Cream-colored Ponies and…

I’m a little late with my DB challenge this month, but better late than never, right? 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 was pretty excited about this challenge because I’ve never made a classic strudel before, and I’ve had my eye on this book for some time now. But I still ended up waiting until the last possible moment to make it, possibly because my 14-month old finally decided he was tired of sitting around and learned how to crawl. I’ve spent the last month chasing him around and trying to keep him from upending the dog’s water bowl. Anyway, last night I finally buckled down and made my strudel. I stuck with the filling called for in the recipe, just because we love apple strudel, but now that I know it isn’t that intimidating to make, I hope to experiment with other varieties also.

I started out with the dough, which was lovely and soft and made a tiny amount. I think I hand-kneaded it longer than the recipe suggested, just because it was so agreeable to work with. Then I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and left it alone for probably two hours while making and eating dinner.

Finally I couldn’t put off the stretching portion of the recipe any longer. I used my portable dishwasher as a little table—it is about 2.5 feet square—and a large flour-sack towel as a tablecloth. The dough rolled out pretty darn thin just using the rolling pin, and I gently stretched it over the edges of the table by sliding my hands under it. I ended up with a few small holes around the edges due to my long fingernails, but it actually went much more smoothly than I could have expected, and I was pleased with the thinness I was able to achieve.

I left the rum-soaked raisins out of the filling, just because I don’t like them. My apples were Cameos, so I cut down the sugar a bit to make up for their lack of tartness. They were starting to get juicy from contact with the sugar, so I drained them a bit before spreading over the dough. My dough ended up more square than rectangular, so I just picked an end and got to it.

Rolling up the strudel was the other part that had me worried, but it worked out alright. I didn’t really get the need for the cloth while I was stretching it out, but it totally made sense once it came time to roll. More difficult was the transfer from the cloth to the baking sheet—I was really afraid that I would tear holes in the dough trying to get the cloth out from under it, but it survived all the tugging.

After 30 minutes in the oven, my strudel came out looking golden brown and delicious. Difficult as it was to wait, we gave it a good 45 minutes before cutting into it, and it was still piping hot inside. I had hoped to serve it alongside some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, but the timing just didn’t work out. However, it was delicious all on its own—the strudel dough came out paper-thin and crisp, just as it should, and the filling was pure apple, not too sweet or spiced. I was a little worried about sogginess, but the bread crumbs certainly seemed to take care of that issue.

This was a really fun challenge, so many thanks to the hosts. Maybe now I’ll be brave enough to try out one of my Italian strudel recipes too. Be sure to take a look at the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see all the amazingly creative strudel variations out there!

Apple Strudel

2 T golden rum, optional
3 T  raisins, optional
1/4 T ground cinnamon
1/3 C plus 1 T sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 C fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 C coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds firm cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (such as Granny Smith, Fuji, or Golden Delicious)

Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl, if using. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl. 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.

Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. 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 fingers (a bristle brush could tear the dough). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-wide strip. Mix the apples with the rummy raisins (if using), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

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.

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 C unbleached bread flour (or all-purpose)
1/8 tsp salt
7 T water, plus more if needed
2 T vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 tsp cider vinegar

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. Change to the dough hook, and let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface. 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).

It is best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches. Cover your working area with a tablecloth or large towel, dust 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, 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 if you wear short sleeves. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface, leaving the thicker edges 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 should be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Source: Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague, by Rick Rodgers

I am a member of the Theta Class of the Daring Bakers, inducted in July of 2007. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.

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