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December 1, 2017

Apple Pecan Strudel

by Anne Paddock

Every autumn the abundance of apples and pecans is overwhelming – in a very good way. When I see stacks of Honey Crisp apples and freshly harvested pecans at farmers markets, I stock up and start thinking about Apple Pecan Strudel – a delicious variation on the Austrian favorite (“apfelstrudel”).

This recipe is one of my all time favorites because it tastes like an apple pastry with a crunchy rich pecan topping and yet there are only 4 tablespoons of vegan butter used in the whole recipe that serves 8-10. The strudel relies on the sweetness of the apples with minimal added sweeteners: 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup and 2 tablespoons of sugar. The lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla extract give the strudel a depth of flavors that will have everyone begging for seconds.

Use really good firm crisp flavorful apples (i.e. Honey Crisp, Jonathan, Breaburn, Granny Smith) so that your filling doesn’t turn into applesauce; and serve the strudel when it’s still warm out of the oven and crisp (before the phyllo starts to absorb the liquid from the filling after a few hours).

Making strudel is intimidating because the recipe calls for using phyllo (filo) pastry – a paper-thin delicate flaky pastry that easily tears (and can leave you in tears!)  but there are a seven tips to avoid disaster:

  • Phyllo (filo) pastry is available in most freezer sections of grocery stores. Sold in 1 pound packages, there are approximately 24-40 sheets measuring 14 x 15 to 14 x 18 inches per package, depending on the brand. Take the package out of the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using.
  • Take the package out of the refrigerator an hour before use. Leave the box unopened on the counter top until ready to use.
  • Have a large cookie sheet covered with parchment paper directly in front of you (this will be your workspace for assembling the strudel).
  • Have 5 bowls nearby: the filling the topping, the ground pecans, and the melted butter, the 5 teaspoons of superfine sugar and a pastry brush before assembling the strudel.
  • Before using the dough, wet 2 paper towels (wet but not dripping wet) and have them on hand.
  • If a sheet or two of the phyllo tears, don’t worry about it. Use it and keep going.
  • Make the recipe in this order:  filling, topping, melt the butter, and then crust (assembly).

Apple Pecan Strudel (serves 8-10)

Filling

  • 2 pounds of Honey Crisp apples (about 6 medium-sized apples), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar (or regular sugar put through the food processor for about 20 seconds)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot

Place the apple slices, water, brown rice syrup, and the 2 superfine sugar in a large saucepan. Squeeze the lemon juice over the apples and gently toss. Sprinkle half the cinnamon over the apples, gently toss, and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the rest of the apple slices. Grate the fresh ginger (cut the skin off and freeze it beforehand so that grating is quick and easy) over the apples and stir to blend.

Cook the apples on medium heat for 12-14 minutes until tender but still firm. Remove the pan from the stove and pour the contents into a large mixing bowl.  Add the vanilla extract and stir. Add the arrowroot and stir.  Add the raisins and blend. Set aside.

Topping

  • 1 cup pecan pieces (or chopped – but not pulverized)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water

Place the brown rice syrup, water and pecans in a saucepan. Turn the heat on medium and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the pecan pieces start to brown. Do not overcook (pecans do not taste good if burnt). Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the pecan topping into a small bowl. Set aside.

Crust

  • 6 sheets phyllo (filo) pastry
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely ground
  • 5 teaspoons superfine sugar (or regular sugar put through the food processor for about 20 seconds)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place a large cookie sheet covered in a piece of parchment paper in front of you.

Carefully take the phyllo (fil0) pastry out of the box. Cut one end of the plastic and gently remove the roll of dough. Lay the dough out flat directly behind the parchment covered cookie sheet and cover the dough with the wet paper towels.

Carefully remove the paper towels and lift one sheet of dough onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Cover the stack of dough with the wet paper towels.

Gently brush the single sheet of dough with melted butter using the pastry brush. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground pecans and 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar over the sheet.

Carefully remove the paper towels and lift one sheet of dough onto the first piece of dough on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Cover the stack of dough with the wet paper towels.

Gently brush the single sheet of dough with melted butter using the pastry brush. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground pecans and 1 teaspoon of super fine sugar over the sheet. Repeat until you have done 5 sheets total.

Carefully remove the paper towels and lift one sheet of dough onto the stack of 5 pieces that have been brushed with butter and sprinkled with ground pecans and sugar. Cover the stack of plain dough with wet paper towels (to deal with after the strudel is completely assembled).

Pour the filling on the top piece (the 6th piece) of the phyllo and gently spread leaving a 1 inch border all around.  Roll the phyllo stack (starting at the short side) gently to the end . Gently move the whole roll back to the center of the phyllo and turn the two sides under (to prevent the apple filling from oozing out).  Place the topping down the center of the roll and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  While the strudel is baking, remove the paper towels from the stack of unused phyllo dough and roll back up and return to the plastic container. Wrap in plastic wrap and place back in the box. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or re-freeze for a later use.

Remove the strudel from the oven and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes before serving. Slice and serve.

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