Monday, February 28, 2011

Apple strudel with pastafrolla (short pastry)

Strudel is a dessert made of rolled pastry and stuffed with apples, pine nuts, raisins and cinnamon. When we think about the "Apfel strudel" (apple strudel), we are naturally led into thinking of Austria or Germany considering that the name comes from German and means "twirl". It is very popular in Italy too, it is traditionally prepared in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. But wanting to trace the origins of the strudel, we would find that it comes from the Byzantine Empire originally. As a matter of fact it would appear that the Greek dealer, traveling in the East, learned about a dessert prepared by the Assyrians which consisted in baking a mixture of chopped nuts and honey wrapped in pastry, so creating the baklava precursor. The Greeks imported this dessert to Athens and developed it by creating a method that allowed them to roll the pastry into paper-thin sheets, just as leaves, and therefore wrap the nuts in several layers. This pastry is nowdays known as phyllo pastry (Phyllo comes from Greek and means leaves) and is used to make Baklava.
 Now you are wondering what does the Baklava has got to do with the strudel?
Well strudel is nothing but a variation of the baklava which is a very popular dessert of Turkish and Arab cooking made of sugar, dried fruit and honey.
You must be now wondering, how is it that got here in Europe?
 In the sixteenth century, Ottoman Turks defeated the Hungarians and besieged Vienna too, dominating Hungary for 200 years. During this period the Hungarian people assimilated many Ottoman's customs and culinary traditions. The Hungarians made some changes too, obviously: They added the apples, which abounded in Hungary in olden times and that's how the baklava became the strudel or rather Apfel strudel. Then with the Austro-Hungarian Empire this dessert has spread all over the world, in Italy it is prepared in the lands that were once under the domination of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy indeed.
Also, every place has its own recipe: with the short pastry, with the strudel pastry (traditional, thin: the apples are rolled in it before baking) or with puff pastry.
There are also other versions with different fruits: with pears, apricots, berries and also there are those who apply the strudel composition to prepare pies, such as with vegetables, sauerkrauts and cold cuts.
But let's move on to the preparation of this delicacy, I have prepared it with short pastry and I'll have to thank my little sister for it:

 Ingredients for the pastafrolla (short pastry):
 Flour 200g (7 oz)
 Butter 80 g (1/3 cup)
 Sugar 50 g (1/4 cup)
 1 egg
 a pinch of cinnamon
 a pinch of baking powder or baking soda
 2 tablespoons of limoncello (or other liqueur to taste)

 For the filling:
 1 tablespoon orange marmalade or other jams (optional)
 2 Apples
 1 tablespoon of sugar
 raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon to taste
 1 Grated lemon peel
 1 Lemon juice
 some crumbled biscuit, or as an alternative a teaspoon of crumbled bread
                                      
Prepare the short pastry: Blend in a mixing bowl the flour with the sugar and the baking soda (or baking powder), then make a weel in the flour and put in the center the egg, a pinch of cinnamon, the melted butter and the liqueur. Knead until it appears smooth and homogeneous, make a ball and wrap it in a clingfilm and let it settle in the refrigerator for about half an hour.
 In the meantime, cut the apples into thin slices and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent them discolouring.
 Take the pastry out from the refrigerator and, with the aid of a rolling pin, roll it out lenghtwise on the baking paper in a rectangular shape.
 Put the filling ingredients on half of the rectangle in the following order: Spread the marmalade and lay upon it the apple' slices, then sprinkle with the sugar, the raisins, the pine nuts, the cinnamon, the grated lemon peel and finish with some crumbled biscuits (picture 1).
 Bend the empty side of the pastry over the apples and bind the edges well (picture 2). Shift the strudel with the baking paper on a baking tray and bake in preheated oven at 160° C (325° F) for 20 minutes.
Bon appetit!

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