Strudel, An Austrian Pastry

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

There are so many activities that can occupy one’s time on a cold, winter day here in Minnesota, so Kevin, Jen and I chose to spend the day making strudel.  We decided to make the same dough recipe but roll it around three different delectable fillings; a Pear, Roquefort and Pecan, the Apple (recipe below) and a Chocolate.

The only time that I have ever seen strudel dough made and stretched by hand was by Mr. Rick Rodgers himself. (For a second, I was just going to just say by Mr. Rodgers, but that name conjures up a gentleman in a sweater asking if he would be your neighbor.)

Anyway, since we realized earlier in the week that making a traditional cassoulet, which was our original plan, would take upwards of three days to prepare, we settled on making this Austrian pastry.  It’s quite easy to make actually, especially if a second pair of hands are there to assist in stretching the dough.

Strudel Dough
1 1/3 cups (6 ½ ounces) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon apple 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 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.

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 would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inchround table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches. Cover your working area with tablecloth, 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.

Jen and Kevin stretching the dough

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.

Letting gravity help stretch the dough

Letting gravity help stretch the dough

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 wide and 3 feet 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.

Apple Filling
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)

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

Heat 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring often until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Remove breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl and 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 parchment paper or a Silpat. 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, or you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands).

Bread crumbs and walnuts on strudel dough

Sprinkle the buttered dough with the breadcrumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.l  Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling.

Jen rolling up her chocolate strudel

Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

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.

Now out of the oven

Now out of the oven

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.

Pear and Roquefort Strudel served with a salad

Pear and Roquefort Strudel served with a salad

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