Strudel, Round 1… over my head

With all the baking I’ve done recently, I decided to try something a little more complicated. Why not a Strudel? Of course I could buy the philo dough from the store, but where would the fun in that be? Gavin was supportive of the idea of a strudel made from scratch. So I embarked on a series of cullinary misadventures.

Friday 9/14: I found a strudel recipe in my The German Cookbook, photo copied it, and added it to my recipe collection.

Saturday 9/15: Feeling inspired by my recent successes with other baking projects I turned to the strudel recipe I had photocopied the day before. The apple filling was easy enough to make, but the dough looked daunting. Enough pastry cloth to cover a large work surface (like the dining room table)?

I called Mom to ask for advice. She’d never taken on any pastry so ambitious. “It sounds similar to philo dough,” she said helpfully. “You can get that at the grocery store.” Yes, I could, but that would defeat the purpose.

Desperately wishing photos and step-by-step how-to’s had accompanied the cookbook, I turned back to the recipe. Pastry cloth or a table cloth that drapes over the edge. We have two table cloths: a very nice one we got as a wedding present and a rather aged plastic one that was my mother-in-law didn’t want back, and that we left outside for a few days. Neither was really a candidate for rolling dough on.

So what else is large enough to cover a table and cloth? I racked my brain. Sheets!
“Gavin, do we have any old sheets that could be possibly destroyed?”
I got one of those looks that implied he thought I was out of my mind (I get them at least once a day).
“I need a large cloth to drape over the kitchen table.”
I got an inquisitive look, and explained my pastry cloth debacle.
Gavin googled pastry cloth. After a few minutes, we decided not to bother buying real pastry cloth, all it is is 100% cotton knit. We resolved to go to the fabric store the following day.

“So you’ll be in over your head?”
“I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Excellent. We could make it for Thanksgiving.”
“It’s not Nick-safe.” (Nick is a friend of ours with really bad food allergies).
“We can make it a few days before he gets here.”
“We’ll see.”
“Then I can tell everyone look what my wife made!” He puffed his chest out proudly and spoke to the imaginary guests in the office. “Can your wife make that?”
“If by your wife you mean our mothers I don’t think they’d even attempt it.”
Gavin nodded sagely.

A little later I googled around for second opinions on the best way to deal with dough. Baking 911 had some ideas. So the plan: compare Baking 911’s suggestions with The German Cookbook’s suggestions and come up with some hybrid. If I’m going to get in over my head, I may as well get in way over.

Sunday 9/16:
Today Gavin and I drove into Rhonert Park and visited the fabric store. After some quick searching we found generic white cotton cloth. Next week I plan to wash it and put it into use as pastry cloth. We have three yards of it which should be more than enough to cover the table, and as Gavin so aptly put:
“You can never have too much white cotton fabric.”

Maybe I’ll wrap him as a Mummy for Halloween.

Continuing in my quest for Strudel I IMed Leslie, she spent a year in Munich, and I hoped she had gained some insights into German pastry. Leslie advised me that “holes aren´t festive” and “not too many raisins… but then, i´m not a huge raisin fan…” Things to keep that in mind.

Monday 9/17:
I went to the store and picked up the apples I would need for the strudel. I didn’t feel overly inspired to make it yet, so I continued to read and compare the recipes.

Both recipes were quite adamant that the dough stay supple, whole and moist. They whole-heartedly agreed with Leslie’s “holes aren’t festive” and offered multiple solutions: take off rings, trim nails, go slowly, let the dough (and yourself) rest, don’t try to patch holes.

Still feeling slightly uninspired I peeled apples and watched Matlock. I cored and thinly sliced the apples as well. I think the knife needs to be sharpened. I decided to try the Baking 911 strudel recipes. I closely followed the directions, and ended up with enough dough for three strudel.

I rolled out the dough carefully on the pastry cloth. I let it sit and rest, I sat and rested. I mixed up the apples with the sugar and cinnamon. I carefully rolled up the strudel, brushed it with butter, and slit some holes in the top.

After about an hour in the oven, it smelled wonderful, but the crust looked all wrong. Could the bread flour be at fault? Did I need to make more slits in the top? Should I really have used the egg wash? Was the dough too thick?

I still don’t have an answer for that, but I do have two more strudels sitting in the fridge: another apple on and one with walnut filling. They were constructed at the same time, from the same dough as the first one, hopefully something goes differently with them.

Eventually the molten apple and sugar inside will cool down and I can try some of my creation, I’m hoping it tastes better than it looks.

After it had cooled down, I cut into it. The inside looked right, but the crust was all wrong. The filling tasted right, perfect in fact; the crust tasted right too, but it’s consistency was wrong. I think next time I’ll use regular flour (instead of bread flour like Baking 911 suggested) and cook it for a slightly shorter time.

On the bright side none of my dough got holes in it.

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