This fall, fall in love with apple strudel! Flakey puff pastry, cinnamon-dusted apple, tender ribbons of vanilla icing…when the air is crisp and you’re ready for a warming, comforting treat at the tea table, this easy apple strudel recipe will be love at first bite!
Strudel vs Streusel
What is the difference between strudel and streusel? To be honest, you can’t go wrong with either one—I just want to be clear about exactly which dessert we’re making here.
They are both pastries with tasty fillings.
Strudel encases those tasting fillings in flaky pastry.
Streusel tops those tasting fillings with crumble topping.
They are both delicious.
There’s no rule that says you can’t have streusel on your strudel. If you love streusel, I say go for it! Who would say no to a streusel strudel?
In this easy apple strudel recipe, however, we’re sticking with a straight-forward strudel, simply topped with vanilla icing or sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Easy as 1, 2, 3…
I tend to overcomplicate simple things. But this apple strudel recipe really is simple!
You can buy frozen puff pastry to save time, and the filling is straightforward and so delicious—just apples with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Perfect paired with your favorite black or herbal tea!
If you’re looking for a ridiculously quick dessert, or you really despise chopping things, you can always use store-bought apple pie filling.
Between frozen puff pastry and pre-made apple filling, you could be eating freshly baked apple strudel with just five minutes of prep and forty minutes of bake time. Prepping your own apples really only adds an extra five to fifteen minutes or so (depending on how handy you are with a peeler and a paring knife).
Once you have your ingredients, the steps really are as easy as 1, 2, 3!
- Put the filling on the pastry.
- Fold and vent your pastry.
- Bake your pastry.
And then I suppose there is a fourth (and best) step: eat your pastry!
In this very straightforward method, folding and venting your strudel could not be easier! You simply put the filling in the middle third of the puff pastry, then fold the top and bottom thirds over the filling, and press at the seams so it doesn’t leak.
To vent, flip the pastry over (so the seams are on the bottom—purely for aesthetic reasons), and then use a sharp knife to slice vertical or diagonal openings for steam to escape as the apple filling heats.
It’s classic to space your vents apart roughly the width you would like each piece of strudel to be once they’re cut, but feel to get creative with your designs if your baking muse speaks to you!
And that’s that! Easy as pie…and to be honest, much easier than pie. The phrase really should be “easy as strudel!”
For a few simple ways to make this easy apple strudel recipe just a little less easy (but arguably even more delicious!) check out these strudel-enhancing tricks…
Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…
You can definitely follow the very straightforward steps outlined in the first section, and your easy apple strudel will be delicious…because how can you go wrong with cinnamon, apple, and puff pastry?
You could also add a few extra steps (or choose just one or two) to take your strudel to the next level!
Optional steps include: make your own (cheater’s version) puff pastry—recipe below, stew your apples, add an egg wash, get fancy with your venting, and top it off with icing!
Make Your Own Puff Pasty
To clarify, when I say, “make your own puff pastry,” I mean “make a simple cheater’s version of puff pastry.”
If you’ve got the skills and time to make your own classic puff pastry, that’s great! Go for it!
If you like the idea of making puff pastry from scratch but don’t want to spend hours and hours waiting for the dough to rest, try a “rough puff” recipe.
The secret to this method is frozen butter! Grate a stick of butter and put it in the freezer for at least fifteen minutes (the perfect amount of time for you to throw together and knead the dough), then you’re ready to roll! (Literally…)
Stew Your Apples
To ensure that your apples are nice and tender, you can stew them while you are making your puff pastry! (Or simply waiting for your oven to pre-heat.)
It doesn’t take long for the apple pieces to begin to soften, and it gives the cooking process a nice head start before you pop the strudel in the oven.
Egg or Milk Wash
For the perfect golden crisp, baste your strudel with an egg or milk wash before you bake it!
Simply beat an egg with a fork (or pour yourself a splash of milk) and brush it over the raw puff pastry just before it goes in the oven. It will give your finished pastry a beautiful, rich color.
The simple venting method described above works perfectly and creates a lovely aesthetic.
However, if you enjoy playing with dough or are going for the ultimate Instagram-worthy presentation, try your hand at a crisscross method of sealing the pastry dough.
The written instructions may look a little involved, but don’t let that scare you off! The process is actually pretty simple. (And for any visual learners out there, I found this video tutorial to be very helpful! Skip to 3:27 for the relevant section.)
1. Use a sharp knife to slice the top and bottom thirds of the puff pastry (the part not covered by the apple mixture) into vertical strips about an inch wide. Remove one strip from the top and bottom of each end of the pastry and fold the remaining “notch” up over the apple filling.
2. Start at one end, folding the first top strip down at an angle over the apple filling, then fold the corresponding bottom strip at an angle to overlap with the first strip.
3. Repeat the step above, folding the top strips at an angle and overlapping them with the bottom strips until you reach the other end of the pastry. Fold the last two top and bottom strips over the “notch” you folded up at the beginning.
For a finishing touch, add a drizzle of icing or a dusting of powdered sugar.
There is no sugar in the puff pastry, and a limited amount in the apple filling, so the addition of a sugary topping here won’t overwhelm you.
A simple vanilla glaze comes together in about a minute and is a wonderful compliment to the cinnamon apple flavors of the strudel. (As would be any of these cinnamon-y teas!) When added to a warm pastry, the icing is ooey gooey and glorious. When drizzled onto a cooled pastry, the icing quickly sets, creating a lovely nuanced texture and a perfect hint of sweetness.
Whether you choose to make this tea-time treat in its simplest form, or jazz it up with fancy braiding and gooey glazing, this easy apple strudel recipe is sure to be a fall-time favorite!
Easy Apple Strudel Recipe
- Puff pastry (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
- 1 can of apple pie filling, OR the following:
- 2-4 apples, peeled and chopped
- 2 Tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste, depending on the sweetness of your apples)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup oatmeal,* optional
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, optional
- Egg or milk for egg wash, optional
- Powdered sugar or icing** for topping, optional
*The optional oats absorb moisture released from the apples, preventing a possible soggy-bottom to your pastry
**To make a quick icing, combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 2-3 teaspoons water and a splash of vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
If making your own filling, peel and core your apples, then chop into bite-sized chunks (or thin slices if that is your preferred texture).
In a medium bowl or saucepan, combine apples with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and optional cornstarch.
If stewing your apples, add a splash of water (or tea of your choice) and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Allow them to cool slightly.
Roll out your puff pastry if using homemade, or get out a sheet of dough if using frozen.
Add the apple mixture* across the center third of the puff pastry, going horizontally, like a band through the middle.
Optional: sprinkle oatmeal over the top of the apple mixture.
Seal your strudel. Fold the top third of the puff pastry over the apple filling, then fold the bottom third up. Press the seams together so it doesn’t leak.
Flip the pastry over so the seam side is down, then use a sharp knife to cut vertical or diagonal vents in the pastry—space them apart however large you’d like the pieces of strudel to be when you cut them.
Optional: brush pastry with egg or milk wash to get an extra golden crisp as it bakes.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until crust is golden brown and pastry is cooked through.
Allow to cool slightly or completely, top with optional glaze or dusting of powdered sugar.
Serve with your favorite tea, and enjoy!
*Note: If you are using the criss-cross method (described above) to seal your strudel, add the optional oatmeal before you add your apple mixture. You won’t flip the pastry over in this method, so you want to make sure the oats are on the bottom to absorb moisture.
Cheat’s Puff Pastry Recipe
- 1 and 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 4 to 5 Tablespoons cold water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, grated and frozen
Use your hands or a fork to incorporate the room-temperature butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly.
Add the salt and water. Mix until the dough comes together.
Knead dough for 3 to 5 minutes, or until texture is softer and more supple, similar to the consistency of play dough.
Roll dough into a rectangle until it is fairly thin. (Shoot for about 1/8 inch.)
Spread half of the frozen butter on the left two-thirds of the dough. Fold the right third of the dough over the butter (to about the half-way point in the dough.) Fold the left third of the dough up to cover the first half of the dough.
Rotate the dough by 90 degrees and roll it out into another rectangle. Repeat the above process with the remaining half of the frozen butter.
Roll out the dough one more time into a rectangle. Repeat the folding process.
Wrap dough in clingfilm or beeswax, refrigerate at least one hour.