The air in Calgary right now is crisp, but fragrant with ripe apples growing in backyards everywhere. Although our climate isn’t warm enough to allow for most varieties, we do have one or two that survive. They aren’t the biggest, or sweetest, but they do have lots of flavour.
My neighbor Jennie tasted this apple strudel a few weeks ago, and asked for my recipe. The cardamom adds another dimension of flavour to the apples, and the pepper gives it another lift.
Because I’d just tossed it together, I was clueless as to actual amounts, so yesterday we made it and measured it in her kitchen for her family gathering. It took us about forty-five minutes to prepare it, and it baked in a 350 F oven for another 60 minutes.
1 box of frozen puff pastry, thawed but well chilled
8 cups cored and sliced apples
1 lemon, juiced
3 green cardamom pods, husked and freshly ground with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 to 10 grates black pepper
¾ cup raw coconut sugar or powdered jaggery
sprinklings of flour, for rolling the pastry
1 teaspoon or so of crystallized sugar, brown if possible
|Use a spoon if you must, but hands are better!|
A certain big box Canadian grocer sells long boxes of puff pastry, which contains two rolls. I like to buy it when it goes on sale, but I’ve discovered it loses its texture if kept for too many months. Be sure to buy the “puff pastry”, as the store sells phyllo pastry in nearly identical boxes, and that stuff would be wrong, so wrong, for this pastry. Let the puff pastry thaw on the countertop, but place it back in the fridge if it rises to room temperature. You want to work with cold pastry as fairly cold pastry cooks better in the oven.
|This will roll out much bigger, and thinner.|
As for the apples, ours are quite small, so they can be halved and quartered, then cored. At that point, they should be cut into slightly less than ½ inch slices. I do cut out troubled spots, but try to leave the peels on, because of the nutrition, and also the pink they impart to the finished dessert.
Most of the time spent preparing this recipe will be in coring and slicing those apples. As you go, splash them with lemon juice and toss the apples well to keep them from turning brown. Once the apples are prepared, add the cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and sugar. In the past I’ve used powdered jaggery, but a certain big box store, from the USA, is selling a very good raw, organic coconut sugar, and that’s been my favourite lately.
|Roll out smoothly, to about 1/8th inch thick.|
I prefer to toss the apples with my hands, to melt the sugar more quickly and to find and separate any apple bits that are stuck together. Set the apples aside while you roll out the pastry.
Take the first roll off its original parchment paper, and set it on a larger piece of parchment. Dust a rolling pin with flour, then roll out the pastry, keeping it as rectangular as possible, but stretching it out as much as you can. Along the length of the enlarged rectangle, add half the apple mixture. Arrange the apples into slices going in mostly one direction, just so that the strudel will look smoother and better organized—prettier, in other words.
|Press the sugar crystals into the dough before venting.|
Slice vents into the pastry and lift by the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Repeat the whole process for the next pastry roll. Trim off the extra parchment that dangles from the sheet.
Trust me, you want to make two of these strudels, because one could never be enough!
We placed this in Jenny’s oven at 350 F, and it took one hour to become a lovely pale gold. My oven must be hotter, because when I’ve made this, I’ve removed it at the forty to forty-five minute point. I recommend you set the timer for forty minutes, and check for colour at that point. Juices will leak out and even burn, but keep your eye on the pastry colour. When it’s a gentle gold, remove from the oven and let cool. If you can serve this with icecream, or whipping cream while it’s still a smidge warm, all the better. This dessert isn’t overly sweet, and it’s tasty enough to serve in slices, just by itself.
My theory is that the chef must gobble any irregular slices that occur, during the slicing process, of course. She’s still entitled to a full, perfect slice, when the guests enjoy theirs.
Thanks to Jenny for encouraging me to sort out the specifications for this recipe, and for taking pictures of the finished dessert!
|Storebought apples make a nice dessert, but these are truly better!|