Did you know that you don't need to use store-bought phyllo dough to make apple strudel? It's true! Authentic Viennese strudel uses a simple dough that you can easily make at home, with ingredients you probably already have in the pantry. Let me just say that, with few exceptions, it it makes me very happy to avoid making a special trip to the store to spend extra money on a "convenience" item.
To be fair, there is a bit of work involved in making a strudel. This is true even if you use pre-made phyllo - I mean, phyllo is not exactly easy to work with, what with all the brushing of the butter, and making sure the layers don't dry out. With this dough, you won't need to worry about it drying out while you are working with it. The main concern with this dough is to be able to roll it out and stretch it enough to be nearly paper-thin. Sounds daunting, but it really isn't so hard.
This is a beautiful dessert for fall and winter (even for a holiday dessert). Apples are a great buy, and all of the ingredients are basic pantry ingredients. I use dried cranberries here, instead of the more traditional raisins, because (1) they are a great fall flavor and (2) I was able to get a 4 pound bag at Costco for $5.99! If you prefer to use raisins instead of cranberries, just go ahead and substitute.
Before you get started, make sure you have a large, clean tea towel (preferably a smooth towel without a lot of texture). Also, go ahead and prepare the bread crumbs by processing a 2-3 slices of bread in a food processor, and then toasting them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 7-10 minutes, until golden brown.
Makes 2 small strudels
For the dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil (or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil)
3/4 cup warm water
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups freshly-toasted bread crumbs
6 medium baking apples (I used gala), peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1. Begin by preparing the dough. Using a stand mixer, or hand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix all of the ingredients for the dough. (You can also do this by hand, but it will require some kneading.) Mix until the dough becomes elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and silky, but not too sticky. If it is too sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time, until it forms a soft, elastic ball. Cover the ball of dough in oil, and set it aside in a bowl to rest for one hour.
2. Just before you are ready to roll out the dough, prepare the filling by combining the apples, cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. After the dough rests for an hour, it can be rolled out. Spread the towel out on a large, flat surface. Generously flour the towel, and your rolling pin.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Separate the dough into 2 balls. Roll the first ball out onto the towel into a rectangle about 12x15-inches. The dough needs to be very thin, so also use your hands to stretch it out (the fabric of the towel will help to hold the dough in place as you roll and stretch it).
6. Spread the 1/2 of the bread crumbs over the rolled-out dough, leaving a 1" margin around the sides. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the bread crumbs.
7. Mound 1/2 filling into a log-shape along the short side of the dough rectangle (leave a 1-2" margin at the sides). Starting from the side with the mound of filling, fold the dough up over the apples, and roll like a jelly roll. Use the towel to assist with rolling. When it is rolled, twist each end shut, so that the filling doesn't come out. It should resemble a large Tootsie Roll. Using the towel to help transfer, place the strudel onto a greased jelly roll pan. Repeat steps 4-6 with the the second ball of dough.
8. Brush each strudel using the remaining melted butter. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until light golden brown. Wait 30 minutes before slicing. (I like to serve one, and freeze the other to reheat later.)