Strudel is one of the classic winter culinary traditions in Italy and ubiquitous during the holidays, specifically in the two provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige or Sudtirol, mountainous areas bordered by Austria at the north and Switzerland to the northwest, as well as in Friuli Venezia-Giulia and on the Istrian peninsula. Hand-pulling strudel to paper thinness seems intimidating but it’s a wonderful activity that can involve the whole family.
Here, the strudel is served with a sauce made from persimmons, which grow throughout northern Italy. Persimmons’ bright orange adds a splash of color perfect for festive occasions like the holidays. This strudel would also be delicious with some vanilla gelato.
*Note: If you don’t want to make your own clarified butter, you can purchase ghee in the international foods aisle of the supermarket.
In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, bread flour, and salt. Add the corn oil and water to the flour mixture. Knead the dough for several minutes to develop the gluten. Lightly oil the dough and cover. Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
Meanwhile, cover the persimmons with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the fruit, and reserve the cooking liquid.
Let the fruit cool, then place into a food processor and blend, adding the cooking water as necessary to achieve a smooth sauce (approximately ¼ cup). Add the lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add honey to sweeten the sauce, if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cut each apple half into thirds, and then cut the apples into 1/8-inch-thick slices and toss the with lemon juice in a bowl. Roll out the dough in all directions with a rolling pin. Stretch the dough carefully into a rectangle over a clean linen tablecloth dusted with flour. Start by lifting and pulling gently, from the center outward, over the backs of your hands and wrists. (Ultimately, the dough should be thin enough to be able to read through it.)
Turn the dough so that one of the longer sides is facing you. The dough will be slightly thicker at the edges. Brush the dough gently but generously with the clarified butter. Spread the apples over 2/3 of the dough. Combine the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the apples with the raisins, then some of the cinnamon-sugar, then the breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle another layer of cinnamon-sugar, and then drizzle the rum on top. Finally, add the chopped walnuts, if using. To add the optional sour cream to the strudel, place the cream in a pastry bag and cut off the tip. Pipe a line next to the apples before rolling up the strudel.
Trim the thicker edges of the strudel dough with a serrated knife or scissors. Roll up the strudel using the tablecloth. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the strudel on the sheet and brush with more clarified butter. Bake the strudel immediately until crisp and golden and the apples are tender, about 30 minutes. Rotate the strudel about halfway through to ensure even cooking. (You can also refrigerate the strudel and bake the next day.)
Dust the strudel with confectioners’ sugar. Cut with a serrated knife into 1-inch-thick slices. Put the strudel slices individual plates, and spoon some of the sauce around.