Well I couldn't, and didn't and so here I am stuck with this enormous case of Gala and Granny Smith apples. They are so fresh and smell so good. I am addicted to the idea of baking with them, but finding the time and the energy is a whole other thing. This is one of those times where I want to quit my job and stay home to work on projects that I enjoy, like baking. Josh always reminds me, though, that not everything about staying at home is as fun as baking. I will agree with him there.
In any event, I started thinking about what I could do with my autumn bounty. Applesauce was an easy choice and I made soup pots full of the stuff with my Grandma. We made it quite simply - she never uses a recipe - just some sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest. I suppose it is like apple butter and less like the applesauce you get in the store, but homemade isn't supposed to taste like the canned stuff or I would have bought a can and saved myself all this work.
What I really wanted, though, was my Apple Strudel recipe. I have made this strudel once, when I was in college and needed to study for a midterm exam. Baking was a wonderful diversion and I think I was drowning in apples at that point as well. This was a strudel recipe made with phyllo dough and the perfect combination of rum, raisins and spices. Every slice was heaven and both strudels were devoured within hours of coming out of the oven. Flash forward years later and I want that recipe. I search high and low, through stacks of Bon Appetit's and Gourmet magazines. Epicurious searched for the beloved recipe and came up empty. Even the Epicurious Community tried to help me but, alas, they did not know of the version I was looking for. So I gave up, found a new version on some obscure cooking website and wished I had the one I really wanted.
As dumb luck would have it, I did find the recipe, and just in time too. For some reason I had set aside a stack of magazines with recipes that I intended to make this year. Stashing the stack beside my bed, I did not search it for the Strudel recipe because I knew I had already looked there. Apparently, not hard enough. In a moment of boredom while watching the election polls, I flipped through the Bon Appetit November 2002 that was set on top. Low and behold, there was the article about the amazing Greek baker, and, better yet, there was my recipe! Hallelujah, my strudel is saved.
Cutting to the chase of this story, the strudel is to die for. I know the dough is phyllo which is a big no-no in my puritan German grandma's mind but the filling is exactly how she would make it, and tastes so much like the Apple Strudel I eat at the local German deli. So consider this the No Pastry Required, Easy Way Out, German Apple Strudel. And if you are Greek, you will prefer this version better anyway.
Nothing really to add to the recipe other than that I used pecans mainly because I know very few people who like walnuts. I don't use as much butter as the recipe calls for because I find the juices from the apples and the rum soak in to the phyllo layers and hold them together regardless of puddles of butter. One other suggestion, I let the apples sit in the cooking juices for about an hour and then use a slotted spoon to remove them onto the phyllo. If you use all the cooking liquid, your strudel will be a soggy mess.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. I know I do.
Apple Strudel with Walnuts & Raisins
Bon Appetit 2002
6 apples, peeled, cored, halved, sliced lengthwise, slices halved crosswise
2 1/2T. fresh lemon juice
1/2c. brown sugar
1/2c. brandy or rum
1 t. cinnamon
12 sheets phyllo, thawed
Toss apples and lemon juice in a bowl.
Stir 1/4c. butter and brown and white sugar in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until butter melts.
Add apple mixture and brandy. Simmer until apples are tender and juices are 1/2 evaporated. Stir in cinnamon. Cool completely.
Combine walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until walnuts are coarse. Stir in the raisins.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.
Melt remaining butter in a saucepan and set aside.
Place one phyllo sheet on the work surface with long side parallel to the counter edge. Brush lightly with butter and top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with butter and sprinkle with a few tablespoons walnut mixture. Repeat this process two more times, ending with a plain sheet of phyllo brushed with butter.
Spoon apple mixture into a log about 2inches from the short sides and the one long side of the phyllo stack.
Fold the short sides in and then roll the strudel up, jellyroll style as tightly as possible.
Place seem side down on the baking tray and brush with butter, sprinkling with sugar.
Slice the strudel with 4 slits, just through to the filling.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until lightly brown and juices are bubbling.