I never met an apple I didn't like. The range of foods that can be made from apples is endless. However, apple strudel is one item that should be on everyone's list. At the B Street House we serve a baked-goods course with every breakfast. Sometimes scones, muffins or coffee cake are on the menu, but more frequently apple strudel right out of the oven fits the bill.
As a kid growing up in California, we had an apple orchard with basically two types of apples; eating and cooking. Nowadays, I notice chefs suggesting that home cooks mix and match different apples and use a variety of apples in their baked goods. What's up with that?
Using a red delicious as a baking apple was nearly a sin during my childhood years. No one would have thought to eat a pippin, obviously a cooking apple. But I do have to admit I've tried using different types of apples - both eating and cooking varieties - in my strudel, and I have to confess, I'm not impressed. I prefer to stick to Granny Smiths (one I never heard of as a kid) as my apple of choice for this strudel. My second choice is a golden delicious.
In front of the B Street House we have planted two apple trees, a gala and a golden delicious. The golden delicious has been producing apples for about three years now, and they have happily gone into apple strudel with great results. I think the difference with the idea of cooking and eating apples is the eating apples will mush when cooked. Think applesauce. Not every recipe will taste good with mushy apples. Cooking apples hold their shape in pies and strudel. The golden delicious was introduced in 1914 and is sometimes known as "your grandmother's favorite apple." Grandma was happy to both eat the golden delicious fresh and use it in pies. It's versatile and it doesn't mush. Try a little less sugar in the strudel if using golden delicious.
My apple strudel recipe is called Swiss-American because the original recipe came from my husband's Swiss relatives. Never good to leave anything alone, I tinkered with the recipe and have what, to my taste buds, is the perfect apple strudel. Many of our guests agree. The original recipe called for ground hazelnuts, which are very good, but I prefer walnuts. The original recipe called for a little lemon zest, but I like to use juice. Tinker and tweak, you get the idea.
We recently had dinner in an Austrian restaurant and just for kicks had the apple strudel for dessert. The thickening agent in the strudel was bread crumbs. Hmmm. Nice, but I like old fashioned dry tapioca for thickening the apples' juices, just the same as for fruit pies. The Austrian strudel only had golden raisins. I like to hedge my bets with both dark and golden raisins.
But that brings us to the topic of when to eat apple strudel. We could say anytime, but if you are not into elaborate breakfasts, then dessert strudel is the right answer. Try it warm with vanilla ice cream. My husband likes the type with the little flecks of vanilla bean.
One word of caution should go out about puff pastry. I don't make it from scratch. I buy Pepperidge Farms. Brian from the Cafe Del Rio told us he made puff pastry in culinary school, but it is rather labor-intensive. I also want to mention that even the relatives in Switzerland do not make puff pastry from scratch. They buy it pre-made from the grocery store. So, I really do think it is OK to just buy it, let it defrost in the refrigerator and try not to tear it when making the strudel. It is kind of tricky. Besides, there is plenty to do with peeling the apples.
1 sheet pre-packaged, puff pastry, at room temperature, but cool (from a 17.3 ounce package with two sheets)
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2-3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into small dice (cubes about 1⁄2 inch square, about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon dry tapioca
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
11⁄2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1⁄4 cup dark raisins
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pastry sheet on greased baking sheet and open it to full size, one layer. Stretch the pastry out on all sides a little bit. Combine the apples and remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Carefully pour the apple mixture on the puff pastry in the middle. Pull one side of the puff pastry over the top of the apple mixture; then pull the other third of the pastry over the filling. It may not completely meet at the top. Crimp narrow ends of pastry together. Roll should look like a large sausage. The top of the puff pastry can remain open, if it will not completely close over the top of the filling, and the open space will vent the filling. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm. Slice into 6 large slices. Top with powdered sugar or serve with whipped cream, if desired. Serves six.
I usually put the lemon juice in the bottom of a mixing bowl and cut the apples into the lemon juice, tossing them every so often so they are coated with the juice before adding the other ingredients.
• Carolyn and Chris Eichin own the B Street House Bed & Breakfast in Virginia City. For information about the historic house, go to www.BStreetHouse.com or call 775-847-7231.