Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beating The Strudel

Another day, another strudel
It was the big oak butcher block table in our friends Mark and Nancy's kitchen that called me to make strudel there. You should know that the classic strudel dough needs a large work surface, covered with a cloth, to allow the dough to be stretched to transparent thinness. The first time I saw that table, I knew I had to make strudel on it.

Nancy slams the strudel dough
Well, that, at least is the theory. Sometimes things don't work out as we might hope. I'd made strudel before, with considerable success. You can see that demonstrated in this slide show of photos from 2007.


This time, however, I chose a dough recipe that I hadn't used before. It was from Jennie Grossinger's The Art of Jewish Cooking. The fatal flaw was that either the recipe didn't call for sufficient water, or the local flour (Guadalupana OPTIMA— EDIT: Now I'm pretty sure we used Sello Rojo Tradicional. No additives.) was lower in moisture. The bottom line was that the first dough Nancy and I made was so tough and dry that we could hardly extend it. Rather than waste it, I decided to use it to wrap a savory Cabbage-Potato-Sauerkraut and Bacon filling. Recipe below.*

First try: tough dough (A challenge in English pronunciation as well!)
The end result was delicious, even if the crust was somewhat hard in places.

Savory Cabbage, etc Strudel

For the Apple Strudel, we adjusted the amount of water and oil in the dough upward, and the results were somewhat better, although still considerably short of ideal. But the delicious and abundant apple, raisin and walnut filling pleased our guests.

Apple Strudel
Here are three different strudel dough recipes, transcribed. Keep in mind that the first was the unsuccessful one in our trials.

This is the one we first used, from Jennie Grossinger's Art of Jewish Cooking.

Flour 3 cups sifted
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 tbsp salad oil
1/4 cup lukewarm water.
(Note the sifted instruction, which we didn't do.)

This next is from Ratner's World Famous Meatless Cookbook.

water, lukewarm 1 cup
eggwhites (about 2) 1/3 cup
oil 1/3 cup
sugar 1/4 cup (the only one to put sugar in the dough.)
salt 1 teaspoon
flour 4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour

Finally (although I do have more recipes for strudel dough), from The Art of Fine Baking, by Paula Peck.

flour 1 1/2 cups
salt 1/4 tsp
lemon juice 1 tbsp
egg whites 2
peanut oil 4 tbsps
water 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Almost all classic strudel dough recipes call for incorporating the ingredients, kneading and often, beating the dough piece down on the work table up to 100 times. This develops the gluten.

There follows a rest of up to two hours, to let the dough relax so it becomes finely extensible.

The stretching starts by simply rolling the dough to a manageable diameter. Then the baker or bakers, using the backs of their hands lift and gently stretch the dough, gradually working around the table, until the dough becomes gossamer thin. Patience is necessary and it's best to proceed slowly and gently.

Any small tears in the dough sheet are negligible because they will be covered when the whole pastry is rolled up.

The dough sheet is brushed with melted butter or oil, sprinkled with finely ground bread or cake crumbs, then chopped nuts when appropriate.

The filling is placed in a ridge along the near side of the dough sheet, leaving several inches uncovered to begin the rolling up.

When the strudel is large, the easiest way to roll it up is by lifting the sheet or table cloth. Help may be needed to deposit the rolled strudel into a parchment lined pan. (Of course, the oven is preheated to 375º F.)

Yet another butter or oil baste is made over the strudel surface and it's placed in the oven. Ours took about 30-35 minutes to achieve a well browned color.

For sweet strudels, you may apply another butter baste plus a sprinkling of granulated sugar in the last 5-10 minutes.

Despite problems with the dough, we consider this a successful and fun collaboration.

*Here's the original Croatian Savory Cabbage Filling:
2  1/2  pounds  cabbage,  cored  and  shredded 1  sliced  medium  onion
1  tablespoon  salt 1/4  cup  oil,  butter,  lard  or  bacon  grease 1/2  pound  diced  bacon  (optional) 1  1/2  teaspoons  sugar
Salt  and  pepper  to  taste 1/2  package  filo  dough,  thawed Additional  oil,  butter  or  lard  for  the  filo  dough Plain  yogurt  or  sour  cream  for  garnish  (optional)

  1. 1. Place  the  shredded  cabbage  and  sliced  onion  in  a  large  nonmetallic  bowl  and  sprinkle  with  1  tablespoon  salt.  Mix and  let  sit  for  2  hours.  Drain  and  squeeze  out  as  much  moisture  as  possible.  
  2. 2. If  using  oil,  butter  or  lard,  heat  in  a  large  skillet  over  medium  heat.  Add  cabbage  and  sugar  and  sauté  until tender.  Season  with  salt  and  pepper.  If  using  bacon,  fry  it  in  a  large  skillet  until  crisp.  Remove  bacon  and reserve,  and  sauté the  cabbage  and  sugar  in  the  bacon  fat,  adding  more  oil  or  lard,  if  necessary.  When  cabbage is  tender,  mix  in  the  reserved bacon and season to  taste.  
  3. <SNIP!>
  4. Note that I added about 1 1/2 cups of well drained and squeezed sauerkraut, 4 medium potatoes, boiled, skinned and cubed, plus some dill weed. —DC
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Mark had set up a digital camera aimed at the work table and had set it to take one frame a second for an hour. The results are entertaining, to say the least. Here's a portion of the resulting time lapse video. We may look frantic or angry, but not really.

The moral is: Sometimes you beat the strudel and sometimes it beats you.

Video by Mark Emmer. Used by permission.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Pizza at the Posada Mandala Pátzcuaro

The sign of good pizza
It may seem incredible, but except for our first visit to Pátzcuaro, in January, 1991, we had never eaten pizza in a Pátzcuaro restaurant. That was, for the record, at Las Once Pizzas, and it was so long ago, 23 years, that I don't remember anything about it.

Recently we'd been reading recommendations for the pizzas at Posada Mandala, a budget travelers' guest house. The latest recommendation came from our very critical friend, Ron, who approved of the pizzas at Mandala. This approbation, coming from Ron, determined that we go eat there. We met him there yesterday and had a pleasant meal.

Posada Mandala entry hall
The atmosphere of the small dining room is cozy and casual, decorated with posters and curios. It's very informal and unpretentious. Guests exchanged comments and greetings across tables.

Posada Mandala dining room
Soon after we arrived, Sr. Enrique, the affable manager and host greeted us and we chatted in English and mostly Spanish on this and that.

Sra. Cuevas and I were extra hungry, so we ordered the house "Salades Niçoise", (two sizes, small at $25 pesos, large at $40 pesos) which were nice composition of greens, mushroom slices, tomatoes, apple slices, and sliced black olives. There was some crumbled, mild goat cheese and a scattering of sunflower seeds. The name is a misnomer, for they bear almost no resemblance to a traditional Salade Niçoise. Nevertheless, they were passably decent salads. I wasn't so fond of the undistinguished, milky white dressing. I would would have preferred a simple olive oil and wine vinegar to this odd emulsion.

Ensalada "Niçoise" chica
The pizzas listed on the menu, at $70 for a small and $120 a large, are fifteen in number. You can invent your own combination at $10 pesos per additional ingredient.

Mandala's MenuPizzas artesanales preparadas con nuestra salsa especial y dos quesos.
Grande (40 cms.)  $110.-         Chica (25 cms.)  $65.-               Inventa tus combinaciones.          Cada ingrediente adicional ………$-10.-1.-   Italiana: pepperoni2.-   Salami con champiñones3.-   Vegetariana: aceitunas negras, pimiento morrón, champiñones…  4.-   Margarita: queso de cabra, jitomate, orégano…  5.-   Hawaiana: jamón, piña…  6.-  Criolla: tocino, champiñón, cebolla…  7.-   Mexicana: chorizo, jalapeños cebolla…  8.-   Intensa: ajo con champiñones…  9.-   Mandala: anchoas, jitomate, aceitunas negras… …………………………………………………………………………..Grande……. $ 120.- Chica……. $ 70.- ingrediente adicional $-10.-10.- Cuatro quesos (Azul, Cabra, Parmesano y Chihuahua)   11.- Pizzalambre: Carne asada, pimiento, cebolla…12.- Caprichosa: camarón, tocino, jitomate…13.- Tentadora: Pulpo a la gallega (aceite de oliva, paprika…) 14.- Seductora: Pulpo con camarón, espinaca, toquecito de chipotle…15.- Marinera: camarón, ostión ahumado, espinaca, un toquecito de chipotle…LAS PASTAS (todas las pastas llevan queso parmesano)Spaghetti Bolognesa …………………$- 90.-Spaghetti al pesto  ó  al bosque (salsa de champiñones)  ……………….. $- 60.-Spaghetti pomodoro (salsa de pizza)  ó  al burro ( mantequilla)………... $- 50.-Ensalada nicoise estilo Mandala  grande $- 40.-  chica $- 25.-(Lechuga, jitomate, manzana, semilla de girasol, aceitunas negras, queso de cabra…) Salsas y aderezo de la casa  250 grs. $- 40.-
BEBIDASCERVEZA NEGRA MODELO $  20.- REFRESCO DE LATA $15.-CERVEZA MODELO ESPECIAL $  20.- (coca cola, manzana, naranja, lima limón)CORONA, VICTORIA $  18.- AGUA MINERAL EN VASO $ 15.-MICHELADA $  25.- NARANJADA O LIMONADA $ 20.-TEQUILA TRADICIONAL $  40.- (con agua natural o mineral)MEZCAL DE OPONGUIO $  30.- Jarra (1.6 Lts.) $ 70.-MEZCAL DE GUERRERO $  35.-COPA DE VINO CHILENO $  40.-BOTELLA $160-SANGRÍA VASO $  25.-  JARRA (1.6 Lts.) $  90.-VINO DE LA CASA (Jarra 1 Lt). $ 140.-COPA VINO DE LA CASA $  30.-

Ron requested a Pizza "Mandala" grande, that has anchovies, tomato and black olive, but with double anchovies. We decided to get a Pizza "Criolla", with fresh mushrooms, bacon and onion.

Waiting time didn't seem very long. The pizzas were very well made and a pleasure to the eyes as well as the palate.

Pizza "Mandala" Grande
Pizza Criolla Grande
The crusts are thin, crisp and cracker like; baked to a pale tan, without any char. The toppings are arranged with care. The sauce is good and balanced except for a notable strength of garlic (we liked that). Best of all, it isn't sweet. There's catsup available for those customers who can't eat pizza without it. More interesting condiments than the catsup and ubiquitous Jugo Maggi sazonador are the clay dishes of oil based salsas caseras,  one of red chile with peanut pieces, the other blackened, with sesame seeds. Either one should be applied with caution.

Salsas caseras Pizzas Mandala
I won't compare the pizzas that we had with recent others elsewhere. I have, as I said, near zero pizza eating history in Pátzcuaro. In the end, Pizzas Mandala is a good place for a well made pizza. I would recommend it to friends and visitors. 

Pizza dreams, brought to you in GooeyVision

Food:  ***1/2

Service: **** Unobtrusive, quiet and friendly

Ambience: Casual, informal, relaxed

Price: $1/2-$$ Nuestra cuenta

Rest rooms: One, up stairs, small but adequate.

Free wi-fi, and it works well!

Location: Calle Lerín #14, Centro, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday, from one in the afternoon.

Tel:  (434) 342