A friend who was going overseas gave me a packet of phyllo pastry (unopened) and not being a person who throws food away, I used it to encase a filling of a strucolo di pomi, an apple strudel as made in Trieste.
I have to say that I would much rather make my own pastry as I found the phyllo extremely annoying to use. It kept on breaking and although I covered it with a cloth it also dried out. There was no way that I could make a strudel of any size with it so I made a pie.
Walnuts roughly chopped and raisins (usually sultanas are used) soaked in Grappa.
Add cinnamon, apples, grated lemon rind and sugar.
Some chopped chocolate and lemon juice.
Toast some fresh breadcrumbs in some butter. Cool.
Line a baking pan with some baking paper, butter it. Place 5 sheets of phyllo pastry on top of the paper. Make sure that you brush each sheet of pastry with a mixture of some melted butter and oil (I use extra virgin olive oil as this is what is used to make the common pastry for the strucolo.
Place the filling into the baking tin lined with the pastry and cover with 5 sheets of phyllo, greased between each sheet as before.
Try to roll the edges as best you can. Phyllo is very brittle and I found this difficult to do. Brush with butter and oil mixture again.
I presented it warm with some home made mascarpone. This is not difficult to make, it is economical and you will end up with more than a 250g tub, the size for shop purchased mascarpone.
This is a recipe for an apple strudel as made in Trieste. Unlike the very thin pastry common in the Austrian strudel and other European countries that once belonged to the Austrian- Hungarian empire, the pastry in a Triestine strudel is not as thin and therefore easier to roll.
Autumn is a good time for apple desserts and I was asked recently about suitable food to take on a picnic. This apple strudel is nice to eat hot or cold and the pastry does not go soggy.
With Easter coming up and apples been so abundant, a Strucolo de pomi could be the go.
I have written about Strucolo before and as a child it was my job to prepare the apples. Here is the link to the recipe:
I grew up in Trieste.
Trieste is in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. It is close to Venice, but it is also close to the Slovenian border. In 177 BC Trieste was under the control of Roman Empire. As well as Italy, Trieste also once belonged to Austria and then Austria-Hungary for more than 500 years and much of the cooking of Trieste reflects these cultures.
One of the culinary specialties of Trieste is strucolo de pomi (in Triestine dialect). It is a popular autumn and winter sweet.
When my family came to Australia the pastry shops in Adelaide were not to our tastes (lamingtons, sponge cakes with raspberry jam and in most cases, mock cream). My mother felt it necessary to teach herself how to bake, something that she never did when we were living in Trieste; as is the common European way, we left the baking to the specialists and we bought all of our pastries and cakes, especially when we had guests.
For our first Christmas Eve celebration in Australia my mother and my aunty made a strudel together and making strucolo de pomi became our celebratory dessert for any occasion. Later my mother began making Zuppa Inglese, this too became a perfect celebratory dessert especially for Christmas.
My only aunt living in Australia is zia Licia. She married my mother’s brother. Her maiden name was Ursich, which may not sound Italian, but like many of the people living in Trieste, she had a Slavic name.
When we first came to Australia our families lived next door to one another and they often cooked and ate together.
plain flour, 250 g
salt, 1/4 teaspoon
sugar, 2 tablespoons
egg yolk, 1
warm water, 115 ml, plus more if needed,
vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons, plus additional for coating the dough
apples, 1k – we used delicious apples (golden or red) but other people prefer more acidic varieties, e.g. granny smiths
sugar, 3/4 cup
sultanas, 3/4 cup
walnuts, (or pine nuts) 3/4 cup
ground cinnamon, 1teaspoon
lemon, 1 (juice and grated peel)
butter (unsalted), 70g
bread crumbs, 50g
Mix the flour, sugar and salt together and then slowly add the water, egg yolk and oil to the dry ingredients and knead into a medium-firm dough. We always made any dough on our kitchen laminax table (these were great for mixing and rolling out pasta and pastry), however an electric mixer can be used.
For this option:
Combine the flour and salt in a mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix the water, egg yolk and oil and add this to the flour on low speed. Knead it for about 10minutes until the pastry is soft and elastic. Even if I use the mixer, I like to finish this off with my hands so that I can feel when the pastry is right.
Shape the dough into a ball and throw it down hard onto the working surface a few times.
Spread a little oil on the surface of the dough, cover it with plastic wrap (a use a tea towel) and allow the dough to rest for a couple of hours.
While the pastry is resting prepare the filling:
Peel, core and slice apples. Mix in sugar, sultanas, nuts, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and cinnamon and toss together well.
Stir well until the sugar dissolves and the apples are coated with the mixture.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring constantly until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Let cool.
Roll out the dough:
Cover your working area with tablecloth and dust it with flour (this will help you move the strudel to the baking tray once it has been shaped).
Place the ball of dough in the middle, sprinkle with flour and beginning rolling from the centre roll the dough out into a very thin rectangle,. The dough my be a little resistant at first but will relax more as you roll it. If the dough tears a little it can be patched with off cuts of pastry before you add the filling.
Assemble the strudel:
Spread the breadcrumbs bread evenly over the dough and leave a clean border on all sides.
Arrange the apple mixture evenly on top of the crumbs.
Shape the strudel: begin rolling the strudel into a fairly tight roll, starting at one end and gradually working down the roll. The finished roll should look fairly even in circumference.
Use the table cloth to transfer the strudel and place strudel on a buttered baking tray (I line it with baking paper).
Brush it either with melted butter or oil, or egg yolk mixed with a little oil.
Bake strudel for 60 to 80 minutes in a 180 C oven.
We soaked the sultanas in rum beforehand. Small pieces of dark chocolate mixed into the filling was also a variation.
In Trieste, while the Sicilian relatives were eating their celebratory desserts at Easter, we were either eating presniz or gubana (alsocalled putiza) – both are made with similar pastry (gubana has yeast) and fillings containing different amounts of a mixture of nuts, sultanas, peel and chocolate. A little grappa or a little rum always helps.
The presniz or gubana are then placed into a round baking tin and coiled inside the tin so that when baked, the sides will join up and form a round shape when removed from the tin.
The preparation of gubana requires several steps in order to allow a sourdough to develop using very little yeast.
Pastry with yeast:
500 g flour 00
20 g of yeast
2 cups milk
130 g sugar
100 g butter
1 lemon, peel
1 egg yolk to complete
butter for the plate
FOR THE FILLING:
150 g raisins,
60 g Mixture: candied citron, candied orange, prunes, dried figs
150 g of walnuts
60 g of pine nuts
60 g almonds
100 g of dark chocolate
1 glass of grappa or brandy
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
30 g butter
grated zest of ½ orange and ½ lemon
Heat 4 tablespoons of milk and when it is warm, add the yeast and let it bubble.
Mix 100 g of flour with a teaspoon of sugar and the yeast dissolved in milk. Cover and allow to rise. When it has doubled in volume, add the remaining flour and remaining sugar, eggs, softened butter, a pinch of salt, grated lemon peel and milk. Work this into a dough. Allow to rest 24 hours.
Prepare the filling:
Soak the walnuts and almonds in boiling water, remove their skins and chop them finely.
Soak the raisins in alcohol for a couple of hours. Add the rest of the fruit cut into small piece sand soak for another hour.
Add grated chocolate peel and pine nuts.
Add 1 beaten egg (beaten with a fork) and soft or melted butter .
Roll out the dough on a towel in a thin rectangular shape (about 5 mm thick).
Fry the breadcrumbs in a little butter and when cool spread them over the dough.
Cover with the filling and leave a boarder around the edge (2 cm) . Roll it up on itself, in the shape of a coiled snake. Arrange on baking paper or buttered and floured baking tray.
Brush the surface with 1 beaten egg yolk, sprinkle with a little sugar and bake in a preheated oven at 190 ° C for about 45 minutes. Serve luke warm or cold (it cuts better and it is usually made well in advance of being eaten).
All you need to do is look at a map of Italy to understand why much of the cuisine in Trieste (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), is influenced by Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav traditions.
The apple strudel that is celebrated throughout the year and is a standard dessert in the kitchens of Triestini, has yet again a variation of the pastry, some of the nuts, peel and chocolate, but also raw apple. My mother always used the delicious apples because they were the sweetest. In all three desserts, the pastry is rolled around the filling. See Strucolo de Pomi
One year I went to Sicily for Easter and brought a presniz for the Sicilian relatives to try. I had gone to considerable trouble, buying it from what was considered to be the best pastry shop in Trieste and handling it carefully so that it would not be damaged while travelling.
There was no enthusiasm when I put it on the table, most of the relatives were too full to try it (it was presented with coffee and liqueurs after the big Sicilian Easter lunch after all), and those who did try the presniz did not express any great enthusiasm.
Tradition and only Sicilian food is everything for most Sicilians and I could probably say the same about any other region in Italy.
The traditional desserts for Easter in most of Sicily are made with ricotta. Many have cassata, made with sponge cake, ricotta, chocolate and candied peel, others, like the Ragusani have cassatedde, small, baked ricotta filled tarts made with short pastry (cassatedde can be different shaped ricotta filled pastries in various parts of Sicily – some versions are smaller adaptations of cassata, some cassatedde are fried instead of baked). Very different, quite delicious and perhaps as interesting as presniz and gubana.