FOOD & DRINK / A-Z OF TREATS: Apple Strudel

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A is for Apple Strudel, first in our alphabet of sweet indulgences which we re serve for friends and family on high days and feast days. Although it's the joy of Viennese pastry shops, it's actually the national dessert of Hungary.

Every housewife prides herself on being able to tease the pastry to such a delicate thinness that you can read a newspaper through it. Since you can buy excellent filo pastry, which is perfect for the job, in supermarkets, this may not be the place to offer a tutorial.

Strudels can be filled with any sort of mixture, but the most popular is with apples, nuts and crumbs as follows:


1 packet ( 1/2 lb) filo pastry

1lb keen-flavoured dessert apples

3oz sultanas

2oz sugar

1oz chopped walnuts

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon calvados,

cognac or rum

1oz cake crumbs

(or dry breadcrumbs)

melted butter for brushing pastry

(about 4oz)

icing sugar

Preheat oven to 400F/200C/

Gas 6. Butter a baking sheet at least 14in wide. Peel and core apples, then grate into a bowl. Mix in the sultanas, sugar, walnuts, lemon juice, cinnamon and alcohol. Stir well.

Lay a large, clean tea-towel on your work surface and dust with flour. Arrange sheets of filo pastry on it to make a rectangle about 14in wide and 10in deep. Overlap the pieces, brushing each layer with melted butter. Continue layering the pastry until the filo leaves are used up. While you are working, keep filo leaves covered with a cloth or clingfilm to prevent them drying out.

Sprinkle the dry breadcrumbs or cake crumbs on the centre of the length of the rectangle. Leave 3in clear on either side for wrapping the strudel. Lightly arrange the apple mixture on the crumbs. Holding the two ends of the tea-towel, lift up one side and roll one edge of the pastry over the top of the apple. Brush top with butter. Repeat, lifting up the other side, to make an overlap.

Holding the cloth at both ends, gently roll out the strudel on to the baking sheet, making one complete revolution and leaving the multi-layered pastry on the top. If the baking sheet isn't large enough, bend the strudel into a half-moon shape to fit.

Bake 15 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden. Remove and dust with icing sugar, shaking it through a sieve. Serve generous slices when cold, with or without cream.