
- 2/3 cup breadcrumbs or panko
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- Preheat your oven to 375 F degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
- First thaw out frozen puff/phyllo bread OR make your own pastry dough. Since I teach full time, I don't have any extra minutes in any day, so I buy store-bought pastry dough. Remove the dough to a lightly-floured, flat, wooden surface and knead until the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate.
- Put the raisins in brandy or Calvados liquor to soak while you continue cooking.
- Toast the breadcrumbs with a tablespoon or so of butter for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool down the breadcrumbs before using them in the recipe.
- While the dough is thawing, make the filling.
- In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of apple juice with 1 Tablespoon Calvados liquor, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. Allow this to simmer for 5 minutes until it is halfway reduced. Discard the vanilla bean and cinnamon.
- In a large bowl mix together the apples (grated, sliced or chunks), and white and brown sugar, marinated raisins (but no liquid), and slivered almonds
- Mix cornstarch in 1 Tablespoon of apple juice, then add this back into the saucepan with the apples.
- Add the apples cook until liquid is thick and boiling. Cool.
- Mix the breadcrumbs/Panko and 2 Tablespoonw of sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
- Take the phyllo / filo sheets or puff pastry dough and cut 3" off of 9 sheets of phyllo or 1 solid puff pastry dough. Try to cut / roll into a square shap rather than a rectangle. Save anything unused for another use. Cover the sheets or the puff pastry with a damp plastic wrap and then a damp towel.
- PHYLLO DOUGH METHOD: Place a dry kitchen towel on the counter. Place one piece of filo on the towel and brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat with second sheet of filo. After brushing the second sheet with butter, sprinkle scant 2 Tablespoons of the Panko-Sugar mixture then repeat 2 more times and ending with the last 3 sheets, simply layer and brush with butter only (no breadcrumbs / Panko). Roll up the strudel at one end and pinch the two ends shut. Brush with egg wash or plain melted butter, sprinkle regualar syrup all over the top. Then sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- PUFF PASTRY DOUGH METHOD: Roll out the dough on a dry towel with a little flour sprinked on top. Brush melted butter all over one side (facing up) of the dough. Sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs on top. Sprinkle a handful of sugar all over. Add the filling down the middle of the dough. Sprinkle the brandied raisins on top (not using any of the liquid). Roll up the strudel at one end and pinch the two ends shut. You can also cut the dough into strips and fold over the filling to look like a braid. Brush with egg wash or plain melted butter, sift powdered sugar all over the top. Then sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- Spoon the apple filling along the side of the dough that's closest to you in a lengthy and thick mound on the dough, leaving 1 inch empty on each side where you will 'pinch' the dough shut.
- Use a towel to roll the dough up like a jelly roll. Push any escaped apples back into the strudel. Place the strudel seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Brush the top with melted butter and drizzle generously with regular white sugar.
- It's optional, but you can cut digaonal slits/slashes across the top of the strudel into the strudel
- Bake for 30 - 40 minutes until golden brown. Cover the top of the strudels with aluminum foil towards the end of baking time to prevent darkening.
- When finished baking, remove the apple strudel to cool off on the baking sheet. This makes it easier to cut.
Thanks so much, Roz!!! Now I’m craving apple strudel after looking at your tempting creation! Apple everything sounds perfect right now. xo
You have me seriously crave some apple strudel, Roz. This looks too yummy to miss in life!
I’m in the chunky apple camp for dishes like this. Haven’t had apple strudel in ages and ages. And I’m with Angie — I’m seriously craving this! SO good — thanks.
You bring beautiful memories back; my grandmother made strudel every Sunday afternoon during apples season ! Thank you so much !!!!
Yum- It looks so delicious . Strudel is a classic but I didn’t realize they made it in Italy. Interesting
15,000 baseball fields! That’s a lot of apples! I had no idea Italy grew so may apples. Love your strudel Roz! I love dessert with spiced apples and spiked raisins so this strudel really has caught my interest. I’m not a fan of working with phyllo but I do love the outcome so I just deal with, 🙂 These are a must make. Thanks Roz!
We were in the Alto Adige region of Italy a few years ago and I can remember all the apple trees….as far as you could see. Your strudel looks delicious, wish I had a slice right now.