Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Daring Dough (actually, it was quite easy)

The Daring Bakers did it again. They have challenged me to make something that I ended up really enjoying, but never would have attempted on my own. This is why I love being a Daring Baker - I get forced out of my comfort zone, and often, like with this challenge, find out what appears to be a horrible daunting task is quite easy.

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.

Since apples are no longer in prime season here, I opted to do a different filling. I used what I had in the house - which is always a bonus - and ended up with a delicious strudel filling inside a crispy, crackly crust.

The idea of making strudel dough was a bit frieghtening when I first learned of this month's challenge. It is a simple dough that gets pulled VERY thin and then wrapped around the filling and baked. I'm talking phyllo thin here. There are definite similarities between the two doughs and it makes me want to find a good phyllo recipe and give that a try. When making strudel at home, many recipes in fact call for using frozen phyllo sheets, but after this month's challenge, I am going to be a regular "from scratch" strudel maker.

I told you it was thin. The dough is amazingly supple and forgiving however. Easy to work with.

For my filling I whipped together cream cheese, almond paste, and finely chopped dark chocolate in the stand mixer (this could easily be done by hand if you let the ingredients come to room temp). I didn't really measure anything. I just threw it all in together, gave it a taste, tossed in a bit more chocolate and called it a strudel. The fun thing about this recipe is that the dough can be filled with just about anything - sweet or savory. I thought about using some organic peaches with the almond paste, but with those I worried they may be a bit too wet. I still may try it, tossing the chopped peaches with a bit of flour and/or cornstarch to bind them up a bit.

I'm already thinking about new filling and entire strudel dinners (savory followed by sweet). I know it's a bit cheesy but who cares? this was good.

I'm going to post the whole recipe as given to us by the Daring Bakers. This includes the apple filling to make a more traditional Apple Strudel. Of course, you can swap out the filling (as I did) with anything that strikes your fancy, follow the dough and assembly directions and you're good to go.

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.

The dough gets wrapped on a flour lined cloth so it doesn't stick and tear

The wrapped strudel ready for the oven.

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.

The stretched dough is thin enough to read the recipe through.


Julie said...

Wow, that is seriously impressive. I was pleased with the thinness of my strudel dough, but I doubt I could have read through it! Your filling sounds fantastic too.

sweetakery said...

wow! so thin and yum looking strudel..great work!

Sarah said...

Whoa! That looks amazing. Chocolate and cream cheese!

Erica said...

Cool thin dough photos. I'm sure this was delish!

DJM said...

Chocolate and almond paste? Count me in for that! Your stretched dough is amazing!

Jenny said...

Wow, I'm seriously impressed with how thin you managed to get the dough! And your filling sounds very very tasty. Great job!

anjelikuh said...

Great pictures! and what a success on the dough, looking foward to your next challenges!

Catalina said...

this is something that i too, would probably not attempt on my own. the thin dough seems like such a pain! i love strudel though and now am a little more confident to try. i am so glad that i am friends with a daring baker!

Niki Woodard said...

Remarkable how that transparent bit of dough becomes that delicious, flaky crust, strong enough to hold all those yummy ingredients. Bravo!

TeaLady said...

That looks really fantastic.

Natalie said...

After a weekend of playing with pre-made phyllo, I admire your patience to pull this off!

Cheryl said...

Your filling sounds great! And your post might just move strudel dough from the "never" column to "someday" instead. Somewhere I have a recipe for a sweet-savory strudel filling with blue cheese, nuts, caramelized onions, and, I think, apricots.