03 January 2009

Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel

Apfelstrudel mit zimt und sultaninen
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (with title)
Happy new year to everyone! I realize that it appears I dropped off the face of the Earth, and in some respects, that's true. I tunneled through the core and ended up on the opposite side, in sunny, beachy New Joisey, and man is it hot! (Mind over matter.) One of my first thoughts as I was walking away from Newark International Airport was, "OH, MY FUCKING FREEZING FACE!!" (Little do you know that the original thought was, "... my beautiful fucking freezing face.") Pardon the profanity so early on in the year but that was me, and at the time I thought that the nerve endings in my lips had all died. They sorely needed another pair to warm them, hee hee.

But to those who thought I hadn't posted-- au contraire! I have a short essay on my other blog (opens in new window) about Christmas, which you might like to read. But the other reason I've neglected my life in the internets is because I've been working on a print project, which I had to finish before my flight, which was January 1, 7:45AM. I was working with it till almost midnight, with the fireworks polluting my sky. Of course, I was also stocking up on posts for the rest of the year, or at least the next few months. Cooking might become scarce, which makes me a little sad thinking about it, but it might be a necessity in the future-- time will tell.
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (far)
About two years ago, I never cooked. Okay, maybe I cooked once or twice a year. But I knew to cook in theory from cooking shows and books. In a way, I was afraid that my theory was wrong and I'd end up being a disappointment-- I thought food that remained in my head would be tastier. But something happened, and I can't figure it out, but I took the plunge and picked up the whisk. It was such a joy to find that cooking worked, and it was easy, and the more I did it, the easier it became. And I resolved to cook every dish I loved, everything I craved, so I'd always be able to eat something I wanted. And, as you can no doubt tell, that list is long. (Annnnd mostly desserts, sigh.) The secondary objective was to do all the "special" pastry/cooking techniques at least once. Just so I can put the notches on my bedpost. Or, er, my, uh, rolling pin? (Don't do that, you'll ugly up your doughs.)

Of course, it's not always easy, and sometimes deliberately taking up a challenge is fun, and necessary for growth. Which is part of the reason why I'm in the States looking for a residency-- but that is a topic for another time, dear friends. Sometimes the process of the challenge can be a bit of a bust, but the results, no less delicious, in part because it was a new experience. I'm not huge on regrets. So, to all of you who made 2008 so wonderful-- awesome friends old and new (some of whom heard my voice/met me in person-- w00t!), faithful readers, thank you so much and I hope 2009 will open even more doors for all of us, and build more bridges.

Oh, before anything else, Uncle Rob is asking you guys for your BEST crock pot recipes as Tyler is away. Enter it here and you could win a prize I really want! A pity I don't have that much experience with my crock pot, dammit!

Okay, on to my crisp apfelstrudel. I confess I could have done this using prepackaged filo pastry but 1) filo pastry is not strudel dough, 2) that's no challenge, 3) that's no fun, 4) it won't taste the same. So using Claire Clark's Indulge, I delved in, with a little more help from eGullet (here is Kate's demo) and Food Arts magazine.

The problem was, I didn't have a dough hook (... or a stand mixer), and I though my sinewy, muscular arms could really inflict some punishment on the dough. Insert wonky music here. I kneaded for 15 minutes, but strudel dough, if done by hand, needs extreme punishment: throw it down on the counter and slap it around violently to develop the proteins. I'm still just too gentle in the kitchen. So, when stretching time the next day arrived, we went from this:
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (start)
To this: (Cue Nelson from The Simpsons: "Ha-ha!")
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (stretched)
I admit my technique was destroyed by unthinking panic. I should have been working center-out but I was doing it too haphazardly, and I stressed the good, thin parts out too much before working on the rest of the dough, so in time, they ripped anyway. Also, I don't have a stand mixer!!! Anyway, make sure you've cut your fingernails short and don't have rings/jewelry on when stretching the dough. Use your knuckles, not your fingertips.

Sobbingly dump the filling:
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (filled)
And roll it up, using the tablecloth (uh, so whoever doing the laundry doesn't cry, I used a giant sheet of clean Manila paper). And guess what? You can't even tell there were rips. I was pretty chuffed seeing this.
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (rolled)
Use a rimless sheet or your imagination to transfer it to a baking sheet:
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (unbaked)
And make sure you have a serving platter big enough for your baked lamprey.
Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel (top)
And it was really, really good. Fresh flavors, a joy to eat, and gone really quickly. It wasn't as shatteringly crisp as your Hungarian grandma's, but I DON'T HAVE A STAND MIXER (oh, yeah, it's time to go on eBay, heh heh). In fairness, neither would she have, but I don't have European blood that I know of either. If you're feeling wacky and need something fun to do with your family, I highly recommend this! :P

Apple, Cinnamon, and Sultana Strudel from Indulge
The table I used was only about 2 feet by 4 feet (you average large dinner table for 6-8 people will be 3 feet by 5 feet), so I halved the filling amount, but not the dough amount to account for any mistakes in the stretching. As you can see, that turned out to be a good call. Again, consult Kate's demo for more visuals.

  • 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) apples, such as Golden Delicious

  • 125g (2-3/4 cups unpacked) soft breadcrumbs (I blitzed day-old bread-- use 5
  • slices of white bread with crusts)

  • 225g (2 sticks or 1 cup) unsalted butter

  • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 50g (1/3 cup unpacked) sultanas

  • 300g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) strong white flour, sifted (I used King Arthur unbleached all-purpose)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 125-150g (1/2 cup or more by at most 2 tablespoons) warm water

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 medium egg yolk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour and salt. Start the mixer on low and add the 125g warm water, oil, and egg yolk, mixing to make a smooth paste. If the dough seems dry, add a little more of the 25g warm water. Continue mixing until the dough is very smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough a little by hand, until it is no longer sticky. Shape it into a ball and wrap in lightly oiled cling film. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Core the apples but don't peel them. Slice as thinly as possible (I used my cheap mandoline). Place in a colander to drain off the liquid. Fry the breadcrumbs in a skillet with 100g (7 tablespoons) of the butter until light brown, then cool thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Cover a table with a cotton or linen cloth and secure the corners by twisting and tying the tablecloth under the table. Dust the surface lightly with flour. Lay the dough on the table, at the same time stretching it into a long strip. Roll out the dough until it is roughly 10 inches square. Place your hands palms-down under the dough and stretch it using your knuckles, starting from the center and working your way around the table and gradually to the outer edge of the dough. The dough should be thin enough to read a newspaper through and overlap the whole tablecloth by 1/2 inch. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife (being careful not to be overzealous with the cutting lest you damage your table), gently trim off the thick outermost edge of the dough.

Melt the remaining butter and use about half to brush the dough all over. Evenly sprinkle 2/3 of the dough with the fried breadcrumbs. Mix the apples with the sugar, cinnamon and sultanas, then spread this over the breadcrumbs. Untie the tablecloth's corners and starting from the end with the filling, lift the tablecloth edge and use it to roll the dough as compact as possible. Transfer the roll to a greased nonstick baking sheet and brush with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Now to visit the over 100 food posts I've accumulated on my reader!!

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