(The Nosher via JTA) – My bubbe is Swiss and one of the best bakers I know. My childhood memories are filled with visions of her glazed schnecken (Swiss buns like rugelach), her rich babkas and her waehes, which are seasonal Swiss fruit tarts. When I first started baking, I knew I wanted to re-create those recipes from my childhood. But no matter what I did, and how many times I called her for advice and instruction, they never came out quite the same.
One year when she was visiting from Switzerland, I decided to make strudel in an effort to impress her. I should have known right then I was setting myself up for failure.
Strudel, a traditional Austrian pastry filled with apples and raisins that become popular in Eastern European Jewish communities, is made with a notoriously finicky dough similar to phyllo. It needs to be rolled out very thinly, and it’s commonly considered best left to experienced European grandmothers.
Well, an experienced European grandmother I am not, and when I started researching recipes, I got intimidated and decided instead to make something closer to a danish than a strudel — just as delicious, and far easier, right? Needless to say, my grandmother was not impressed.
“This isn’t strudel, Chaya,” she informed me after a glance at the pretty plaited danish I’d made. “I’ll have to teach you how to make it.”
I knew she was right. And when my grandmother returned to Switzerland, I decided I’d have to learn how to make it myself. I finally did — and guess what? It’s not at all as hard as it sounds. The apple filling’s as easy as pie (no, but really), the traditional breadcrumbs are simply toasted in butter, and the dough has five ingredients and comes together by hand. Stretching it out to get it paper thin can be tricky — but do your best, be gentle and if the dough rips, just patch it together by hand.
It might take you one or two times to perfect it, but even imperfect strudel is still strudel, and there’s nothing a spoonful of schlag (whipped cream) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream can’t fix.
This strudel is insanely flaky, completely authentic and, best of all, I know it will finally satisfy even my bubbe.
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