This apple strudel braid is an American style strudel made with lightly spiced cinnamon bourbon apples, an easy flaky homemade puff pastry dough, and an incredible buttered bourbon glaze.
Last year for Christmas my sister-in-law brought the most amazing apple strudel to our family Christmas. It was her grandmothers recipe and it was incredible. The strudel was the star of the show.
When I finally perfected my EASY HOMEMADE PUFF PASTRY DOUGH, I knew it would be the perfect dough for an apple dessert and that apple strudel was my inspiration.
What is apple strudel?
Strudel is a pastry that dates back to Austria and is a popular European dessert. It was created after the Turkish baklava made it’s way it’s way to Eastern Europe. The word strudel is German for “whirlpool” due to it’s swirled and layered pastry appearance. Arguably the most famous and beloved was the Viennese apple strudel, or “Apfelstrudel”.
What ingredients are in traditional strudel pastry dough?
Strudel uses an unleavened dough consisting of simple ingredients: flour, salt, and butter (or oil), and sometimes vinegar. What sets it apart from other dough is the method used to create the thin dough.
How to make traditional strudel dough
First, the strudel dough is made by kneading and then literally “slamming” the dough onto the counter top several times to help develop the gluten. Then, the dough is allowed to rest before it is rolled and stretch into a paper thin (almost transparent) sheet, similar to phyllo dough. The saying goes “the dough should be so thin you can read a newspaper through it”. The dough is then brushed with melted butter and wrapped around the filling many times until all of the dough is used.
Types of strudel (European and American)
Strudels can be savory or sweet and is named for the filling.
Common Austrian/German strudels:
- the Viennese apple strudel, or “Apfelstrudel”
- topfen/quark (a farmers curd cheese)
- milk cream (oldest known strudel recipe)
- nut filled
- sour cherry
Like many recipes, the original recipe evolved and transformed over time. Many American strudels now use puff pastry dough instead of the more traditional phyllo type dough.
- cream cheese
- breakfast (ham, cheese, and eggs)
What is an apple strudel braid?
An apple strudel braid is an Americanized version of the Viennese apple strudel that uses a puff pastry dough instead of the more traditional phyllo style dough. This dough is a little sturdier and is more forgiving during the braiding.
How to braid pastry dough
First, roll the puff pastry dough out into a sheet that is roughly 11 x 15 inches. Second, cut 1 inch wide strips down each side of the pastry sheet. I suggest doing this on a sheet of parchment paper to help transfer the dough onto your baking sheet.
Next, add your filling to the center, making sure not to overfill the pastry. Too much filling will make it difficult to braid the dough.
Then, starting at the top, gently cross the first dough strip over the apples at a diagonal (making sure to not pull or stretch the dough) and then cross the opposite dough strip over the first dough strip, making an X pattern. Continue to do this down the length of the strudel.
Note: the picture above shows a lot of sauce around the apples. I have since reworked the recipe to avoid this step so it will not look like the above).
Tips for success to make a perfect apple strudel braid
Use COLD pastry dough
The number one rule to remember when working with pastry dough is that it MUST be kept cold. This is especially true when working with puff pastry as the cold butter in the warm oven will cause steam to be released allowing the layers to rise.
I like to place the pastry back in the refrigerator once the apple strudel is assembled to make sure it is very cold before going into the oven.
Use a baking sheet that has sides
It is common for the some of the filling juices to run out of the pastry. Using a baking sheet that has sides will prevent the juices from running off the pan and onto the bottom of your hot oven…creating LOTS of smoke…and setting off the fire alarm.
Not that I would know this from experience or anything…
Avoid precooking your apples
It’s tempting to precook the apples to make sure they get cooked through. I have tried both precooking the apples and not precooking the apples. The best results were acheived when I didn’t precook the apples AND I didn’t have to wait for the apples to cool before adding them to the pastry.
If you choose to cook the apples, then they MUST be completely cooled. Make it easy on yourself and just add the apple mixture directly to the pastry. It will cook for 40 minutes which is plenty of time for the apples to cook completely through.
Use parchment paper
There are several reasons for this:
To prevent the apple strudel and juices from sticking to the pan
Juices from the filling will likely leak from the opening in the pastry dough. Using parchment paper will prevent the pastry and juices from sticking to the pan.
For easy transfer
You can cut the strips of your pastry dough braid directly on a large piece of parchment paper and then transfer both the parchment paper and the pastry to your baking sheet. So much easier than trying to cut dough strips on a baking sheet with sides (again, not that I would know this from experience or anything…).
Brush the pastry with cream or egg wash
Brush the pastry with heavy whipping cream or an egg wash mixture to ensure even and golden browning.
Apple strudel buttered bourbon glaze
The final touch on this already amazing apple strudel braid is this buttered bourbon glaze. Bourbon and apples are like peanut butter and jelly. They are the perfect pair. This glaze turns a good pastry into an exceptional pastry so don’t be tempted to skip this step. Pour the glaze all over the top of the apple strudel soon after it comes out of the oven and then allow it to cool a bit before serving.
For all you pastry lovers out there, check out these Homemade Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls.
Apple Strudel Braid
- 1 lb + 4 oz granny smith apples measured after they have been pealed, cored, and sliced (about 6 apples)
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp bourbon
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- 4 tbsp butter melted
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp bourbon
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.
- Measure 1 lb 4 oz apples and add to a large bowl.
- In a small bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, flour, lemon juice, bourbon, and vanilla extract. Stir well.
- Pour over the apples and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Roll out a puff pastry sheet on a large piece of parchment paper to roughly 11 x 15 inches.
- Cut 1 inch wide, 4 inch long, horizontal strips down the right side of the pastry sheet. Make sure to not cut into the middle part of the puff pastry sheet as this is where the apples will be placed. Repeat on the left side.
- Transfer the puff pastry sheet on a 11 x 14 cookie sheet with sides using the parchment paper.
- Arrange the apples in a long line down the middle of the puff pastry.
- Starting on the top left, fold the top right strip of pastry dough diagonally over the apples, careful to avoid stretching the dough.
- Then fold the top left stripe diagonally over the other strip of dough, making an X. Work your way down the length of the strudel, tucking and arranging the dough to resemble a braid.
- Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove from the refrigerator and brush the top of the strudel with cream or an egg wash.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes
- Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a serving platter (I use a large grill spatula to transfer but you can also use the parchment paper to assist).
Make the glaze:
- In a small microwavable bowl, melt the butter.
- Add the lemon juice, bourbon, pure vanilla extract, milk, salt, and powdered sugar. Stir well
- Drizzle the glaze evenly over the top of the strudel.