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Dessert evokes flavors of fall

Thank you, summer. It’s been a blast, but we’ve had our fill of scorching heat and dusty days. We know better than anyone how wonderful it feels when the leaves begin to change, temperatures drop and autumnal bliss is in the air. It may not be here yet, but we know it’s coming.

Perhaps we can hasten autumn by celebrating fall milestones. It’s apple season. Bring on the “you-picks” and cider.

Monday, Sept. 23, is the fall equinox, the official beginning of autumn. But first Oktoberfest begins.

Oktoberfest in September? Yes, and here’s why: Not only a sausage, pretzel and beerfest, Oktoberfest celebrates the weeks leading up to the marriage of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. They threw the most awesome prewedding reception ever and the people liked it so much it became an annual tradition.

For 209 years this floating festival ends on the first Sunday in October. This year it begins Saturday, Sept. 21.

What brings together fall, apple season and Oktoberfest? Apple strudel. Apple strudel or apfelstrudel, a pastry shell with an apple filling, is a traditional Viennese pastry popular in Austria and many other European countries.

For an authentic strudel you would need to roll strudel dough so thin you can literally read the newspaper through it. But we’ve got stuff to do so we’re taking a shortcut using frozen puff pastry.

This recipe makes two apple strudel. You can easily halve the recipe and make only one, but I think we all know somebody that deserves a surprise strudel.

EASY APPLE STRUDEL

What you’ll need:

1 17.3-ounce package of puff pastry (two sheets), thawed in the fridge

6 apples, any variety

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon each clove and nutmeg

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins (golden, dark or a mix)

1 cup chopped nuts, walnuts, almonds or pecans

1 egg to make egg wash

Coarse (demerara) sugar for coating

Here’s how:

Peel, core and slice about 4 cups of apples total. Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat. Melt the butter and add the apples. Cook the apples until they begin to soften. Add the cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, sugar, salt and raisins, and combine. When the apples are softened but not falling apart (about 15 minutes) remove from heat and let cool completely.

This can be done the night before and the apples refrigerated until ready for use. If you’re in a hurry, spread the apples on a baking sheet and place in the fridge.

To assemble the strudel: Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Lightly flour another piece of parchment and roll one sheet of puff pastry into a rectangle approximately 16-by-12 inches. With the short edge facing you, leaving a 2-inch border, place half of the cooled apples on the pastry. Top with half the chopped nuts.

Using the parchment to assist, lift the edge of the pastry and carefully roll it like a jelly roll. Pinch the ends so the apples can’t escape and lay, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet.

Mix the egg with a splash of water and brush the roll. Sprinkle all over with sugar. Cut several slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape.

Repeat with the second pastry.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

For a variation try Pear and Cranberry Strudel. Substitute pears and dried cranberries for the apples and raisins in this recipe. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving.

Viel Glück und guten appetit! (Good luck and bon appetite!)

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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