Hut hopping in the Dolomites in pursuit of the perfect Strudel!

And so my love affair with the Dolomites continues. Whilst tourists flock from all around to trek the foothills and tread the famous via Ferrata (Iron pathways) I dedicated my summer holiday to trekking from hut to hut and exploring the many local dishes on the menus in each rifugio or hütte as they are locally known.

My fortnight started with a few warm up walks and light lunches of speck and local meats as my body jerked itself back into life after months of promised work out routines failed to take root. My weekly yoga session has insured that my muscles still function but my general fitness is less than ideal for my mountain challenge and the ache in my legs after day one is solid proof. We start the week with a few old favourites in Alpe di Siusi walking the plateau and surrounding meadow lands. Bad weather hinders us from venturing too far but secretly I’m pleased as it means I have a chance to start slowly before the big off!

Our first big day walking takes us to Rifugio Molignon where we are promised an alpine horn blowing display at midday which ties in nicely with an early lunch. Our walk takes us up the well trodden trail from Rifugio Tirler (a famed watering hole for après ski or après walk refreshments) and after just 1 hour 20 minutes walking we arrive at our destination and take a seat for the show. The Hornblowers arrived, as per all artists, 20 minutes late by which point we are already tucking into lunch of grilled turkey salad with a sweet chilli dip, for me, and spinach canederli swimming in butter, for my husband. Despite hiding behind the puritanical goodness of salad I willingly devour a few mouthfuls of canederli (just to test them!) and as ever they were delicious.

With the hornblowing over it was back to the trail and a stiff climb up to Rifugio Alpe di Tires, circa 500 meters and 1 hour 30 minutes above Molignon. The climb starts gently and then becomes steeper at the top but the promise of Strudel for dessert kept me going and before long I was lounging on the terrace with fork in hand. Alpe di Tires is strategically positioned for 3 to 4 of the more popular walks and this would not be my only visit in the coming days. The Strudel was delicious and instead of the expected puff pastry was made to the local recipe using a “pasta frolla” which is more akin to a cakey crumble mix rolled into a strudel form.

The final descent home took us zigzagging down the “Forcella dei Denti di Terra Rossa” which loosely translates as the “Pass of the teeth of the red earth” and then the final 50 minutes across the meadows and back to Compatsch all adding up to a 5 hour trek punctuated with a few pit stops for delicious dishes. I think I can handle this after all!

Day two takes us on the excruciating climb towards Rifugio Bolzano which has unchallenged views across Sciliar, the two famed points that are used in many a postcard and which mark the start of the central Dolomites. As with all climbs ours started with a prolonged period downhill just to make sure that we really did climb the full height of the wall in front of us. We had a brief stop at Malga (Farm) Prossliner before starting a pleasurable first climb through the woods that led on to the base of the big climb. The climb up is best described as a means to an end with the promise of spectacular views across all of the valley and so with every step I chant my mantra of “the view will be worth it” until 2 and a half hours later the promise came true.

The Rifugio Bolzano at 2450m has 360 degree views across the Rosengarten (Rose Garden) mountain range, Sciliar, the 4000m Ortles range finishing with the Austrian Alps in the distance. The hut sleeps 120 people and is somewhat imposing but what it lacks in comfort versus the smaller huts it makes up for in scenery. Our first meal is enjoyed splayed out on the grass as we celebrated the climb with our packed lunch of rye bread, smoked local ham, boiled eggs and carrots. Once our bags are stowed away in our room we take to the hills again and make the final climb up to true peak Monte Petz which sits a further 113m higher at 2563m. Up here we meet a German man who has walked 500km in four weeks starting at Trieste, on the border with Croatia, and finishing here in the Dolomites, all part of his annual Alpine trekking tour. Averaging 10 to 12 hours walking a day and carrying a weight of 20kg in his pack I start to feel somewhat of a fraud on my gourmet hut tour.

Back in the hut and dinner is served promptly at 6pm by a somewhat sullen waitress. We, working to Italian timings, sit down at 6:25pm (perhaps that’s why she is sullen?) and join a group of German lads who are already a course head of us who recommend the minestrone soup as a starter. We then both opt for a local favourite of egg, speck and potatoes which is as close to ham, egg and chips as you can get in the Dolomites. Both dishes are so-so, not as tasty as the lower huts, but it is also only fair to say that the higher up you go the harder the ingredients are to come by. Rifugio Bolzano, like many huts, has a cable line that all their supplies are sent up on daily and so altitude it seems has a direct correspondence with the tastiness of the end dish.

Day three and it is off to Rifugio Passo Principe which 3 hours into our trek I discover is in one of the famous Dolomite rocky valleys and involves a murderous descent and subsequent climb to reach. With the sun beating down we edge our way down a shingle cliff, careful not to slip, and on the way meet many a poor trekker coming up the other way on what I can only describe as a gruesome climb. Our climb, whilst just as gruesome, is marginally shorter but I am nonetheless ecstatic to be greeted with a deliciously cold beer from the owners on our arrival. What a welcome!

As we checked in for the night and are asked to pre-order our dinner from the menu we are joined by a couple of late lunchers, Oscar and Nadia, who take it upon themselves to give us tasters of their local sausage and craut dish to help us decide on whether to order it for dinner or instead go for the goulash and polenta. As it happens, we take both plus starters of orzo soup to rehydrate us after our long climb. The hut itself is everything you would expect of a mountain refuge; small, cosy, log fire, bunks in the rafters and best of all service with a smile and cold beer on tap.

Day four and no rest for the wicked as the day starts with a sharp climb up to the Cima di Lausa at 2870m and then down down down into the valley of Rifugio Antermoia and its neighbouring lake. The early morning silence and lack of people make this the most magical of the walks and for 3 hours we are alone in the valley. As we get closer to Sasso Piatto we find ourselves back on the beaten path with walkers and cyclists passing by and decide to avoid the lunchtime crush to finish the last of our packed lunch supplies whilst dunking our feet in the river to revive them for final push home.

Once back home we stick to day walks for the remainder of our stay starting with the inevitable ascent of Sasso Piatto at 2958m which we do in a new record of 1 hour and 40 mins from the rifugio of the same name at 2300m. As a treat we stop at the Rauchhütte for a late bite of Canederli (dumplings) and salad and also book for dinner later in the week as rumour has it they are the undiscovered gem of the local dinner options. Most hotels offer all inclusive options to keep their guests on site and the remainder of huts close in the evening so whilst lunch venues are plentiful dinner can be more troublesome.

ions

Our dinner is indeed exquisite and kicks off with a very drinkable bottle of local tipple Riserva Trattmann Pinot Noir 2007. For starters we taste the potato krapfen (similar to ravioli) stuffed with spinach and ricotta and the pappadelle with a venison sauce. We share a large portion of venison goulash with yes, more canederli, and finish with a surprising plum tart giving us a break from the region’s biggest export, apples. It is a wonder that the locals can move after eating such rich plates but owners Andreas and Helga are both very trim with Helga a regular marathon runner and local legend.


The last hut which won my heart was the miniature Murmeltuthütte or “place of the marmots” which for me personifies all that is great in the Dolomites; a small farmers hut with an elderly Contadino (farmer), bedecked with the traditional blue apron of the region, serving generous portions of strudel with lashings of vanilla sauce. Add to this a great view and the fact that it is the perfect sun trap for catching the late afternoon rays and my little corner of paradise is complete.

And so my holiday has come to end and despite eating my way around the Dolomites I feel fit and healthy and most definitely well fed from my Dolomite adventure. Same time next year?

Recipe for Apple Strudel

Ingredients:

For the pastry:500g flour250g butter250g caster sugarLemon rind2tbsp milk2 eggs½ sachet of dried yeast c. 5-10g

Pinch of salt

1tsp vanilla essence

 

For the filling;600g apples50g sugar50g bread crumbs toasted in butter40g sultanas20g pine nuts2tbsp of rum1tsp of cinnamon and vanilla essence

Lemon peel

Icing sugar

Preparation:

500g of pastry (1/2 portion of above quantities).

  1. To make the pastry: Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and lemon peel in a bowl until the mixture is smoth. Add the eggs and milk and stir in the flour and yeast. Leave to rest for an hour then roll and use.
  2. Peel the apples, slice and mix with the sugar, pine nuts, sultanas, bread crumbs, rum, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon peel.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C
  4. Roll out the pasta to circa 40 x 26 cm and place on oven paper
  5. Spoon on the apple mixture and spread evenly
  6. Close the strudel using the eggs (whisked) to seal shut the pastry and coat the top.
  7. Cook in the centre of a hot oven for 35 minutes and serve with icing sugar sprinkled on top.

 

Links:

www.tierseralpl.com

www.alpeditires.com Rifugio Alpe di Tires)

www.schlernhaus.it (Rifugio Bolzano)

www.rauchhuette.com (Rauchhütte)

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