Apple Strudel: Quick and Easy Recipe for a Popular Triestine Dessert

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by Alessandra Ressa

Apple strudel is one of the oldest and most popular desserts in Trieste. Although it is most often associated with Austrian cuisine, it is our city’s traditional pastry.  

Every restaurant in town, as well as every Triestine grandmother, will have their special and delicious version of this ancient dish, probably imported more than 500 years ago when the Austrians comfortably settled in the area.  

Originally, strudel was either sweet or savory and thanks to its simple and filling ingredients, it was often made by the poor. The name strudel comes from the German word “whirlpool” or “eddy”, as the rolled version of the pastry looks like the inside of a whirlpool. 

Although the dessert was introduced in Trieste much earlier, it gained its popularity in the 18th century via the Habsburg Empire. The Viennese made this dish famous for its delicate, thin layers of dough and sweet apple filling, but it was the Turkish baklava pastry, introduced in Austria in 1453, that laid the foundation for strudel.

Eventually various fillings were introduced. The oldest recipe was for a milk-cream strudel and it was handwritten in 1696. The original recipe can be found at the Viennese City Library.

Sweet apples are best, this way you don’t need to add any sugar to the filling

Strudel is known in Trieste as strucolo de pomi, and if you really want to fit in here you should come up with your own recipe. Don’t worry, you won’t have to consult Vienna’s city library to make a delicious and authentic strudel. 

Here is my 20-minute easy, sugar free recipe.

Ingredients for your 20-minute, sugar free apple strudel

You will need:

4 medium size Fuji apples (sweet apples will require no sugar in the filling)

2 tbs dark raisins

1 tbs pine nuts

½ ts cinnamon

ready-made rectangular puff pastry (any brand will do of ‘pasta sfoglia’ in Italian)

powdered sugar

butter

I picked these pine nuts in the woods near Monte Grisa

Procedure: 

Peel and dice the apples. Mix them in a pot with raisins and pine nuts and let the ingredients simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Apples will become softer and raisins will swell. Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Let the apples, raisins and pine nuts cool for a couple of minutes. Add cinnamon. Unroll the puff pastry (keep the oven sheet under) on a baking tray. Add the filling along the rectangular pastry, making sure to leave a couple of centimeters around the edges.

Spread the filling but leave the edges free

Roll the puff pastry pinching the edges along the way until your strudel looks like a giant sausage. Make sure all pastry is sealed to avoid leaking during baking. For easier slicing, I give my strudel a ‘banana’ shape, but of course the traditional version is rolled like a ‘whirlpool’. Put a little butter on top.

Your strudel should look like a giant sausage.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until light brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve hot. Of course you can make your own home made pastry, but it’s complicated and time consuming and it takes quite a lot of practice to make it right.

Apple strudel is considered to be the national dish of Austria. And it is also the official state pastry of Texas! This delicious dessert even has its own Apple Strudel Day on June 17th.

Its versatility will make it a perfect dish with basically any of your favorite ingredients. There is also a Japanese savory version that has octopus as the main ingredient for the filling. That, fortunately, has not become so popular as the Austrian version.

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“Born to Italian-Scottish parents, an explosive combination, reason for my restlessness and love for good food, I’ve moved from San Francisco, California to Trieste 20 years ago. I have a degree in Mass Communication from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master’s degree in International Cooperation from the Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari in Pisa. In San Francisco I worked for several years as a journalist and press officer before moving to Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and other war stricken countries with the United Nations. I am a professional journalist and English teacher, I love the outdoors, exploring caves and unusual places, travelling, meeting people, the opera, singing, the scent of the sea and the whistle of the wind. No other city in the world other than Trieste can offer all this.”

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