Academy Kids Plunge into Apple Whirlpool

Robin Seeley       Thanks to their golden brown mini-strudels, Roan, Leila and Mirabelle will never confuse Austria with Australia and fully appreciate that “toaster strudel” and Austrian Apfelstrudel are two very different things.

 

When I returned from a college trip to Austria in 1974, I got some surprising questions. Several people wanted to know how I’d liked it “down under.” Others asked whether Aussies really eat vegamite sandwiches! 

Just in case the last 43 years haven’t put Austria on the American radar, here are a few simple facts: 

While it’s true that both Austria and Australia share the same first five letters in their names, the similarities end there. For centuries, Austria was the westernmost end of an empire that included present-day Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and parts of many other Eastern European countries. Australia, on the other hand, is often best remembered for becoming the British Empire’s distant penal colony in the late 1780s. 

What does this have to do with crisp, buttery pastry? Well, that’s what the kids of the Culinary Academy of Post Street explored in our 21st session. 

When the Ottoman Turks invaded and occupied vast swaths of Europe, their culinary culture left its mark. Sources say the Turks introduced phyllo dough to Austria in 1453. It wasn’t too long before Austria proudly proclaimed Apfelstrudel as its national dish. Most Americans are familiar with paper-thin phyllo dough rolled into a pastry with apple filling. But few realize that the rolling process is what gives Apfelstrudel its name — German for apple whirlpool!

Roan, Leila and Mirabelle gleefully plunged into their own apple whirlpools by creating flaky, buttery whirls of luscious apple pastry. Instead of the traditional large pastry roll, they each made individual little strudels. The recipe is so easy, it’s child’s play!

Mini-Apfelstrudel
1 phyllo dough sheet: keep phyllo sealed until ready to use, then work quickly so that it doesn’t dry out and become brittle
1 tart, firm apple: peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla wafer crumbs
1 teaspoon chopped nuts: if desired
Apricot preserves
10 raisins (optional)
Sugar, grated lemon rind and cinnamon to taste

Directions: Place sliced apple in a small bowl and toss with raisins, nuts and cookie crumbs. Note that larger apples may provide enough filling for two strudels. 

Sprinkle with sugar, grated lemon rind and a pinch of cinnamon and toss again. Lay phyllo sheet out flat on work surface and brush lightly with melted butter. 

Spread the bottom 2/3 of the sheet lightly with heated apricot preserves. Place apple mixture at a narrow end of rec-tangle, leaving a 3- to 4-inch margin of phyllo along the sides uncovered. Fold in the sides over the apple mixture and roll up completely. 

Brush with more melted butter. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and the apple smells fragrant. Watch closely while baking. Once phyllo becomes golden brown, cover with paper towel to prevent over-browning. Do not bake in a toaster oven because the delicate pastry will be too close to the heating source.

Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, as the kids did!

 

 

Robin Seeley adds her delicious touch to teaching East End kids about other cultures.