This month's Daring Bakers' challenge is upon us again. Co-hosts Linda of Make Life Sweeter and Courtney of Coco Cooks chose strudel. They gave us the freedom to fill our strudel with whatever our hearts desired. Their only mandate was that we must make the strudel dough.
When the challenge was announced, I was excited as well as apprehensive. Never in my life did I think I would make strudel dough. I've always thought that strudel making takes decades to perfect and those proficient use secrets passed from generation to generation. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple the dough was to make. Rick Rodgers' recipe for strudel dough was truly wonderful. The dough was really easy to handle. Using a floured cloth to line my countertop, the dough didn't stick at all and it stretched tissue-paper-thin without tearing. And stretching it was so much fun too - I was actually giggling while doing it! Luckily no one but the cat was around to witness my silliness.
Traditionally apples are used, but apples are out of season right now so I decided to make a cherry strudel. Since cherries exude so much liquid I knew I would need a thickener. The recipe the hosts provided uses bread crumbs to absorb some of the fruit juices exuded during baking to prevent a soggy crust. I read that cornstarch can be used in place of the bread crumbs, but cornstarch needs to come to a boil to become thick and the baking time in the oven would not allow the cherries to reach that temperature. So I cooked my cherries on the stove top with the cornstarch and some sugar until it became thick. Problem solved.
Even though I had used some cornstarch, I still wanted to use some crumbs in the strudel, but I did not have bread crumbs (or even bread) in the house. My choices were chocolate genoise trimmings or panko. Using either would probably be blasphemous, but genoise seemed like the lesser of two evils. Since I introduced chocolate in the form of crumbs, I though I would add some chopped chocolate to the strudel too.
Overall the strudel was delicious. The pastry shell was strong enough to hold in the cherry chocolate filling but was at the same time delicate and flaky. The only criticism of my strudel was the ratio of filling to strudel pastry was high. I would have liked more layers of the flaky pastry. This was the 25th DB challenge that I have completed and I learn something new with each challenge. I already see myself making some kind of savory strudel for dinner in the near future and when autumn comes I will be making an apple strudel. Thanks to Courtney and Linda for choosing a great recipe which stretched my baking repertoire.
The fine print:
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.
Cherry Chocolate Strudel
16 ounces bing cherries, pitted
3 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 tsp pure almond extract
Strudel dough (see recipe below)
1/2 fresh bread crumbs
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Make the cherry filling:
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, stir together cherries, sugar, cornstarch, salt and lemon juice. Allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the cherries to exude some juices.
Over low heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. The juice will thicken and become translucent. Allow it to simmer for 1 minute. Transfer to a clean bowl and stir in almond extract. Allow mixture to cool completely.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 2 minutes. Let filling cool completely before using.
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 bread crumbs about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm) wide strip. Sprinkle the chocolate over the bread crumbs. Spread the cherry filling mixture over the chocolate.
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. If necessary, curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter. Using a sharp knife cut a few steam vents in the dough.
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.
(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
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.
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).
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.
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.