For the 11th European Artisanal Gelato Day, the spotlight will be on Austria, with a Flavour of the Year that pays homage to a typical dessert from its culinary tradition: the much-loved “Apfelstrudel” or apple strudel.
RECIPE OF THE YEAR
For the 11th European Artisanal Gelato Day, the spotlight will be on Austria, with a Flavour of the Year that pays homage to a typical dessert from its culinary tradition: Apfelstrudel.
The official recipe, which all gelato-makers are invited to follow and interpret in their own way, customising it with their unique creativity and flair, is made up of a white base with apple pulp and a touch of rum and lemon oil, plus a sprinkling of cinnamon, some currants, preferably dark ones, and - last but not least - breadcrumbs. Apfelstrudel is quite an ancient recipe: the origins of this dessert - literally “apple swirl” - can probably be traced back to Arabia, before being adopted in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. In particular, it is believed to be a variant of the ancient Turkish sweet called baclava: it seems to have been Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, after conquering Hungary in 1526, who brought the recipe further into Central Europe. The Austrians then took Budapest, annexing Hungary, and with that the recipe moved down to Vienna, where it became very fashionable in aristocratic parlours before the recipe was finally published in 1827 in Anna Dorn's famous Great Viennese Cookbook, under the name of Apfelstrudel.
There are several different local recipes for Apfelstrudel, based especially on the natural ingredients found in each region, from Austria and Hungary to Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, each of which produces its own version.
Despite what we might think, the apple is the false fruit of the apple tree, the true fruit being just the core. The first apples are believed to have been cultivated in Kazakhstan, before reaching Ancient Greece and Rome.
The apple lies at the heart of a religious and mythological imagery that has endured for centuries and can now be found throughout most temperate areas of the planet. Italy is the world leader in terms of production (with volumes of 2000 to 2300 million kilograms per year, almost half of which is exported to Europe, mainly to Germany, but also to Egypt and the Far East).
Made by distilling sugar cane molasses or juice, rum was first distilled in Europe in London in the 15th century, but the origins of the first modern rum can be found in the 17th century, on the island of Barbados. Today, after distilling fermented cane molasses, rum is often flavoured with herbs, followed by a period of ageing, which gives it its yellow to brown hues. Its different varieties make rum perfect to drink either neat or mixed with other liquids, but also an excellent ingredient for making desserts, such as the rum baba (originally from Poland, perfected in France and today a symbol of Neapolitan pastry-making), French cannelés and German Rumtopf. Not forgetting its innumerable uses in the art of chocolate making.
Even more ancient are the origins of cinnamon, which probably date back to China in 2700 BC, where its beneficial properties led to it being proclaimed to be for the exclusive use of kings and emperors, and it was not until the 15th century that it reached Europe. Today, it is often a key ingredient in modern cuisine, thanks to its intrinsic versatility that means it can be used in sweet as well as savoury dishes.
Sultanas originate from Greece, and only seems to have arrived in Italy around 1860 in a series of commercial documents referring to a cargo of a special quality of dried grape from Smyrna. Its berries, which are small and oval-shaped, differentiate it from all other grape varieties: it is, in fact, a seedless grape, which can be eaten fresh or used in pastries.
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