Strudel, štrudl, štrudla and štrukli – these are the names given by our neighbors in Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to this sweet dream of pastry and delicious filling. Strudel is not a traditional Serbian dessert, but we gladly adopted it and enjoy eating it. In Serbia and across the Balkans, most commonly you will see two dominant varieties of strudel, a Makovnjača (with poppy seeds) and Štrudla s orasima (with walnuts). The Serbian homemade strudel is the most memorable treat of my childhood. This dessert was made in our family for all occasions, including birthdays, religious holidays and oftentimes just on ordinary days when we fancied something sweet. Let me share with you how to make a homemade strudel – two ways, using only one dough recipe and two simple and delicious fillings – poppy seed and walnuts.
“You’re the Apfelstrudel of mein eye“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie (1968)
This homemade strudel recipe makes for a tender, soft, sweet yeast bread swirled with two creamy homemade fillings. It’s an ideal special-occasion pastry, perfect with coffee.
HISTORY OF STRUDEL
Strudel is most often associated with Austrian cuisine, however it was the Turkish Baklava pastry, introduced into Austria in 1453 that laid the foundation for strudel. Gradually strudels with different fillings were created. The oldest strudel recipe is for a milk-cream strudel. It was handwritten in 1696 and the original can be found at the Viennese City Library.
The transition from the Turkish kitchens to the Balkans and up to Hungary occurred over time and the small delicacies became larger and rolled with fillings of different flavours such as dry fruit or jams. Strudel is also popular in Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Romania. Though each of these countries were in some way influenced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they have their own style and preference for the fillings in preparing the strudel.
While most strudels across Europe are made with phyllo pastry, in Serbia, a strudel is commonly made with a homemade dough, that is rolled out, stuffed with a filling and rolled into a log, making a sweet layered pastry. Lastly, it is baked to glorious golden perfection and then dusted with icing sugar when cool. In Serbia we also prepare a variety of strudels that range from apple, cherry, poppy seed, jam or walnut filled strudels.
THE DOUGH FOR THE STRUDEL
What makes a Serbian strudel recipe so easy to make? Well if you ask me, it is that we do not fuss over having a super thin flaky pastry. Instead the pastry which I have grown up with is a tender, soft, sweet yeast bread dough swirled with creamy homemade fillings.
For this recipe I use a yeast-based dough which should rise for at least an hour and a half or until doubled in size. To make two strudels, cut the dough in two, roll each ball out separately, fill one with the poppy seed mixture, the other with the walnut filling. Roll each strudel into a whirl, glaze with an egg and bake! While it’s definitely recommended to wait for the strudel to cool down for at least 15-20 minutes, it will still taste delicious straight out of the oven. To be honest, I have always loved a warm strudel, in my opinion, it is best fresh out of the oven.
POPPY SEED FILLING
Poppy seeds are a wonderful thing to use in baking, but for some odd reason it’s popularity hasn’t really taken over in most countries like it has across the Balkans. I, for one, could live off these seeds, my favorite has always been, the poppy seed strudel.
Making the poppy seed filling is easy! Firstly, you should grind the poppy seeds as this will release their natural oils. In a pot, combine the poppy seeds, sugar, cinnamon, jam and milk and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Once everything has combined, set aside to cool.
Once the dough is ready, all you need to do is evenly spread out the poppy seed filling across the dough and roll into a swirl.
Fun Fact – Poppy seed has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. The tiny poppy seed actually comes from the plant that produces opium. They have a faint nut-like aroma and a mild, nutty taste. Poppy seeds are also known to relieve exhaustion, decrease anxiety and aid a good night’s sleep.
This walnut strudel is a classic, it is sweet, crunchy and sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon spice. I would say that alongside the apple strudels, walnut strudels are probably the most popular!
Making the walnut filling is also easy and requires little time. If you cannot purchase grounded walnuts, you can easily grind them in a food processor. In a pot, combine the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and milk. Cook on low heat for five minutes, until all of the ingredients have combined and set aside to cool.
Once your dough is ready, spread out the walnut filling evenly on the second half of the dough you have prepared, roll into a swirl and place on the baking tray that has been lined with baking paper.
Baking Tip – You should start this recipe of by preparing the dough and setting it aside to rest and rise. In the mean time, prepare each filling (the poppy seed fililng and the walnut filing) one by one. Set them aside in the fridge until the dough is ready to be used. Preparing both fillings takes ten minutes. This will help you feel less frantic when putting the strudels together.
Poppy Seed Strudel Recipe
Notes: The ingredients below make enough for 2 strudels. If you have access to ready-made poppy seed filling or the walnut filling, it will save a bit of time. However, making your own isn’t too difficult. Just make sure to use ground poppy seeds and ground walnuts!
For the dough:
- 500 g self raising flour
- 250 ml warm milk
- 100 g unsalted butter (cubed & at room temperature)
- 2 eggs
- 1 sachet instant dry yeast (8 g)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 50 g sugar
For the poppy seed filling:
- 250 g ground poppy seeds
- 100 g sugar
- 120 ml milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp jam (any jam will do – I used strawberry)
For the walnut filling:
- 250 g ground walnuts
- 100 g sugar
- 120 ml milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- + 1 beaten egg for greasing
Making the dough:
- Mix yeast with warm milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Allow to stand until the yeast forms a foamy layer (8-10min).
- Combine flour with salt and sugar in a bowl or stand mixer, add the cubed butter into the flour mixture and combine.
- Pour yeast mixture and two eggs into flour mixture and stir to make a soft dough.
- Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead into a smooth ball. If your dough is too sticky, knead in more flour, about one tablespoons at a time. However it is best if your dough is slightly sticky.
- Cut your dough in two halves, shape each half into a smooth ball. Place each dough ball into separate bowls that have been greased with oil. Grease each dough ball with a splash of oil, cover and let rest for an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
Poppy seed filling:
- In a pot, add the ground poppy seeds, one teaspoon of cinnamon, sugar, jam and milk. Cook on low heat for roughly five minutes through constatnt mixing.
- Once all of the ingredients have combined, remove from the heat, place in a bowl and set aside in the firdge.
- In a pot, add the ground walnuts, one teaspoon cinnamon, sugar and milk. Cook on low heat for roughly five minutes and mix constantly.
- Once all of the ingredients have combined, remove from the heat, place in a bowl and set aside in the fridge.
Putting the strudel together:
- Preheat oven to 180°C & prepare a baking tray with baking paper.
- Using a rolling pin – roll out the first dough onto a floured surface into a shape of a rectangular or circle. The dough should be fairly thin, but not thin enough that it rips.
- Spoon out the poppy seed filling onto the dough and gently spread, leaving 1 inch free around the edges.
- Tuck in the edges and roll up into a log.
- Place the first strudel with the poppy seed filling onto a baking tray and cover with a clean cloth.
- Using a rolling pin – roll out the second dough onto a floured surface, also into a shape of a rectangular or circle.
- Spoon out the walnut filling onto dough and gently spread, leaving 1 inch free around the edges.
- Tuck in the edges and roll up into a log.
- Place the second strudel with the walnut filling onto a baking tray and cover with the same cloth.
- Let the strudels rest for twenty minutes, covered with the cloth.
- Once the strudels are ready, gently brush over them with one beaten egg.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until they have become golden brown.
- Once the strudels are baked, remove them from the oven and let cool before serving.
- Serve warm or room temperature, in 3/4-inch slices, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a cup of coffee or tea!
Served warm from the oven, this exquisite dessert features luscious fillings, rolled up in golden puff pastry. Doesn’t it sound delicious? It really is! I hope this homemade strudel – two ways, makes its way into your kitchens and onto your dessert plates. If you do try it, tag me over on Instagram with @thehomeharvest. I would love to see what you create! ❤️