I had some trepidation about the “strudel” part of this week’s recipe. When I found my grandmother Jessie’s lost files, I noticed the “apricot strudel” recipe but did not pay close attention, which turned out to be par for the course for me with this recipe.
The reason for my fear-of-strudel dates back to a cruise we had taken a few years back with my mother, from San Francisco to various Pacific ports in Mexico. On this sailing, an Austrian chef demonstrated making apple strudel. A traditional strudel includes stretching, more stretching, and, when you think you have stretched the dough enough, stretching yet again. So I thought I would have to do all this stretching and was a bit worried about this technique.
However, this recipe has no stretching. The dough is very easy to make. This pastry is more akin to a rugelach than a strudel, as the dough for the former usually features either sour cream (as does this) or cream cheese in addition to nuts and cinnamon in the filling. Rugelach often has raisins, but I used dried apricots in this version. Either way Jessie’s apricot strudel is very mittel-European and very Old World in its sour-cream-butter dough, with an apricot-nut-coconut filling.
I vaguely remember Jessie making a cookie similar to this. Perhaps I do not recall it very well, given that it is not a terribly sweet cookie – and without chocolate. Hence, I would not have been too interested in it as child. Though Jessie loved eating traditional flaky apple strudel, she also liked rugelach. For Sacher torte or other rich desserts, Jessie always liked her café mit schlag (coffee with whipped cream), as she called it, to ensure the most extravagant dessert experience possible.
My challenge with this recipe was that Jessie called for “Ma Brown apricot jam”. I do not know if this exists any more, but I prefer to use my own preserves, whenever possible, regardless. I had only one small jar of apricot butter left from the small batch I made last year, but this amount would not have sufficed.
For more on the strudel development and the recipe…
I also needed more information on the quantities of coconut and nuts in the filling. By Googling “apricot strudel,” I did find a Cooks.com recipe, which is very similar to Jessie’s, though using dried apricots soaked overnight, instead of jam. I chose to do this adaptation, as I always have dried apricots to make my version of Ina Garten’s World’s Best Granola. I definitely did not want to run out to one of our island’s three modest food stores for store-bought jam of questionable quality (you pays your money and you takes your chance – as the expression goes – when you need something in a pinch on this small island!).
Getting back to not reading recipes closely, I initially forgot to add the coconut to the filling until after I had just put the cookies in the oven. I had a bag of “fancy sweetened flake” coconut set right out on my work area, so I just was not paying attention. I also cut the rolled dough into one-inch slices before they went into the oven. According to Jessie and Cooks.com, the log is to be baked intact, sliced afterward (my directions are for pre-slicing, but you could bake the logs intact for an extra five minutes, I imagine, for a more finished looking pinwheel). So I decided to throw the coconut on top of some of the slices. I baked two of the four pieces of dough, freezing the other two and refrigerating the filling – with ½ cup coconut incorporated now – for a few days later).
The cookies turned out well, with the lightly browned coconut-strewn tops. A sour cream-butter dough generally yields a tender, rich, flavour-packed pastry – and this is exactly the case here. I found the apricots to provide a chewy fruitiness – rather than a jammy sweetness – to the filling. I was happy that I deviated a bit from Jessie’s directions. This is not a very sweet pastry, however. Nonetheless, I think this “apricot strudel” is a sophisticated Old World classic, perfect for café mit schlag.
Makes 40 sliced cookies
- 1 c. salted butter, melted (or with unsalted, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt)
- 1 c. sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 c. flour
- 1 lb. dried apricots
- 1/4 tsp. powdered cloves (I used 1 tsp whole cloves while macerating the apricots – soaking in water, which is the culinary term as counterpart to “marinading” for soaking fruit – the cloves I later discarded)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 c. sugar – or more, to taste, if you like it sweeter
- 1 c. shredded coconut (I used sweetened fancy flake)
- 1/2 lb. chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
- Confectioners’ sugar for serving
1. In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix the butter with the sour cream, until blended. Add flour and sugar on low until just blended. Form gently into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap tightly. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Soak the dried apricots overnight in enough water to cover along with cloves and cinnamon.
3. The next day, when ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
4. Drain the apricots and put through a food mill or chop very finely.
5. Add sugar, coconut, and nuts. Mix well.
6. Divide the dough into four equal pieces (when weighed, each is approximately 6.2 ounces).
7. Roll out the chilled dough 1/8″ thick into a rectangular shape, approximately 10” by 6”, on a floured surface. Spread one-fourth of the filling over all the dough (one fourth of the filling should weigh about 12.2 ounces) and roll up like a jelly roll, starting on the longer (10”) side towards the opposite longer side.
8. Slice into 10 one-inch thick slices.
9. Place slices, two inches apart, on a silicon non-stick mat or parchment paper, on a baking sheet.
10. Bake in at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
11. Reduce heat to 350 degree, and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until golden brown.
12. Cool on wire racks.
13. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve…maybe with cafe mit schlag?