Apple strudel is a trifecta of desserts: It's fun to say ("struuuu-dle"), fun to eat and _ trust us _ fun to make.

Going out on a bit of a limb here, but strudel is almost easier than making apple pie. And no, we're not using frozen phyllo pastry, which actually can be a bit of a headache because it dries so quickly and shatters when sliced.

Homemade strudel dough is a tender marvel of kitchen chemistry, an extraordinarily extendible sheet of flour, water, oil and vinegar.

Granted, recipes vary, defended by centuries of tradition. Some use an egg, which others find a travesty. Some use butter; others favor oil. Some rely on vinegar to help the dough stretch without springing back.

Bread flour gets the thumbs-up in many recipes because its higher gluten content makes the dough more elastic.

That's the science. The real fun is in the theater.

Strudel dough is gently pulled with your bare hands _ ditch the jewelry _ slowly, but steadily into a thin, translucent sheet. Best directions ever? It should be so thin you can read a love letter (or even a newspaper headline) through it.

Until you work with this dough, you might not believe it's possible to pull anything this thin. Sure, it can tear, but you can patch it together. And when the strudel is rolled up, such transgressions disappear.

The knack is in working gently, but confidently, which may take a few tries. Because the dough is so thin, it will begin to grow brittle if the process takes too long. Once filled with apples and rolled, it must quickly be placed in the oven before the dough gets soggy.

But it can be done!

Oh, and here's a timesaving tip: Instead of making and toasting homemade breadcrumbs (to absorb any apple juices), use panko breadcrumbs, which are dry and have lots of texture.

Because it's apple season, we're filling our strudel with a mix of varieties for best flavor. Raisins? They're regarded either as essential or heresy. Use your own taste buds. (But if you use raisins, soak them first in a little rum.)

Flaky strudels welcome many fillings: Roast a melange of your garden's last vegetables and add some feta cheese for a savory pastry. Other options include a mix of cottage and ricotta cheeses, or sour cherries, or pears. Use your imagination (or Google).

As noted, strudel-stretching skills improve with experience. But even "not-quite-rights" are perfectly edible.

And then you get to try again.

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