During this past weekend, over the Memorial Day holiday, I vocalized a constant refrain: "I need to make a strudel. I need to make a strudel." I was like a broken record; family members were all, Go make your strudel and shut up about it already! Trouble was, this past weekend I also needed to plant the tomato garden, help Sister with her vegetable garden, make a loaf of Greek celebration bread, go shopping with Mom (important!), get malts with Mom on the way to the shops (even more important!), walk the dog, go to a parade and participate in no fewer than two cookouts. So while I was planting, baking, shopping, malt-slurping, dog-walking, parade-going and cooking out, I kept thinking, When am I going to make a strudel? Those Daring Bakers wait for no one.
(Disclaimer: I totally get that everyone is busy. It's not just me. I'm willing to bet that 95% of you Daring Bakers out there also struggled to find time for strudel. [The other 5% of you are wonderful planners and completed your strudel-making at the beginning of the month! Oh, how I strive to be like you....])
And so it was that on Tuesday night, the last evening before the Daring Bakers-mandated posting date, after my horseback riding lesson, after dinner out at the local Thai restaurant, I made my strudel. Talk about taking it right down to the wire. But I am not in this group to mess around; I am here to learn new things, to challenge myself, to roll out dough until it is thin enough that I can read the pages of The Bread Baker's Apprentice through it. I am not in this group to skip challenges because I got too busy drinking chocolate malts.
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 Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague, by Rick Rodgers.
Though our gracious hosts this month stated that we had creative control over the filling (the dough itself was the required element of the challenge), I decided to be non-adventurous and go with the standard apple filling per the original recipe. There is something about apples and cinnamon and sugar and thin crisp pastry that just, well, kind of makes my mouth water. I thought seriously about subbing some seasonal and gorgeous strawberries, but my brain kept going back to tart apple slices and rum-soaked raisins. Maybe it's because it's chilly and raining today. Who knows. What I know: the apple filling just felt right.
The only conceivable drawback to this recipe is the fact that it is best enjoyed on the day it is baked. And since I baked well into the wee hours, no one was awake to come over and share. More for me, I suppose. I do deserve it -- yes? -- after all that gardening I did in the hot sun this weekend.
Adapted from Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague, by Rick Rodgers
For the strudel dough:
1 1/3 c. unbleached flour
1/8 t. kosher salt
7 T. water, plus more if needed
2 T. vegetable oil, plus more for coating the dough
1/2 t. cider vinegar
For the apple filling:
1/2 c. walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used a combination of Braeburn, Granny Smith and Gala)
2 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 T. golden rum
3 T. raisins
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. plus 1 T. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and divided
1 1/2 c. panko
First, make the dough. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the water, oil and vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the water/oil mixture to the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Add a little more water if the dough is too dry.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead on an unfloured surface until the dough forms a ball that is slightly rough in texture, about 3 minutes. Then, knead an additional 2 minutes, occasionally picking up the dough ball and throwing it down hard on the work surface. I am not certain of the reason for this, but who am I to mess with strudel method? Plus, it's kind of fun.
Transfer the dough ball to a plate and lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
While the dough is resting, make the filling. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
Combine the apples and lemon juice in a medium bowl; toss and set aside. Mix the rum and raisins in a small bowl. Place the cinnamon and sugar in another small bowl and whisk to combine. Heat 3 T. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the panko and cook, stirring, until golden and toasted, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
When the dough has rested, assemble the strudel. Place the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Cover your work area with cheesecloth or a clean tablecloth. (It is best if you have a work area that you can walk around, such as a table, kitchen island or peninsula.) Dust the cloth with flour, and lightly flour a rolling pin. Place the dough in the middle of the cloth and roll it out as much as you can. Pick up the dough by the edge and let its weight stretch it -- the dough is surprisingly resilient and stretches nicely.
When you can't stretch the dough by lifting anymore, put the dough back on the work surface. Pick up the edge of the dough and place it on the backs of your hands, stretching gently as you walk around the perimeter of the dough. Keep stretching the dough until it measures about 1 1/2 feet by 2 feet and is tissue-thin. Don't worry if the dough tears a little -- it won't matter once you roll up the strudel. The dough is now ready to be filled.
Gently brush it with 3 T. of the remaining melted butter, then sprinkle the buttered dough with the toasted panko.
Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip.
Combine the apples, the rum-raisin mixture and the cinnamon-sugar mixture in a large bowl. Spread the apple mixture over the walnuts.
Fold the short edge of the dough over the filling. Lift the cheesecloth/tablecloth at the short edge of the dough so that the strudel rolls over onto itself. Roll gently, using the cloth, until the dough is completely wrapped around the filling.
Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet, using the cheesecloth/tablecloth as a sort of "sling" to lift it onto the sheet. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit on the baking sheet and fold the ends under. Brush the strudel with the remainder of the melted butter.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the strudel is a deep, golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. The strudel can be served warm or at room temperature, and is best on the day it is baked.
Serves 8. Or fewer, who am I kidding.