Apple Strudel

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Things to be grateful for the past week:

  • Billie Holiday. Happy belated, you star.
  • Extended periods of concentration
  • My mum’s lipstick (oops).
  • Discovering new, creative inspiration all around me, in the air, sights, people (Instagram aside, of course).
  • Daily yoga practice. Still trying to get better at certain inversions and balances. Nothing else truly grounds and invigorates me.
  • Love. Everywhere. Phone calls or video calls. Precious and genuine.
  • Making mistakes, and distinct feelings of unease. And then letting the right balance of stoicism and determination kick in. Feel, embrace, face obstacles, before trying to untangle and change them.
  • Coming across the cutest café (named Moreish) near the Wellcome Collection full of delicious vegan options, including vegan gelato!!
  • Coming up with more easy, AMAZING new recipes which I am so excited to release week after week! And just refining some sweet (literally) cult classics whenever I can. Snickerdoodles, red velvet cake, carrot cake, fudgy brownies galore. These things just can’t go wrong.My most recent experiment was particularly exciting and got me squealing on my knees at 10pm last night. Seriously.

Over the Easter weekend I was privileged enough to be hosted by my boyfriend’s family in Austria. On the plane ride back, my hands were itching to start playing with the Austrian cult classic– yes, the one and only apple strudel. I remember my first encounter with the traditional Austrian pastry before I went vegan so distinctly, The first bite was an explosion of thick-cut chunks of tender, stewed, cinnamony apple, enveloped in light-as-air, flaky pastry. Drenched in vanilla sauce (you usually douse your pastry in either this or vanilla ice cream if you have it), each vanilla speckle visible in pure, vivid ivory, if ivory could be so vivid. It’s the perfectly flaky pastry encasing soft apple, firm yet two steps away from being mush upon the pressure of your spoon, that I wished to replicate the past weekend.

And that I did.

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This easy vegan apple strudel is about an hour away from you if you feel like buying some filo tonight. Seriously, it’s so darn easy and delicious I can’t possibly think of what is stopping you. Since I was only making this for me and my uncle last weekend, the strudel I ended up with was a rather small thing of a sausage, but nevertheless satisfying in portion. Double the ingredients if you wish to make this for a larger party or, say, 5 or more friends who are more cautious than carefree when it comes to dessert after a hefty dinner of pot stickers and the likes on a Saturday night. I personally enjoy any dessert a la mode, as opposed to drenching it in custard or vanilla sauce. Ice cream any day for me, who’s with me?? I also drizzled over some of my homemade salted caramel sauce of extra pizzaz, though any sauce is of course optional, if you’re the sort who also hates stuff like sweet chilli sauce. Is that even possible?

Filo pastry actually comes in so handy for these types of dessert– I like to chuck mine in the freezer and let it thaw for at least 3 hours or overnight in the fridge to be used the next day.

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Apple Strudel (makes one 4×8-inch strudel. enough for 2-3 people)

Ingredients

2 large apples, diced

juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

2 and a half sheets of filo pastry, with the 2 larger ones cut in the middle along the longer edge, so you end up with 5 halves. If you’re using frozen filo pastry

A handful, or about 30g of chopped nuts (or buckwheat groats, as I used in my case since I didn’t have many nuts lying around– sacrilege!), and some extra for sprinkling later on

4 tbsp vegan butter, melted in the microwave

4 tbsp brown or coconut sugar

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350C). In a bowl, mix together the chopped apple, cinnamon, lemon and nuts. If you don’t have any nuts or buckwheat groats, granola or any trailer mix sort of thing works well too. Set the bowl aside.

Place a piece of parchment paper that fits a standard baking tray, and place the paper on the tray. Flour the parchment and lay down one sheet of filo pastry. Carefully (filo pastry is quite delicate) brush on some vegan butter, then sprinkle on a tablespoon of brown or coconut sugar, then some of your finely chopped nuts/granola/something crunchy basically! Then lay down your second piece of pastry and repeat. Repeat until all five sheets are used up. Place the filling in the middle of the pastry, leaving a border of an inch from the shorter edge (breadth) and 2 inches from the longer edge (length). Refer to the pictures above for a clearer idea of what I’m saying. Using a sharp knife, roughly cut lines going from the edge of your filling to the length of the pastry, spaced 2 cm away from each other and parallel to each other. The lines should match up to each other on both sides of the filling.

Carefully fold the strips of pastry towards the middle, using the extra melted butter to stick any overlapping bits together. Continue doing this along the length of the strudel until you reach the bottom. Brush the top of the pastry with more melted butter, sprinkle on some brown sugar, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The pastry should not be dark, but crispy all the same. Serve with a healthy dollop of vegan vanilla ice cream, and more nuts for crunch. This can be kept in the fridge for a few days

 

Linzer Torte

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After Linz, in Austria, and said to be the oldest cake in the world. I love how a new recipe lets in some learning. It’s so easy to forget how something so ubiquitous so brims with history. Imagining this torte being caressed by a medieval stranger in 1696 and then being made by someone in the current century is mystical, almost haunting.

Have finally settled into the new house before the advent of a new term, routine is taking form once more; something I’m so grateful for and excited about after a deleterious flight which messes up the mind and shakes up calm. Excitement must be the shorthand term for what I felt once reunited with some favourite people after what seemed to be forever. It only seemed natural to bake something to celebrate. Something incredibly simple but so satisfying.

The crust is traditionally laced with ground almonds and made with egg yolks. It’s also typically decorated with flaked almonds, but  I made do with just a simple lattice and sugar to top before the oven-throw. The filling is probably the easiest in the world. I made do with raspberry jam, which you can make yourself or simply use store-bought. Once baked, the interior becomes thick, glistening and gooey, perfectly holding form for clean cuts and gooey bellies.

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Linzer Torte (makes one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients

165g plain flour, plus more for the counter

100g ground almonds

155g caster sugar

150g cold butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

250g good quality raspberry jam

 

Directions

Grease your tart tin and preheat your oven to 190C. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds and salt. Rub in the cubes of butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix until you get a moist dough. Since this dough is quite sticky, I found it helpful to lightly flour the tin and my hands for easy molding. Remove about a quarter of the dough and set aside, this will be for the lattice top. Take the bulk of the dough and press neatly into the bottom and up the shallow sides of the tart tin. Press the dough into the ridges of the sides of the tin, and use a sharp knife to trim off excess around the rim.

Fill the tart with the raspberry jam and spread it around evenly. Flour your work surface and put the remaining quarter of dough you set aside on the surface. Roll into a rectangular slab that’s 3mm thick and just long enough to stretch the diameter of your tin. Cut into 6 strips. Lay three on your tart horizontally, and then the next three vertically.

Sprinkle the top of the tart with caster sugar, then bake for 25 minutes. Check at the 20-minute mark. It should be golden-brown on top, and some jam may be seeping in between the lattice hold. That’s ok, nice and rustic. Cool in the tart tin for at least 10 minutes before removing, slicing and serving.