Taking an Apple Strudel-Making Class in Salzburg

When I was researching things to do in Salzburg, one thing that kept popping up was to make sure we try apple strudel. Strudel, one of Austria’s most famous desserts, is a relatively simple dish. Paper thin dough wraps around a fruit and cinnamon mixture of your choice, and then baked to perfection and served with ice cream. Yum, amirite? But when I started digging into where to eat the best strudel, I realized I could one-up that itinerary idea. Why not bake our own strudel at a strudel-making class in Salzburg instead? 

Taking an Apple Strudel-Making Class in Salzburg

The Edelweiss Cooking School 

I turned to trusty TripAdvisor to point me in the right direction for a solid strudel-making class in Salzburg, and discovered the Edelweiss Cooking School. It’s run by a chef named Johann. He has a quiet, accented voice and alert blue eyes, and moves with the purposeful grace of someone who is deeply familiar with his kitchen. Johann spends his summer teaching three cooking classes a day and his winters as a chef in a Swiss chalet, so I figure his credentials are pretty bona fide. 

Located right on the river, the Edelweiss Cooking School is actually housed in the old Salzburg Customs House. There’s a funky gate that spans half the road out front. This gate used to be the entry point for the city, and anyone bringing goods had to stop and pay tariff at the Customs House. You’d think, then, that the spot would be a grand old building. Instead, it’s a cave-like hollow tucked into the mountain above and behind it. Johann has made the unique space feel cozy with wooden work tables and plenty of couches. And the rock space has the benefit of keeping a full-firing kitchen remarkably cool, even in the humid summer months. 

What is strudel, anyway?

Before we get into how it’s made, let’s quickly run-down what strudel is. Like I said, it’s a delicious, flaky, fruity dessert with a lot of leeway for creative interpretation. One of our classmates asked if Johann was teaching us a family recipe, and he seemed pleasantly bemused. “There’s no real recipe for strudel,” he said. (Somewhat ironically, given that he has a cookbook which includes the recipe for—what else? Strudel.) What he meant by that was that strudel is nationally shared and pretty straightforward. There isn’t anything specific to follow, recipe-wise, beyond the dough ratio. 

Our strudel-making class begins

It turns out we weren’t the only ones who had the idea to take a strudel-making class in Salzburg. Our class was ten people—exactly the right amount for such a lesson. To start, we gathered around Johann who threw together a quick strudel as an overview. I mean, literally threw it together. Professional chef aside, the simple way he walked us through the process quieted any intimidation we might have felt about the dish. Demonstration over, he gave us each a ball of dough and our ingredients and had us begin. 

The First Stretch

The trickiest part of making the strudel is stretching the dough. We were all instructed to curl our hands into fists, turn any rings with jewels to the inside, and put our dukes up. Johann showed us how the dough draped over our upturned fists, and how to quickly spin the dough so that it widens to near table length. As a pro, of course, he could do it on his own. As novices, we paired off and stretched it between ourselves. 

One more strudel making pro-tip from Johann? Making strudel requires all-purpose flour or flour with a lot of gluten, to make the dough stretch. It cannot be made with whole-grain or gluten-free flour.

Fill it up!

For filling, you use sugar, fruit, cinnamon (if you like), nuts (if you like), raisins (if you like), and butter. See? Lots of leeway. Throw all of that together in a bowl and stir together. As Johann said, “You can’t go wrong with apples and cinnamon.” As an October baby, I’m wholly onboard. Some filling ideas we concocted included:

  • Apricot (also quite common in Austria)
  • Pear
  • Mixed berry 
  • Pumpkin (imagine for Thanksgiving!) 

But I’m sure you guys also have some ideas! 

Once your fruit mix is all stirred together, prep the dought with a bit of butter and a bit of breadcrumbs, to absorb the juice from the apples. Then, spoon the fruit mixture on your dough, and roll it up, burrito-style! For my non-Californian readers, that means folding up the bottom flap, then folding in the two side flaps. Then, using your baking sheet to help, you roll the strudel away from you so it wraps itself in the dough. 

A Sweet Surprise

It turns out our strudel-making class in Salzburg wasn’t limited to just strudel. After whipping our strudels into the oven to bake, Johann invited us back to the main table to watch him demonstrate making another dessert dish. This time, the Salzburger nockerl. 

The Salzburger nockerl is unique to Salzburg, so it’s unlikely to turn up on a list of things to eat in Vienna. This recipe is more detailed, including the usage of a specifically shaped bowl: an oval. Nockerl is meant to represent Salzurg’s three mountains; so to start, you dab three spoons of a tart jam into the dish. A cranberry or raspberry works very well—you want it tart, not sweet. Next, you whip together six egg whites and three egg yolks, and a bit of vanilla and cornstarch. You want this mixture to be stiff enough to form peaks. (Mountains, remember?) Then you’ll scoop three bigger dabs of this mix onto each of your jam spots, and throw it into the oven to bake. 

The result? An airy, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth concoction that made all of us around the table swoon over our spoons. If you’re in Salzburg, don’t forget to order the nockerl! 

Your Strudel is Served

To contradict the sweetness of all our desserts, Johann made a flavorful, savory gulash for lunch. It was wonderfully spiced, and somehow still light enough to eat in high summer. Once the lunch bowls were cleared, it was time for our strudel unveiling. The oven opened, the steam billowed—and there they were. Five perfectly baked strudel logs. Each strudel served four generous portions; mom and I each ate a slice there, and took a slice to go!

The verdict? Flaky and buttery, with just enough crunch to the apples, and just enough bite to the cinnamon. We might have overdone it on the juice-soaking breadcrumbs, but hey! It was our first class. 

Should I take a strudel-making class in Salzburg?

Honestly, I can only recommend doing a strudel-making class in Salzburg. One thing to consider is that it might be tricky for a day trip from Vienna, as the class runs about 90 minutes long. (Although you also eat lunch, so it kind of balances out.) I really enjoyed the experience of doing the strudel class, and since my mom and I see each other so infrequently, it was the perfect way to get in some quality time while learning something new. Plus, Salzburg isn’t so big that you won’t be able to fit in some other things to do in addition. 

If you do choose to book a strudel-making class in Salzburg, I wholeheartedly recommend the Edelweiss Cooking School. And if you’re interested in trying to make the strudel (or nockerl) at home, you can find the proper ratios and recipes on Johann’s Facebook page.