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.