Food is like people, some are born to be models and some are just unphotogenic. I belong to the latter group, it’s hard to get a good picture of me and the same applies to anything with streusels (or crumbles as the Americans say). But Streusels are ubiquitous in German baking, if you ever entered a bakery in Germany you can tell and I want to share a recipe with you. It is not like we Germans put streusel on everything, but on almost everything. There is an overwhelming variety of sweet pastries available in German bakeries, often eaten for breakfast, second breakfast or around coffee time. And I’d guess that at least half of these sweet “Stückchen” (pieces of pastry) come with streusels and different fillings like custard, curd, fruit or you-name-it.
Streusels are Grandma-style and down-to-earth, I guess that’s why everybody loves them. Even when the dough is too dry or compact, the crumbly cover makes up for it. When I was a kid I loved eating raw streusels and I often sneaked back into the kitchen just when the cake came out of the oven to burn my fingers & tongue while ‘stealing’ some steaming hot streusels from the sides of the cake.
My favorite streusel cake comes with a poppy seed filling, but during winter time I prefer apple streusel. Make sure you use apples that are not too juicy so your dough base does not get soaked. If you only have juicy apples at hand, sprinkle some bread crumbs on the dough before placing the apples.
For 1 tray:
- 500 g flour (sifted)
- 200 ml milk (lukewarm)
- 30 g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 90 g butter (at room temperature)
- 2 eggs
- 60g sugar
- pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 1.5 kg apples (I love to use Boskopp or Braeburn, sprinkle with a little sugar if they are too sour)
- 300 g flour
- 300 g sugar
- 200 g butter
Sift the flour into a bowl and form a whole i the center to pour in the milk. Make sure it is lukewarm only, if it is too hot it’ll kill the yeast. Crumble the yeast block into the milk and feed it with a teaspoon of sugar, then cover your bowl with a clean tea towel and let it rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. That’s what I call the pre-dough. My Grandma taught me to not use any metallic appliances on a yeast dough and not to place the bowl in the air draft (if you are not German, you might not know what I am talking about and you can find a hilarious explanation for our draftophobia here). According too my Grandma the yeast is a living organism that also dislikes high humidity and thunderstorms, and yes I have been down that road. Yeast dough has been bitchy to me ever since, but we kind of made piece in the last years. I have put together some useful tips in this Kanelbullar recipe.
Remove the tea towel after 20 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients. Knead thoroughly to a smooth dough, if it is too sticky you can add another tablespoon of flour or 2. Form the dough to a ball, sprinkle with a little flour, cover the bowl with the tea towel again and let it rest again in a warm place. Remove the 200 g of butter for the streusels from the fridge so it can become a little tender but not too soft. Peel & core the apples before you cut them into thin slices. Roll out the dough evenly on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cover it with your tea towel while you prepare the streusels. Place flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and gently knead until resembling in crumbs. Don’t use a whisk attachement, rather use kneads or a flat beater. If you are using your hands, make sure to work fast because you hot hands will melt the butter.
Now it’s time for the final assembly. Fire up your oven to 175°C with fan. Remove the tea towel from the tray for good and start placing the apple slices like roof tiles to cover the whole thing. I work myself from left to right and then from top to bottom. Generously sprinkle over the crumbles and don’t feel guilty if one or two end up in your mouth, I have taken this into account in the measures. Place your tray in lower mid of your oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. Have a look from time to time, the crumbles should be tan while the dough should not turn too brown. Remove from the oven and resist the urge to pick some streusels from the sides (hahahahaha never going to happen). Serve warm or cold, with cream or plain, however you like it.