Homemade Strudel: A family recipe rediscovered

Sift magazine’s holiday issue presents dozens of inspirations for baking that bring families together. In this excerpt, Sift food stylist Erin McDowell reconnects with her great-grandmother by learning to make her homemade strudel.

I set out to recreate my great-grandma Nagy’s strudel dough without a recipe. My oldest brother is a photographer, and a few years back he restored some old photos for our mom. One of these photos happened to be of my great-grandma beside a table covered in fruit.

My mom told me they were making strudel, and when I squinted closer to the photo to see — sure enough — the whole table was covered with a thin dough, ready to be rolled up. I had made strudel once or twice in pastry school, but I was determined to create a new recipe, based in my family’s tradition, to bake from and share.

Along the way, I learned a lot about strudel — tips and tricks worth knowing if you’re going to tackle this pastry project.

The truth is, homemade strudel is actually much easier than it looks. Click To Tweet

The fillings are easy to prepare and the dough is easy to work with and very forgiving. The trickiest aspect of preparing any homemade strudel recipe is planning ahead, plus you’ll need plenty of space to make the process go as smoothly as possible!

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

First rule of homemade strudel: Plan ahead

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Homemade strudel dough is so easy to make – throw the ingredients into a mixer and knead, knead, knead until you’ve got a super-smooth, pliable dough. This kneading is crucial to the structure of the dough – long protein strands form, making the dough flexible enough to stretch very thin (so don’t skimp on the kneading time).

But all that kneading isn’t the only plan-ahead item here: the dough also benefits massively from resting overnight in the refrigerator. This rest period relaxes the dough, which is key to easy stretching later.

If you don’t have time for an overnight rest, never fear — the dough can be used after a solid 1-hour rest time. If you find the dough difficult to work with straight from the fridge (more on this later), you can let it warm up at room temperature for about 15 minutes before beginning to stretch it.

While we’re talking about planning ahead — don’t forget your fillings. Most strudel fillings are super simple to prepare, but many of them require cooking. You won’t want to put warm filling onto a chilled strudel dough, so make your filling ahead (or while the dough is resting), so that you’re ready to go come stretch time.

Next, prepare your workspace

You need a large area to stretch your dough. I use my kitchen island, which is a 3′ x 2′ rectangle. A card table or dining room table also works well – it’s ideal to be able to walk all the way around the table, which makes it easier to stretch the dough!

Lay a clean tablecloth, flour sack towels, or oilcloth over the work surface — this helps prevent the dough from sticking to the table without the use of flour, as well as helps make rolling easier when the time comes. Have ready nonstick spray or a small bowl of oil – the dough is easiest to handle with lightly greased hands.

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

The key to stretching strudel dough is fearlessness

If you’re scared, the dough will know – hesitation leads to rips and tears. That being said, don’t worry if the dough does rip or tear – eventually, you’ll be rolling this strudel up and it will have many, many layers – any rips will be invisible in the end product.

The dough should feel lightly tacky but not sticky, and it should stretch easily. Remember: If it isn’t stretching easily, try leaving it at room temperature for a few more minutes before you begin.

Start by stretching the dough in your hands a bit like a pizza, trying as best you can to maintain a rectangular shape. When the dough gets too large to handle with your hands alone, lay it down carefully on the covered surface. Begin to stretch each side using closed fists. Put your hands under the dough at one corner, and gently work your fists outward, working toward the edge of the table.

Continue to do this, bit by bit, working around the dough to slowly stretch it out. When you reach the edge of the table, let the dough hang off. (Gravity will help “hold” it there while you stretch the other sides.)

The goal is to get it so thin you can see through it — if your tablecloth has a pattern, this can be a good guideline. The dough is very strong, and you should be able to stretch it without major tearing, but again — don’t sweat any minor errors! Once the dough has stretched out very thin, run your fingers along the edges and pull gently to make sure they’re thin enough, too.

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

Prepare the strudel dough for the filling

This usually involves a layer of melted butter and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. I recommend:

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
turbinado sugar, as needed, for sprinkling

Drizzle, don’t brush the butter — any unneeded motions on the surface are likely to tear your thinner-than-paper dough!

Use plain breadcrumbs for sweet strudels, and use plain or seasoned for savory strudel recipes. The breadcrumbs help absorb any excess moisture from the filling, helping to keep the strudel crisp.

Note: It’s fun to get creative with the types of breadcrumbs — rye crumbs pair nicely with apples and pears, for example.

Here’s what you’ll need for an Apple Strudel filling:

4 medium apples, peeled and cored
1 cup golden raisins, packed
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
grated rind (zest) of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

See complete directions for making the filling in our Apple Strudel recipe.

You can also try Cinnamon-Walnut Strudel or savory Mushroom Strudel.

Apply the filling by dolloping it evenly over the surface. Fresh fruit can be scattered in an even layer — spreadable fillings should be spooned all over in little dollops, then pressed down with your hands. (Again — don’t try to spread, that can tear the dough.)

Homemade strudel via @kingarthurflour

Finally, it’s time to roll your strudel

The fabric/oilcloth table lining you laid down is helpful here — use it at one of the shorter edges of the dough to start the rolling process. Use the cloth to guide you to lift and roll up the dough — you want to roll it in a relatively tight spiral for best results.

The strudel can be cut into a few pieces for baking (it may be too large to fit on a baking sheet as is). Finishes include more melted butter and a sprinkling of sugar for sweet versions — could be a sprinkle of salt and pepper or a little bit of grated cheese for a savory strudel.

Bake homemade strudel at a high temperature to ensure even baking, browning, and crispness. I prefer 400°F for most recipes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature – it’s a perfect baking project to do with friends or family (extra sets of hands never hurt!), and the result is as tasty as the process is beautiful.

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for homemade Strudel Dough. You can also print just the recipe.

Then choose one of our three fillings: Apple Strudel, Cinnamon-Walnut Strudel, or Mushroom Strudel.

For the full article, plus more stories and recipes, check out the holiday issue of Sift magazine.

Erin McDowell

Erin Jeanne McDowell grew up in Kansas amidst a food obsessed family. She landed her first (after-school) job in a bakery, and was hooked! After pastry school in New York's Hudson Valley, she combined her love of baking with her desire to share ideas, recipes, ...


  1. Susie Johnston

    Can the prepared, filled, and rolled strudel be stored in the refrigerator for a day and then baked? Or would this be a soggy mess? I was thinking about preparing this Christmas Eve but not baking until Christmas.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Susie! We wouldn’t suggest refrigerating the filled and rolled strudel. The dough will probably absorb a lot of liquid from the filling and become quite soggy, never getting the crispy, flakiness back. For best results, we’d recommend baking on the same day that you assemble. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  2. Amy

    Could this strudel dough be made in advance and frozen like pie pastry? I would like to make this for Thanksgiving, but we will be staying in a cabin without a mixer. If I can freeze the dough, I could make ahead it at home and thaw for stretching and baking at the cabin.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely, Amy! It can be wrapped and frozen for up to three months. You can bake it right from the freezer. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Anita

    Thank you for a great article, we tried before we read this, will again as days cool.
    Love this European recipe, so hard to find a pastry shop here with such yummy things. Do you have a class in vrt we could attend?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Anita, if you’re asking if we offer baking classes in Vermont, then the answer is a resounding yes! We have a full Baking School, and we’d love for you to check out the full class calendar to see if there’s something you’d like to learn more about. So many options to choose from! Kye@KAF

  4. Jonelle Yates

    Do you have to use raisins? Can you add more Apple instead? What variety of apple would be particularly yummy for this?

    Looking forward to making this.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Feel free to omit the raisins, or you could get creative and use another dried fruit that’s more to your liking: dried cranberries, currants, or even golden raisins, which have their own flavor profile. Avoid using more apple, as that could make the filling soggy.

      As for the kind of apple to use, check out our blog post about the very best pie apples. Even though you’ll be baking strudel, many of the varieties that are good for pie are also excellent for strudel. Fugi and Granny Smith are two good choices and are excellent when used together to balance out the sweetness. Happy strudel-making! Kye@KAF

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