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.


Felipe Zapata said...

Looks tasty. Looks like work too.

Andean said...

That video is hysterical! I will never look at apple strudel the same again. Good arm workout... LOL

Steve Cotton said...

This is why I leave baking to the experts -- like you.

DonCuevas said...

I think of it as "beat and learn."


Tancho said...

Can't believe it was 6years ago that you did the slide show. I remember that you had streched the dough a lot larger and thinner the time before, at leased it appeared that way.
You make it look so easy!

DonCuevas said...

I won't rest until I get it near perfect once more. But meanwhile, we are turning our attention to baking pizzas. This time, on a suggestion from Mexico Cooks!, using a comal de barro as a pizza stone.
More to come ...


jennifer rose said...

You & Nancy look far too angry. But then it could be St. Vitus dance.

DonCuevas said...

I, at least, have a healthy food handler's certificate, circa 2003.


Joan said...

At first I thought "beating the strudel" was code for something.
Regarding your comment that the local flour didn't have enough moisture--I have been thinking the flour in Mexico is different than in the US because I get different results. Could you comment on flour here and brands you like?
Joan, in Oaxaca

DonCuevas said...

Joan in Oaxaca, my brother-in-law in California also thought it was code for something, but it wasn't intended to be. I try to maintain a clean kitchen .

About the flour: I normally use Guadalupana OPTIMA, a standard for bread bakers hereabouts. This time, I believe that I was using Sello Rojo Tradicional, The latter, I believe is unbleached but of neither can I tell you the protein percentage or any other analytics. I just use what's available and try to do my best.

Don Cuevas

PS: thanks for giving me the impetus to look further into this.

Joan said...

Thank you. Their website is cute. I think they're using a different type of wheat. Everything is always dry.

sparks said...

Sounds delicious but the making of it sounds painful. Chefs get paid by the level of pain I assume .... or their reputation for endurance over the years

sparks said...

Not like my clay and pottery days back in the '60's

DonCuevas said...

Sparks, it's really fun (for those who enjoy baking challenges). The video may make it look painful, but really, it's not.

I don't know the camera make, but I'll ask Mark.

Don Cuevas

DonCuevas said...

With a macramé hanging?


Mark Emmer said...

The camera is an inexpensive Canon PowerShot SD1000. The video mode has a time lapse recording setting that can be set to 1 frame per second.

DonCuevas said...

Thanks Mark.

Don Cuevas