Grandma Ruth’s Apple Strudel

Author: Jeffrey Yoskowitz

The recipe for something so tasty is remarkably simple. To make her strudel you must start with Macintosh or Cortland apples, the only two she believes will “melt” properly in the oven. Grandma used to meticulously peel and then finely slice the apples, then place the slices in lemon water so they wouldn’t brown, which also added a slight tangy complexity to the final filling. She never peeled her apples with a peeler, always opting for the knife. The filling is comprised of apples, cinnamon, sugar and Smuckers strawberry jam. The jam makes the filling red and moist. Cinnamon, according to Grandma, is the critical factor. Grandma liked a lot of it, and is reluctant to suggest an amount since, as she told me, “the more the better, right?” The crust was as elemental a crust as one can make, dense and thick.

In high school, I tasted a friend’s mother’s apple strudel. It was fancier than Grandma’s. The dough was philo and encrusted in sesame seeds, the filling was a bit more complex, with raisins and spices beyond sugar, salt and cinnamon. Maybe cloves or allspice? It was more German or Austrian, I surmised, because it looked too polished. Grandma’s was the Polish version, which I convinced myself meant that it was “shtetl authentic.”

Upon further inspection, Grandma’s dessert was an American adaptation of her mother’s strudel from back in the village of Szumsk, Poland (now Ukraine). She used to climb her family’s apple tree, stand atop a ladder and pick the apples that would be mixed with her family’s homemade plum jam, that cooked in a copper kettle on a fire for half a day. Her mother Frieda was a terrific cook and baker. After the tragedies of the Second World War, when Grandma Ruth immigrated to New England with her sisters and mother, she began asking her mother how to make some of the dishes of her childhood. She never read a cookbook or looked at a recipe. The current incarnation of the strudel, as I know it, uses Smuckers Strawberry jam and whatever apples were available to her in the Boston area. The strudel is probably a bit different from the original, but surely not that far off.  – JY

Yield: 10-12 servings
fills a 9” square pan

Ingredients: 

Dough:

1 ½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/8 cup of milk or water
1/4 cup of vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing pan

Filling:

1 ½ pound apples (Cortland, McIntosh, Granny Smith or any baking apples), peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp sugar
Dash cinnamon to taste
5 oz. strawberry jam
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch or two of matzo meal (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine dough ingredients. Begin with 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder and sugar and then add egg, milk (or water) and vegetable oil. Mix dough using your hands or a flexible spatula. Add more flour if necessary to keep from being too sticky. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix apple slices, sugar, cinnamon, jam, lemon juice and matzo meal. Coat apples well with other ingredients.
3. Grease a 9×9” baking pan with oil and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. On a floured surface, roll dough until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick and you have two large pieces. Place one sheet of dough on bottom of baking pan and fill with apple mixture. Place second layer of dough on top of apples, pinching dough around outside of pan. Poke several holes in top of dough with fork.
5. Bake strudel 45 minutes or until slightly brown on top
6. Strudel is best served after it has cooled. A perfect compliment to tea.

 

 

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