One thing leads to another.
A casual reference to a misremembered "Polish apple strudel thing" can become the first link in a chain which runs, link by link, from daughters to mothers to daughters, old friends and neighbors, to Oregon and overseas, to Warsaw and Belgium, a chain being built to link to the best, most correct recipe for szarlotka.
We found it. I have it here for you. My friend Kate's childhood friends from Warsaw have a mom who made the best pretty much everything, and who knows about these things. It's not apple strudel. It's szarlotka. You can buy a mix for this in the Polish grocery stores along Milwaukee Avenue, but better yet, try it at home from scratch with the last of the orchard apples rolling around in your kitchen. This Warsaw mom who makes the best szarlotka, she was a little hard to reach on account of her daughter having a baby last week in Belgium. But this being a time in which we can literally find anyone, anywhere, and communicate with them easily, in a matter of days at the most, she could be tracked down and quizzed about the proper preparation of this dish. It's different than an apple pie, mainly in its cookie-like crust. The same dough is used on top and bottom but while bottom is rolled out, the top is crumbled on. It has a density that comes from the four egg yolks and sour cream not typically present in apple pie. And the apples are supposed to be grated rather than sliced, and as previously mentioned, cooked to death.
When you make this, you're linking up with friends you've never met in Warsaw. Have a cup of coffee with them afterward as you eat a piece hot from the oven.
And thanks, Zosia.
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
2 T sour cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 c white sugar
2 t vanilla extract (in Poland you'd use 1 packet of vanilla sugar)
2 1/2 sticks of butter (cold)
On a clean, smooth surface, cut together butter with flour and baking powder. Mix in vanilla and sour cream. With an electric mixer mix together egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy and add to the flour/butter mixture. Knead together into a uniform ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap one part in plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator until firm. Roll out the other half and place on bottom of a greased pan (springform cake pan works well), spread evenly.
- - - - -
apple filling (nadzienie jablkowe)
1.5-2 lbs of apples (tart and firm work best, such as Fuji or Granny Smith)
3/4 c sugar
optional - 1 t cinnamon or 1 t ground cardamom
Peel and core the apples, grate on largest part of the grater, place in nonstick pot. Mix with sugar and spices and cook on low heat until slightly softened. If there is too much juice, drain some out to prevent over-soaking the crust. Cool.
Place cooled-down apple filling on top of the prepared crust, spreading evenly. Take out the second half of the prepared crust and make a crumbly topping. You can use the grater (largest holes) or just crumble the dough with your fingers. Spread evenly on the apples.
A variation here would be to use the 4 egg whites leftover from the crust-making. You can whip them into a stiff foam with a tablespoon of sugar, and spread over the apples before placing the crust topping on. Another variation would be rolling out the top crust (instead of crumbing it) and placing on top of the apples.
Bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees, for 45-60 minutes. The top will be light brown when it is ready. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Traditionally, szarlotka is served warm from the oven, with a dollop of fresh whipped cream (vanilla bean ice cream is also delicious).
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