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This Apple Strudel recipe (Apfelstrudel in German) is easier than it seems and so much fun to make. And the resulting strudel is a delicious, festive dessert just like the ones you would get in Austria or Germany filled with sweet, spiced apples and raisins in a flaky crust that everyone will love!
This recipe was originally posted in September 2017, and has been updated for content.
The idea of making real, authentic apple strudel from scratch might deter some from attempting it, but really, it's simpler than you might think. This recipe will walk you through the process with all my tips and tricks to make it easy and give you great results the very first time!
Why This Recipe Works
- Since there is no yeast, the dough won't rise during the resting time, but the acid from the vinegar will relax the gluten strands which will become more elastic and make the dough easier to stretch!
- Some people cheat the system and there are recipes for apple strudel that use sheets of phyllo dough rather than making strudel dough. But we're not scared of trying to make real German apple strudel from scratch, are we? No.
- The simple, sweet filling is made with fresh apples, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins for an authentic taste based on the many slices of apple strudel I ate while in Germany!
I took German all through high school and college. My dad lived in Austria for two years and I thought that if I learned the language too then he and I would be the only ones able to speak it and no one else would understand. I thought that would be the best thing ever.
Except it turned out that my father had forgotten most of his German. And now, sadly, so have I!
I still love and adore all things that remind me of Germany and its language, culture, people, and of course, food. There is just something about Germany that feels so Christmas-y. One of our family Christmas traditions is to have a Weihnachten dinner at our favorite German restaurants. One of my bucket list items is to visit the Striezelmarkt (the famous Christmas market dating back to the 1400's) in Dresden one of these years.
This is a delightful Fall dessert to serve with all the fresh apples that come into season, but it is also so perfectly Christmas-y since the song "My Favorite Things" from "Sound of Music" seems to have become a Christmas song and it includes the line about "crisp apple strudel".
Which I sort of think is a misnomer - a real strudel, from what I have experienced, doesn't seem to be so much "crisp" as possibly "flaky" with delicate layers of strudel pastry created by rolling the thin strudel dough with a thin layer of butter around and around the strudel as the whole thing gets rolled up.
- Apples: My favorite apples for making strudel are Granny Smith (because they are tart and hold their shape), Golden Delicious (because they are sweet with a cider taste), and Honey Crisp or Envy (because they fall somewhere between the two). I recommend at least 2 types of apples, rather than just one kind.
- Raisins: I specify golden raisins in this recipe because I really prefer them in most baking and feel like they have a subtler raisin flavor than the dark raisins. Just plump them in some hot water for 10 minutes before adding them to your strudel so they are nice and soft.
- Lemon juice or vinegar: A small amount of either acid helps the dough relax and gives it some of its elasticity so it's easier to stretch out really thin without tearing as much.
How to Make This Recipe
When making a traditional apple strudel recipe from scratch, the only potentially intimidating element is the strudel dough. Rather than rolling out the dough, which is more familiar to most Americans, homemade apple strudel dough gets stretched thinner and thinner, until it is so thin that you could read newspaper print through it.
Like, it's actually a thing to stick a piece of newspaper under the dough and see if you can read what's on it. I used a patterned tablecloth to achieve the same result when making this apfelstrudel recipe.
It's easier than it sounds to stretch your strudel dough as thin as you need it. The trick is to use an acid like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in the strudel dough, knead the dough well to develop the gluten, and then let it rest so that it can fully relax before you attempt stretching it.
- Start by making the pastry dough, which is just five ingredients. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. I find it easiest to use my stand mixer to do this, but it could be done by hand. With the mixer on low speed, add the water, oil, and lemon juice or vinegar. It should start to form a shaggy dough.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment and continue to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it starts to come together in a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a little additional water onto it so it comes together.
- Remove the dough from the mixer and knead it by hand for a couple of minutes on the counter. Go ahead and slam it down on the counter a couple of times during the process. The purpose is to develop the gluten so you will have a nice, elastic dough later on.
- Place the dough in a light greased bowl, turning to coat the ball of dough, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 60 to 90 minutes. It won't rise because there is no yeast, but the dough needs this time for the gluten to relax. If you tried to roll or stretch it out at this point without resting it wouldn't work very well.
- While the dough is resting soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes and mix the cinnamon and sugar together in separate bowls.
- When the dough has rested sufficiently, divide it in half (unless you are making one large strudel) and roll one of the balls into a rectangle, just to get things started. There's no required dimension or thickness, just roll it out a bit (about the size of a large piece of paper will do) so you aren't stretching a big ball of dough. Then transfer it to a large area covered in a large, clean tablecloth or bed sheet.
- Working your way around all sides of the dough, gently stretch and pull the dough away from the center, until it forms a very large, very thin rectangle. If you get some holes, no worries. Eventually you are going to roll the whole thing up and no one will be the wiser.
Pro Tip: One of the ways I have had the most success is to lift and stretch the dough by sliding my hands underneath (be sure to remove rings in advance!) with palms down and gently pulling the dough out from the center, letting it slide off my knuckles as it stretches.
- Once your apple strudel dough is sufficiently thin enough for you to see the pattern of your tablecloth through it, gently spread it with butter and sprinkle half of it with the breadcrumbs. These will soak up some of the juice released from the apples as they cook so you don't end up with a soggy strudel.
- Then arrange half of the apples over the breadcrumbs and butter on half of the dough, leaving a couple inches of border around the edges. Drain the plumped raisins and sprinkle half of them over the top, then sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Now here is the fun part! Fold the border over the apple filling on both sides to hold the apple filling inside the strudel as it rolls.
- Then grasp the cloth or sheet right by the long edge of the strudel on the filled side and using the cloth, fold/roll the strudel onto itself, just like you would cinnamon roll dough. Strudel dough is too delicate to roll by hand, which is why you let the tablecloth help you do the work of rolling it into a log shape.
- Adjust your grip on the fabric to be closer to the now partially rolled apple strudel and lift to roll the strudel again, continuing until the strudel rolls completely up on itself and making sure that the edges that were folded over don't come untucked.
- Roll the strudel right onto your baking sheet lined with parchment paper rather than try to pick it up and transfer it by hand. I literally just held my pan at the edge of the table and used the tablecloth to roll the strudel right onto the baking sheet. Be sure to use parchment paper underneath so the strudel doesn't stick to the pan.
Pro Tip: If you opted to make one large strudel rather than two smaller ones and your strudel doesn't fit on your pan, you can curve it into a "C" or "U" shape and no one will be the wiser when you slice it before serving.
Some people only make one giant apple strudel which they intentionally curve to fit on the pan. I just divided the dough in half to make two separate strudels because I find it easier to work with.
- Brush the tops with melted butter, then bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top!
- Let your apple strudel cool for at least 15 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and slicing into 8 pieces. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.
While there are subtle variations like whether to include nuts or raisins in apple strudel, there seems to be a consensus that a traditional apfelstrudel recipe consists of an unleavened, elastic pastry dough that gets stretched (not rolled) incredibly thin, then is filled with breadcrumbs and a sweetened cinnamon apple filling.
Truth be told, this apfelstrudel recipe could really be Austrian, Czech OR German. From my understanding, the history of apple strudel is that is was invented in Vienna, Austria, but became popular throughout neighboring regions like the Czech Republic and southern Germany, particularly Bavaria, where Munich is located and Oktoberfest is celebrated every year.
Yes, if you want to make an easy apple strudel, you can use phyllo dough instead of making the traditional pastry.
This is really best eaten the day it is made while the pastry is still flaky and crisp, but it's still delicious for 3-4 days. I recommend storing it in the fridge, although it would be fine on the counter overnight in an airtight container.
- Don't rush stretching the dough. If you try stretching it and it keeps bouncing back, cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes before trying again. Sometimes the gluten just needs to relax for a few minutes.
- Measure your flour carefully using the spoon and level method. If you overmeasure, there might not be enough liquid and you might struggle with your dough.
- Slice the apples thinly and uniformly. This helps them bake evenly and avoid tears in the dough as the strudel gets rolled up.
- Based on my experiences living Germany for one summer (I know, it's not much to go on) and traveling through southern Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, I definitely want my apple strudel to have raisins but no nuts. I tried making it with nuts recently, but it just didn't taste the same as the apfelstrudel I would get during my travels.
- Oh, and while perhaps not traditional, I love a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to go along with my apple strudel!
Viel Glück und guten appetit! (Good luck & bon appetit!)
More Apple Dessert Recipes
- Glazed Apple Fritter Yeast Bread
- Homemade Caramel Apples
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie
- Best Homemade Apple Pie Recipe
- Apple Pie Macarons
German Apple Strudel (Apfelstrudel)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup lukewarm water
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Apple Raisin Filling
- ¾ cup butter melted
- ⅔ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 lbs apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
- ⅔ cup golden raisins plumped in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer. Using the paddle attachment, add in the water, oil, and vinegar while mixing on low speed until you get a soft dough. Change out the paddle attachment for the dough hook, then knead the dough on medium speed until a soft ball forms.
- Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and knead for 2-3 minutes, until smooth. Slam the dough onto the work surface a few times to enhance gluten development, then shape into a ball and transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, giving the dough a quick torn to lightly coat it in oil on top so it doesn't dry out. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 60-90 minutes.
- When the dough is almost done resting, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the raisins in a bowl of hot water to soak. Peel, core, and slice the apples into thin slices. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Cover your kitchen table or large counter space with a clean tablecloth or sheet.
- To stretch the dough, first move it from the bowl to a clean, dry surface and cut it cleanly in half with a bench scraper, pizza cutter, or large knife. Set one half of the dough to the side. Shape the other half of the dough into a ball and roll it out as thin as you can.
- Gently lift the dough and transfer it to the clean, flat surface covered by the tablecloth. Working gently, lift and stretch the dough a little at a time. When you first start, you can use your knuckles (be sure to remove all jewelry first) underneath the dough to stretch it like a pizza with the back of your hands. Continue to stretch the dough by lifting gently from the thicker edges and wafting a little air under the dough as you pull away from the center of the dough. As it thins out, the weight of the dough will mostly hold it in place on the tablecloth while you stretch out one side, then the other, increasing the size of the dough and stretching it thinner and thinner each time. As you lift and gently pull, you will see areas where the dough is thinning out and you will know the dough is thin enough when you are able to see the pattern of the tablecloth through the dough.
- Continue to stretch and pull the dough until it is paper-thin and a large rectangular shape. If there is a thick band of dough around the edges, remove it by gently tearing it away or carefully tug on the band, stretching the dough even a bit further to thin that thick band of dough out.
- Using a your hands (or a very soft pastry brush, although I find that my hands work best), gently spread ¼ cup of the melted butter over the entire surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs over half of the dough, then place half of the sliced apples on top of the breadcrumbs. Cover the apples evenly with half of the raisins (and walnuts, if using) and half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Fold the short end of the dough over onto the filling, then fold the sides over as well to create a sort of envelope edge that will keep the filling in place as you roll the strudel. Grab the tablecloth close to the short, filled end of the strudel and lift it, allowing the strudel to roll or fold onto itself. Keep lifting the tablecloth, rolling the strudel into a log, making sure the filling stays tucked inside.
- Carefully transfer the strudel onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling ingredients, reserving ¼ cup of melted butter. Both strudel should fit side by side on the same baking sheet with space between them. Brush the tops of both strudel with the remaining melted butter.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow strudel to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- Apples: We like using Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Honey Crisp apples best. But Envy, Opal, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Macintosh, and other popular pie apples will all work.
- Rest the dough: If the dough keeps bouncing back when you try to stretch it, try covering it with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes before trying again. Sometimes the gluten just needs to relax for a few minutes.
- Measuring: Measure your flour carefully using the spoon and level method. If you over-measure the flour, there might not be enough liquid and you may struggle with your dough more.
- Uniform slices: Slice the apples thinly and uniformly. This will ensure that they bake evenly and help avoid tears in the dough as the strudel gets rolled up.
- Variations: Feel free to leave out the raisin and/or add in chopped walnuts (or other nuts).
My helpers were front and center for this one the first time I photographed it back in 2017. They always come running whenever I am making something with apples because they love to eat the peels. Notice 3-year old Rose's arms protectively encircling her horde of peels and her Snow White dress up dress that she wore constantly and 5 year old Clara's missing front two teeth? Those were the days.