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Daring Bakers May 2009|Strudel

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Short and sweet this month as this ninja is on the road again.  Finishing up one last stint of work even further south in the southland and then, home…for now!

The official word:

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I’ve never made strudel before.  Pressed for honesty, I’d admit that I didn’t actually know what strudel was before this challenge.  I’d heard the word, but “strudel” evoked images of squiggly icing on top of some cinnamon-y pastry, rather than the flaky fruit-filled treat it is.

Not only is strudel not the topping on some Germanic breakfast roll, it’s also not hard to make.  Our exquisite hosts’ notes were helpful on a few points, in particular the note on rolling the dough so thin you could read a love letter through it.  Initially, I did not roll the dough nearly thin enough and would not have realized the dough was too thick if I hadn’t known to stick some reading material under it.  Thin enough to read through is thinner than you think.  I made a half recipe, so lifting the dough and letting it thin by its own weight didn’t work very well, most likely because there wasn’t a lot of weight to it.  I also had difficulty stretching it by hand with my hands underneath the dough.  Instead, I sort of spread it with my fingers on top of the dough, which seemed to work.  It did take a while, though, and the dough dried out in a few spots spots.  A nice amount of melted butter seemed to remedy that problem and the little guy rolled up nicely.

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Ever thrifty (so much nicer than “cheap” don’t you think?), I decided to concoct a filling out of what we had in the house, rather than going with the apple filling from the recipe.  I threw together some canned pears, chunked dark chocolate and substituted toasted chopped almonds for the walnuts.  Added a little sugar, cinnimon and rum (from the recipe), and…it was ok.  I have to say that I was a little disappointed that one of my few forays “off recipe” was not as spectacular as I had hoped.  The pastry was pretty nice, but all that stretching was a lot of work for flaky but not heavenly pastry.  This very well could have been me, the fact that I let the pastry dry out, or I could have just been in the wrong mood when I ate a slice.  As for the filling, I was hoping that the attempt to create something new off the top of my head would dazzle me enough to encourage more of this kind of behavior in the future.  Alas.  But then, I suppose all things come with practice, even the ability to be spontaneous.  And in the end, I did eat the whole piece…

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A big hearty thanks to Linda and Courtney who did a fantastic job hosting.  Strudel is definitely something I will make another run at and had a really good time trying for the first time.  This was an excellent choice for a challenge – just a little daunting and enough room to be creative – my strudel may have been a bit “meh” but the challenge was perfect!

Cheers.

Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel
2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tips
– Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn’t come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try
– The tablecloth can be cotton or polyester; you can also use cheesecloth
– Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves
– To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table
– Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible

2 Comments

  1. Lan says:

    i think your attempt at just using up what you have handy was great! like you, i’m all about being “thifty” or frugal, halving recipes and just using up what is available. is that whip cream that you topped it with?

    safe travels on the road!

  2. Kathlyn says:

    Thanks Lan! It is whipped cream with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of vanilla. Just saw your DB post – I love that your strudel fail turned into a gallette. Great way to not have to toss it out! Cheers.

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