Strudel has been on my list to make for a long time. I’ve had a recipe from Sherry Yard’s Desserts by the Yard marked since I got the book about a year ago. When I saw it, I said that was the recipe I would chose if I ever got to be a Daring Bakers host! Sherry’s book is so interesting to read. She talks about her career as a pastry chef, dividing the chapters into recipes she made when she was working at certain places. Wolfgang Puck has been a lifelong mentor for her, and she made this recipe during a time in Vienna. Puck told her that only real Austrians can made good strudel. She was determined to prove him wrong, and when he tasted this, he told her that she deserved an Austrian passport! Some of the best strudel I’ve had was in Germany. I spent a month there when I was in high school and loved trying all the different pastries. I was hoping that since David hasn’t been to Germany (yet), I would find a good recipe to make at home. This recipe looks long and intimidating, but Sherry’s directions are great and help you picture exactly what to do.
For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make David this strudel since he is a big pastry lover. It actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought, or even as time consuming, and I made this in the span of a few hours one afternoon. I just made half of the recipe, and I would recommend making that amount especially for the first time because it is much easier to work with a smaller amount of dough. The dough was very soft and easy to work with. I really didn’t have any trouble with it. You have to roll it out very thin, and next time I will work on making it even thinner. I made a slight tear in the dough, but it didn’t even make a difference in the final product. The dough came out very tender and flaky, just like strudel should be. I made this dough without the help of my KitchenAid, which is actually much easier than it sounds.
The filling was amazing! For half a recipe, I prepared 4 apples, but that ended up being way too much- next time I will use 3. I increased the cinnamon and omitted the raisins. The recipe says to slice the apples feather-thin, but instead I just chopped them into very small pieces. The filling had a perfectly sweet flavor and the smell filled the kitchen as the strudel was baking. The applesauce was a nice additon to add a smooth texture to the filling. David and I never do gifts for Valentine’s Day- only candy- but this was a great addition to our small celebration!
Source: Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard
For the filling:
8 firm apples, preferably 4 Granny Smiths and 4 Braeburns or
Fujis, peeled, cored, and sliced feather-thin
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing
1 cup dried homemade bread crumbs
1 cup applesauce
½ cup Vanilla Sugar
For the dough:
1 ½ cups bread flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for coating
¾ cup warm (90 degrees) water
1. To make the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the raising. Set aside. (Allowing the apples to sit with the lemon juice and sugar will tenderize them so that the filling will be nice and soft when the strudel is done).
2. Make the dough: Sift together the bread flour, all-purpose flour, and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat the egg, the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and the warm water. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Using the fork, work the flour mixture into the egg mixture, scraping it in from the sides of the well into the center and turning the bowl as you do so. At first the mixture will be like paste, but as you work in the flour, it will become a dough.
3. Once the fork is no longer useful for incorporating the flour, use your hands to work the rest of the flour into the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for ten minutes (it will be sticky at first, but resist the urge to add flour to it or to the work surface; just keep rubbing the dough off your hands and kneading, and it will soon stop sticking). Knead by folding the dough toward you and then pressing down and toward the folded edge, leaning in with all of your weight, from your shoulders, through your arms, and to the heels of your hands. Think of the dough as a clock- from 12 o’clock, you fold the dough over to within a couple of inches of the bottom edge (6 o’clock) and lean in along the seam, pressing until there is no more line. Turn the dough a quarter turn, to 3 o’clock, fold over, and knead again. Continue in this rhythm, moving the dough from 3 to 6 to 12 and around again, until it is satiny. When the dough is ready, round it out with both hands, shaping it into a ball and leaving no seam on the bottom. Coat the dough with a thin film of vegetable oil and wrap it airtight and wrinkle-free with plastic wrap. Let rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes to 2 hours. The dough should be soft.
4. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. For easy cleanup, line the bottom and edges of a 12×17-inch half sheet pan with aluminum foil and line the bottom of the foil with parchment paper.
5. Pull the dough and assemble the strudel: This has to be done fairly quickly so the dough doesn’t dry out, but you will find it fairly easy and pleasurable. Cover a table that is at least 4 feet long and 3 feet wide with a tablecloth and dust the tablecloth with a thin layer of flour. Take off any rings with sharp edges. Carefully remove the plastic from the dough and dust the dough with flour. With a lightly dusted rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch square. Dip your hands in flour. As you pull the dough, you will be working it our toward the ends of the table. It’s important not to let it fold over itself and not to tear it- although it this does happen, you can bring the edges of the tear together and pinch a small fold to mend it.
6. Place the square of the dough in front of you on the table. Make your hands into loose fists and slip them under the dough with your knuckles up, then pull the dough back with your knuckles, as if you (girls) were putting on panty hose. Begin to pull the dough, pressing the backs of your hands into it as your pull. The object is to stretch out the dough into a rectangle that overhangs the edges of the table. As you work, look for the parts of the dough that are less transparent and pull there to obtain a large, silky, billowy sheet. When you reach a corner at one end of the table, pull the dough over the edge and lock it underneath the corner. Pull the dough out to the other corner at the same end of the table and lock it underneath. Continue pulling and stretching the dough, moving like a dancer from one end of the table to the other, and lock the dough over the edges here and there to make it billow and relax, being careful not to allow it to fold over itself. With kitchen scissors or a paring knife, trim the thicker bottom of the edges that overhang the table so that the entire sheet is gossamer (be careful not to cut your tablecloth!).
7. Working quickly, brush the dough all over with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle on ½ cup of the bread crumbs. Stand at one end of the sheet of dough. Using ¼ cup of the remaining bread crumbs, make a line 4 inches from the end of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border on each side. Top this line with ½ cup of the applesauce. Drain all of the liquid from the sliced apples and spread half of the apples over the applesauce. Top with the remaining ½ cup applesauce. Make another layer with the remaining apples. Sprinkle on the vanilla sugar and the remaining ¼ cup bread crumbs and drizzle on ¼ cup melted butter.
8. Now roll up the strudel. Fold the two 2-inch corners of the dough in toward the center over the filling, then fold the bottom edge of the dough up over the filling. Now, using the tablecloth to lift it, roll the dough over once so that the filling is completely enclosed. Stop and use your hands to make a snug log after the first half-turn, and continue to roll up. Every time you roll the strudel over, gently tuck the log so that it’s nice and tight. When you finish rolling, you’ll have a strudel that is almost as long as your table is wide. If any filling has seeped out, gently push it in at the ends. Cut off all but 1 inch of the overhanging dough at the ends, press together to seal, and fold it into itself.
9. To get your long strudel onto the prepared baking sheet, place the prepared pan next to the strudel. Lift up one half of the strudel, cradling the end like the head of a newborn baby, and gently place on the baking sheet. Now lift up the other half in the same way and swing it around so that the strudel forms a U on the baking sheet. Brush generously with melted butter. Keep the remaining butter warm.
10. Place the strudel in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush again with butter, rotate the pan from front to back, and return to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Brush again with butter and allow to cool completely. Reheat gently before serving. To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the entire strudel for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp on the outside and warm inside, or individual pieces for 10 minutes.
NOTE: Once cooled, the strudel can be wrapped airtight and frozen for 2 weeks. Thaw, still wrapped, in the refrigerator, then unwrap, place on a baking sheet, and crisp in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.