Coming of Age & Viennese Apple Strudel

I just realized something the other day as I was looking at some of my framed family photographs. In a contemporary blonde wood frame, I have three little pictures; one is a small 1940’s portrait of my grandmother with my mother aged about six, a slightly scratched 1960’s Polaroid of my mother as a young woman and myself aged about four or five, and a third, pre-digital picture of myself  with my daughter who was about one year old.

This year we all three have milestone birthdays; Grandma Grossartig will be turning 75, Miss Wunderbar will celebrate her 21st, and I’ll be rounding it off by turning a gleaming 50.

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Next to this picture frame, is another one of myself and my sister, Ms Herrlich. She’s not having a milestone birthday this year, but she is included into my corner of the triangle by right of age, achievement, and because only a fool would ignore one’s sister.

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Ever get those aaahh moments when you realize something and make a particular cerebral connection?
The females of our family are now in a classic maiden/mother/crone constellation (three circles in a triangle shape according to some religions). I have often heard and read about this formation from various sources. It is allegedly the force of power between three generations of adult women. Be it through shared wisdom, viewpoints, or solidarity through accommodating for each others strengths and weaknesses; it is supposedly a force to be reckoned with.

Up’ til now, our common relationship would have been better described as a line, not a triangle. My mother – myself & sis – my daughter. Since the birth of my daughter, my sister and I have been at its center, the other two often pulling me (us) in either  or both directions; depending on whose need was the biggest, the situation at hand, or the strength of the one pulling.

That time is over. Done. Finito.

My daughter has become an adult and through that has attained her own corner of the triangle.
(angel choir in the background please)

The connection between maiden and crone now officially exists, sparkling and shining  in its newness.  I would like to look at our recent turmoils as the quake or settling in of this new formation. There will probably be more quakes, but we shall try to look at them with combined accumulated wisdom.

The future can be either faced together or separately, but our connection will exist no matter what we choose. We are as close to equal footing as the three of us will ever be. One makes up for the  strengths and weaknesses of others . What one lacks, the others make up for. In all respects. Or at least that’s how it should be.

Our milestone year is off to a rocky start, but I am enthusiastically optimistic… as usual.

Viennese Apple Strudel
Adapted from Albert Kofranek’s Die Gute Wiener Küche

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2 kg (4lbs) tart apples, like Granny Smiths
250 g  (1 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
150 g (1/2 cup) butter
150 g (3/4 cup) bread crumbs
100 g (3/4 cup) raisins
100 g (3/4 cup) chopped walnuts – optional
1/2 cup extra melted butter for brushing
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Strudel dough:
300 g (2 cups) all purpose sifted flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
dash of fine salt
about a cup of lukewarm water

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First one must make the strudel dough.
Place the sifted four in a mound on a clean surface. With your fingers, dig a little hole,  and add salt and oil.

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While working the ingredients with one hand, drizzle with just enough warm water until one can form a not-too-dry dough. Knead vigorously.

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You’ve kneaded the dough enough  when it doesn’t stick to your hands or the work surface any more and it’s shiny in appearance.

Roll the dough into a ball, brush lightly with oil, and let it  rest in a warmed ceramic bowl, or pot, for at least a half hour, while you prepare the rest of the strudel ingredients.

Peel and thinly slice the apples. Toss in a bowl with the sugar, the cinnamon, and the raisins (and walnuts if you opt to add those – I prefer mine without). Set aside.

In a frying pan, melt a 1/2 cup of butter slowly so as not to burn it. Once melted, add the breadcrumbs and stir to make sure both ingredients are well blended. Keep stirring over a low heat until the breadcrumbs turn a bit darker, but be careful not to burn them. Your goal is fragrantly butter toasted breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread a large clean tablecloth or kitchen sheet on your work surface. Dust this with flour, to prevent dough from sticking.
Take your rested ball of Strudel dough and start to roll it out into a rectangular shape.

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Once the dough is as thin as you can get it with a rolling pin, place your hands underneath the dough palm side down, and with the back of your hand, gently pull the dough outwards to make it even thinner. This is also your classic filo pastry in eastern Mediterranean baking. Stretch it without tearing as thin as it can possibly go. The more practice you get, the thinner it will become.

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Once the dough is as thin as can be, cut off any thick edges, then brush the surface with melted butter.

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Spread the toasted bread crumbs over 2/3 of the butter covered dough.

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Spread the apple/sugar/raisin mix over the toasted breadcrumbs and fold the dough edges inwards on the left and right sides.

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Carefully pick up the edge of the tablecloth to help roll up the strudel, taking care that it is rolled evenly. A rolled strudel should ideally have at least two layers of dough around. The melted butter will aid is crispness, and the breadcrumbs will soak up the apple and sugar juices while baking.

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With the aid of the tablecloth, pick up the strudel and place it onto a buttered baking sheet or slightly twisted (as I have done), into a baking pan. Brush all sides of the strudel liberally with melted butter.

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Bake at 180C (370F), for approximately a half hour or until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and serve with powdered sugar and ever-so-slightly sweetened whipped cream. Guten Appetit!

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