Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May Daring Baker's Challenge: Apple Strudel

Greetings from California, where I am staying with my sister and her amazing bug hunting kitty. This entry is brought to you by sunshine and good produce, which are handy little things not found in Ohio. Next Monday I will be back in Alaska and I can write and bake more regularly. Until then: Daring Bakers!

This month's challenge for the Daring Bakers was something I probably would never make on my own: apple strudel. When I visited Joe in Austria last summer, we went to a bakery where we saw a young German woman flip out a six-foot-long paper thin sheet of strudel in about 90 seconds while looking slightly bored. It was amazing and something that did not look capable of mortals. Young Austrian bakers are not mortals, clearly. How else could their hair be so naturally blonde?

So when I first saw this challenge, I immediately thought TIME and LACK OF COUNTER SPACE. Each challenge is announced at the end of the previous month, and at this time last month I was finishing finals and we were beginning to move out of apartment. In the midst of moving and cramming for finals, I had neither time or counter space. Not like we even HAD counter space to begin with-- what college student does?

But I decided to do it anyway as best as I could and it worked better than I imagined. We were allowed to make any strudel filling we wanted but since I already had no idea what I was doing with the dough, I just did an apple strudel. I had Joe help me to stretch and roll the dough to Austrian approved thinness and efficiency and I'm really glad I had help, this would be a lot harder without a partner. With it though, it wasn't too bad.


Would I make this again? No, probably not. It was easier than I thought but was still way more trouble than it's worth, I think. Then again, I don't really like crust and strudel is all about that flaky, crusty strudel thing, eh? I did LOVE the apple filling I made up but that does not require strudel. Also, peeling and cutting 900 lbs of apples gets tiring quickly. Unless I wanted to charm my German ancestors, I wouldn't make this again. But your great aunt Nannerl would be duly impressed.

I think the best part of this challenge was that I got to abuse my sub-par, high school level German all day. "Ja, ich habe eine apfelstrudel?!? Meine apfelstrudel ist lecker, nein?!? Erm... super! Fantastisch? JA!!" Luckily, most Germans speak English better than I do and I had no problem getting across what I wanted in Germany and Austria. Bless Europeans.

So let's make some apple strudel, nein?

Blurb-o-the-month: 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.

First I made the dough. Do not be afraid, prettys. Just grab a partner and when in doubt, leave the dough to rest if it's not doing what you want it to do. Here's the strudel recipe:

Apple strudel

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

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.

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Here is your efficient, paper thin strudel dough with a creepy hand lurking underneath. Fantastisch!

All right, while it was resting I made the filling. Use whatever filling you want, really, sweet or savory. I kind of came up with my own thing, subbing matzo meal for bread crumbs and cooking the apples before baking. Here's the filling recipe we were given:

Apple Strudel Filling

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

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.

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Here is my naked, unbaked strudel. I think I rolled this a bit too tight, my filling exploded a little bit. But you cut it up anyways so that will be our little secret, ja? THE GERMANS MUST NEVER KNOW.

And here is the finished product, all crisp-like and hot. And cleverly photographed as to not show the shameful burst bits. I think I could've let it bake a little longer, even though I left it in longer than it said to. It could be a bit more golden brown, I think.

In spite of everything, it was tasty and I enjoyed this challenge. I mostly picked at the filling throughout the days but at this point we didn't have much food left in our dwindling kitchen and I think there were a few days in which Brian survived solely on strudel. There are worse things for a poor college student to eat.

Ich bin ein Auslander und spreche nicht gut deutsch. Bitte langsam, bitte langsam, bitte spreche sie doch langsam. What? Fun challenge, can't wait until next month when I actually have a kitchen again!

13 comments:

Katy ~ said...

Superb! Well done! Wonderful!

Great closeup in the photo so that I can sit here and drool and have strudel-filled day dreams.

newlyweds said...

Wow great job! Love your commentary. Though I think you must have immortal powers yourself, that's pretty impressive, nein?

Anula said...

Yummy looking strudel! I love your filling :) What a great job you did!

Lisa Michelle said...

That's one beautiful apple strudel, and your dough and rolled photos are spectacular! Awesomely done in all areas!

Sara said...

Looks super delicious...yum!! :)

Dragon said...

Mine was the opposite experience. I liked the crust but didn't like filling. :)

Megan said...

You have so many flaky layers! I Love flaky crusty yummy layers and you achieved that just! Great pictures!

alaskagrrrL said...

Oohhhh, myyyyyy. I am so looking forward to you being home and so dreading the creeping weight gain associated with your baked goodies. And let's disclose to your readers that the kitchen you are referring to is not really "real" so much as "real cheaply and nonsensically put together" + has no dishwasher and lacks key cooking gear.

Ally said...

Your strudel looks so flaky and delicous! Fantastic!

singinghorse said...

Beautiful strudel! Congratulations!

Lauren said...

Awesome job on this challenge!! Your strudel looks amazing =D.

Claire said...

Looks great...even if you probably won't make it again! :-)

Jenny Tan said...

YOur strudel looks really good,and kudos to you even though space was a problem! :)