Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge--Strudel

I'm sure I would have never seriously contemplated starting a blog if it hadn't been for the Daring Baker's Challenge. I came across some photos from some previous challenge one day while skimming through some blogs and decided I'd like to try my hand at that. In reading the lengthy guidelines for joining The Daring Bakers, I discovered it was preferred that members have a blog. Ok, I thought, I'll just start a blog. Easy, right? Ha!

While I knew that putting a blog together took a lot more work than a casual reader might expect, I didn't realize how much pressure I would feel to update the blog. I thought a few posts a month would be fine. Once the blog was up though, I felt an almost immediate need for new content--the old "nature abhors a vacuum" phenomenon. And there's the pressure (self-imposed as it is) to come up with something fresh and photogenic. Indeed, I find the photography to be the greatest challenge to the blog, trying to think when I might make something to take greatest advantage of the natural light, looking for an appropriate background, and imagining how best to present it.

All of which brings us to the challenge, my first. Although I would say I'm a competent baker, I rarely bake. My wife, who grew up in Indonesia, doesn't really have a taste for the same baked goods that I enjoy. Her idea of a good loaf of bread is Wonderbread; she doesn't care for a really good crust or toothsome crumb. She also has no real affinity for pies, cakes, or cookies. All of which is probably good, for I would be even fatter than I am now were I to bake more often. Her disdain for apple pie is perhaps the one qualm the rest of my family has about her, so I knew the apple strudel was not going to be a hit with her. Still, the challenge has rules and I was determined to follow them.

The dough for the strudel was incredibly easy to work with. I don't have a stand mixer, so simply mixed it by hand and had no problems whatsoever. Stretching the dough took some patience, and I found it easier to use a rolling pin to aid the process; ideally, this would probably best be done with a partner. The rest of the strudel making process was really straightforward. Spread, sprinkle, fill, roll, and then bake. I prefer Mom's apple pie, but the strudel seemed to be a hit with the office staff at school.

The savory strudel was more to my wife's liking. For this I used a filling of spinach, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and cotija cheese (a Mexican cheese that is similar to ricotta salata). I added walnuts to the bread crumbs that are spread atop the dough before encasing the filling and used olive oil instead of butter. It turned out quite well, enough so that I would definitely make it again.

I would like to thank Linda and Courtney for presenting such an interesting challenge.

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.

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

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.


  1. Your strudel looks beautiful and really mouthwatering! Very well done!



  2. I love the savory filling! I want that for dinner tonight. Wonderful job!

  3. Rosa and Zoe,

    Thanks for the kind words. I am just relieved to have the first challenge under my belt. Everyone's strudels look wonderful, and the dough was much easier to work with than I would have expected.

  4. It's all about technique you are so right to get the pastry transparent! Great that you gained a new skill from the DBers. Wonderful colour you got – love the pixs. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

    Yes the spirit of the Daring Bakers is it is not a competition BUT what is respected is trying to do the challenge using your best efforts.

  5. congrats on your first DB challenge! you did a wonderful job. did you have any kind of dipping sauce?

    you're right, having a partner to assist with the stretching of the dough is ideal. :)

  6. Congrats on your first challenge! Your strudels look awesome =D.

  7. Audax,

    Thanks for the kind words. The challenge is what I signed up for, the desire to try things I might not otherwise consider.
    I've been impressed by the number and variety of strudels you were able to produce this month. And they all looked great!
    One of the aspects of the challenge that I most enjoyed was how many different directions participants took the challenge all from the same starting place.

    Angry Asian,

    Thanks. No, I didn't use any dipping sauce, but would have liked something with the apple strudel--vanilla ice cream if nothing else.


    Thanks so much.

  8. Spinach, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and cotija cheese amd walnuts is a divine filling and it's making my mouth water like crazy! Not only that, but your strudel looks GORGEOUS!

    Also, I agree about the caring and attention you need to pay to a blog. I usually post every two weeks, which is really nothing compared to most blogs!

    That said, you're so lucky you have natural light, as I have barely any and have to use artificial, which isn't exactly conducive to great photos, especially without the know how and proper equipment!

  9. Lisamichele,
    Thanks. One thing we've got in abundance in Northern California is natural light. I've been impressed by the photos and creations I've seen on your blog.

  10. Wow! The savory filling of spinach, olives, sun dried tomatoes sounds absolutely divine! Way to go on the May challenge, you certainly made it your own :)


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