Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simply Strudel - This Month's Daring Bakers Challenge

Oh my goodness. For the second month in a row, I've almost missed the post date for our Daring Bakers Challenge. I don't know... maybe all of these cooking/baking clubs are beginning to get a bit much for me. Nah! Forget it! I just need to be more organized.

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.

Being of German descent, this challenge was right up my alley. I think fondly of the afternoons spent with my family, having coffee and 'apfelstrudel mit sahne'. But, this also meant that when I decided to bring my completed challenge to Mother's Day brunch, I was going to have an expert panel to impress.

For my first round of strudel making (yes, there did end up being a few), I decided on a roasted plum and pistachio strudel. Although plums are not in season right now, I just love their flavour, and it very much reminds me of my Deutsche relatives. I roasted the plums in the oven with a bit of brown sugar for about 45 minutes. In place of the bread crumbs between the layers of dough, I sprinkled crushed pistachios. What a delicious combination!

I also felt it necessary to bring along one of the most traditional strudels - Topfenstrudel. The filling is made quite simply with quark cheese, butter, sugar, eggs and a little lemon zest. I didn't secure the dough as well as I should have, and had a bit of leakage. But, no harm done - the strudel was still a success.

Lastly, I attempted the classic apple strudel. It is so simple in flavour, but that is what is so great about it. You have the softness of the apples in between the flakiness of the crust. Of course, there is no better thing to accompany strudel than whipped cream, and a lot of it!

I found the dough itself quite easy to prepare. The rolling/stretching of the dough was not difficult, just messy. Thankfully, I finally have a big enough counter to fit the 2'x 3' stretched dough. I can't imagine having to do this in my last apartment!

This is definitely a recipe I will come back to because the possibilities are endless. I have only tackled three simple sweet versions, and never even ventured to the savoury side. The entire process doesn't take that long, and I find the results are always impressive. I can't wait to see what the DB's have in store for us next!

Apple Strudel
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.

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.


Ruth said...

Your plum filling looks delicious

Anonymous said... really took this challenge up the charts! Not only does your strudel look gorgeous, but I'm sying to try the Topfenstrudel! As for the plum-pistachio filling, that sounds incredible too, and guess what? I was going to use JUST that as a filling for an upcoming DC challenge for *fill in blank*..hehe Still haven't decided :) Great job all around!

Leann said...

What a lovely blog!!! The plum filling looks wonderful... you did an awesome job! :)

Shirley said...

The plum filling looks so beautiful!

Elizabeth said...

That looks beautiful! I could eat the computer screen. :)

gine said...

That looks lovely :-)!! XOXO

Katherine said...

love the plum filling idea! Peaches are in season here in Texas, I wonder if they would work the same? Either way I'm sure strudel in all forms tastes delicious

Lauren said...

Beautiful strudels!! I love the flavours you chose =D.

Chantal said...

Beautiful! Roasted plums? I would have never thought about that, what a great idea! Thanks...I love how you got the layers.

You never said what your expert panel thought in the end...

Claire said...

Beautiful job! The fruit looks so yummy and inviting.