Juicy apples and blackberries, sweet almond paste and crisp, buttery leaves of filo pastry … this is a beautiful bake with which to ease into autumn. Look for a good-quality almond paste, which is used here to replace sugar in the rose-tinted filling. And just in case it's all sounding a little too cosy, bay leaves* infused in the cooking apples – as well as ground up with sugar to dust between the filo sheets – bring a delightfully subtle spice note.
6 medium apples (such as 3 Granny Smiths and 3 royal galas)
125g unsalted butter, cut into large cubes
5-6 strips peel from 1 small lemon, pared with a vegetable peeler
½ vanilla bean
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
50g caster sugar
100g almond paste or marzipan, coarsely grated or finely chopped
150g blackberries, halved if very large
6 sheets filo pastry
20g flaked almonds
pouring cream to serve
1. Peel, core and chop the apples into, roughly, 2-3cm pieces. Place in a large frying-pan with 25g of the butter, lemon peel, vanilla bean and 2 bay leaves. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the apples just soften; you don't want them to collapse too much. If it looks like the apples are catching or burning, lower the heat, add a tablespoon of water and place a lid on the pan to steam for a minute. Tip the apples out into a bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
2. While apples are cooling, place the remaining 2 bay leaves and sugar in a spice grinder or small blender and blitz until the bay leaves are finely ground. Set aside for now.
3. When the apple mix has cooled, remove the bay leaves and vanilla bean; I like to leave the lemon peel in. Add the grated almond paste (or marzipan) and blackberries, then toss gently to combine. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (190C conventional). Melt the remaining 100ml butter in a small pan or microwave. Place a large sheet of baking paper on a clean work surface and carefully lay one sheet of filo pastry on top, with the long edge closest to you. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the bay sugar all over. Repeat with the remaining sheets of filo pastry; you want 6 layers on top of each other, brushing each one (except the last) with butter and sprinkling with bay sugar. You should have a little butter left over to brush the strudel when rolling it up.
5. Using a large cook's spoon, spread the apple mixture along the long edge of the pastry – starting about a quarter of the way up from the bottom, and leaving a 3cm margin at the sides. Roll up the pastry into a long sausage, folding in the sides about a quarter of the way up. Brush the folded ends with melted butter and continue to roll up until the apple filling is completely enclosed. Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
6. Carefully lift the baking paper with the strudel on top and transfer onto a flat baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
7. Allow the strudel to cool for about 15 minutes before serving with a jug of pouring cream.
*Note: If you're not sure about the bay seasoning (I do urge you to try it), simply replace the bay leaves with a cinnamon stick when cooking the apples, and with a teaspoon of cinnamon powder in the sugar.