Although this is a blog, I don’t usually share too much personal information on this site. I try to add a little whimsy and a back story to my recipes, but other than that, I am kind of a private person—who tweets, facebooks, blogs, flickrs, youtubes, etc.—okay I guess I’m not all that private.
But recently, my dear foodie friend Ally Phillips from “Ally’s Kitchen” asked if she could feature me on her blog since I’m a member of the “Boho Tribe.”
We’ve been online friends for a couple of years now. We happened across each other’s food facebook pages, and shared casual recipes and comments. Then one day, she posted a comment letting people know that MasterChef auditions were about to begin. Having been a top 100 finalist on MasterChef, she was even offering to provide some pointers to those interested in trying out.
I gave her a call, and we talked for a good hour about what my brand was and if I had any type of hook that the producers could latch onto. Well, I’m a little 4’11” spitfire who has traveled the world, but that’s not all that unique. My husband was about to deploy, but there are thousands of women around the world with deployed husbands, so I wasn’t sure that was enough.
Then, we started talking about kids. She has three boys, one of whom had recently returned from a deployment to Iraq. I, on the other hand, don’t have any. Trust me; it’s not for lack of trying. I couldn’t believe I was sharing this with a perfect stranger, but I told her that I had been pregnant nine times, but my body has never been able to develop a healthy, deliverable baby.
As any good-hearted person would, she responded with sincere sympathy, but I told her that it was okay. I’ve shed my tears and realized that tears didn’t change things. I reached a point where I stopped and looked around and realized all of the blessings that I already have – a loving family, a best friend for a husband, a fulfilling job, talents that even surprise me and a healthy mind, body and spirit. It would be greedy for me to ask for more.
Ally knew then and there that I had a unique story for the producers of MasterChef, if I had the courage to share my experience. I was really excited for try-outs in Austin. I had prepared and tested my dish a couple of times. She gave me great pointers and my husband was ready to cheer me on. But his deployment orders were changed, and I had to choose between spending a final weekend in a try-out room with hundreds of people or spending another personal day with him. The decision was easy.
This spitfire was not going to be a MasterChef – at least not this season.
Ally and I have continued our friendship and found that we have so much more in common besides food and our connection with the Army. It turns out, one of her relatives used to live next door to my parents. And her birthday is the same as my anniversary. But the really fun connection is that we’re both Bohemian. My roots to Bohemia trace back on my mother’s side. My ancestors immigrated from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland.
We finally had the opportunity to meet for the first time in November. She came to Vegas to compete in the World Food Championships, and she asked me to help her. It was such a great time. Two Boho Tribesters rocking a killer sandwich on the Vegas strip. You can hear about our experience on Basilmomma’s Around the Kitchen Sink.
More than two decades ago, my grandma shared her mom’s Bohemian recipes with me, but until I met Ally, I haven’t had the courage to try them. My great grandma was quite the cook, and I wasn’t sure I could do her recipes justice.
When Ally interviewed me for her page, she made me realize that I’m a perfectionist that is okay with failure. (Read Ally’s post to see how I came to that conclusion.) Therefore, it was okay if this didn’t turn out quite like the original.
So, it was time to make Great Grandma Lill’s Apple Strudel. Part of the reason I was so nervous is because my grandma’s recipe didn’t have measurements for everything, and it involves a dough that has to be rolled very thin. I don’t always have much luck with dough.
But I couldn’t believe it. I used a little bit of Bohemian instinct and made some things up as I went along, and it turned out fabulous. I swear GGma Lill had to be standing over me in the kitchen.
At first, I know she was shaking her head with her arms sternly crossed as I pulled out the stand mixer and the apple peeler, corer, slicer—two luxuries she didn’t have. But once I pulled out her mother’s bread board to roll the dough, I think I was forgiven.
I think I used a few too many breadcrumbs (her recipe didn’t specify an amount). And I also used pecans and realized she probably used walnuts. So I’ve adjusted the recipe below to reflect those changes. I wish my grandma was in town, so she could tell me how close I came to her mom’s special recipe. Hopefully, I’ll get to make it for my Boho grandma soon.
- ½ cup (115 grams) warm water
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) butter
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 cups (250 grams) flour
- 8 apples (about 4 pounds)
- ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon (12 grams) butter
- 2 cups breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- Melted butter
- Powdered sugar
Place the butter and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow the butter to soften. Add the salt, egg and flour and combine on medium speed using a dough hook, until the dough forms and is no longer sticky.
Next, you should let the dough rest in a warm area. GGma Lill used a heated pie pan on top of the dough bowl. I heated a lid on low on the range.
Then, I turned the burner off and set the bowl on the burner and the lid on top. Seemed to do the trick.
Peel, slice and core the apples and cut into one-inch pieces.
Toss with sugar and cinnamon.
Melt one tablespoon butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. I used ground up wheat bread. Toss over medium heat, until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes.
Dust the counter or bread board with flour and roll the dough as thin as possible.
Transfer it to a tea towel and re-roll it slightly, as needed.
Spread a layer of breadcrumbs on the dough leaving about a half inch of space on each side and the edge furthest from you and two inches of space at the edge closest to you.
Squeeze the liquid from the apples and spread them over the breadcrumbs.
Spread on a layer of raisins.
Then a layer of chopped walnuts.
Using the towel, lift and fold the edge closest to you over the apples.
With the assistance of the towel, continue to roll the dough like a jellyroll.
Unfold the towel, and you should have a nice thick roll.
Shape the dough into a horseshoe.
Place a 12x17 inch pan on top of the roll and bring the towel around the pan. Hold the towel tight against the pan and flip.
To put the seam back on the bottom, use another pan to flip it back over. This time, make sure the pan has edges and use a silpat liner or parchment paper. Place in a 375-degree oven on the lowest rack.
Bake 40-45 minutes. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Allow to cool and slice and serve.
I combined equal parts melted butter, maple syrup and powdered sugar to make a glaze. Then, I thoroughly enjoyed a slice and celebrated another challenge I had overcome. Thanks for the help GGma Lill.