Category: Strudel - The Baker and The Chef
 
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When I was in culinary school I had a fantastic Introduction to Baking and Pastry instructor, but the instructor for the Advanced class was worthless.  He was the pastry chef at a very upscale hotel here in Chicago, so I know that he had talent, but when it came to teaching he either didn't care or he wasn't able to teach.  He would stand around chit-chatting with people as they passed through the kitchen and cracking jokes.  If you ever asked him a question his answer was always, "ham".  I'm not kidding.  It didn't matter what you asked him... "where are the eggs?"  "ham".  "how long should this bake?"  "ham."  "what temperature should the oven be?"  "ham".  It was really frustrating.

Early on I realized I wasn't going to learn anything from him.  I decided that I would just teach myself.  I made a goal to bake every single formula (that's what bakers call recipes) in the text book.  By the end of the semester I had accomplished my goal!

One of the most challenging (and for me, intriguing) recipes was strudel dough.  It's definitely an old world recipe that gets passed down through families.  You really only find strudel in older mom and pop style bakeries.  You won't find it in any trendy bakeries.  I won't lie, it's a challenge to make, but it's definitely possible and I highly recommend it.

The key to strudel is to make the dough so thin you can read a newspaper through it.  This is accomplished by gently stretching the dough with your hands.  And patience.  A lot of patience.  The very thin dough is then rolled up around a filling and the thin dough becomes many many layers of flaky dough.  In making this strudel I kind of "Americanized" the dough.  I added eggs for some richness, which you will never find in a true European strudel.

When you are ready to roll out the strudel work on a large table that you can walk all the way around.  That will help you to evenly stretch the dough.  Cover the table with a large table cloth and liberally dust it with flour.  When you think you've dusted it with enough flour add a little bit more.  Trust me, it will make your life infinitely easier.

After you've baked the strudel let it cool just a little bit and dust it with some powdered sugar.  Then cut yourself a nice thick slice... you've earned it!  It's best enjoyed the day you bake it so share with your neighbors.   The more you make it the better you'll get at stretching the dough.  If you have kids you can rope them into helping you and start a new family tradition that they can pass onto their children.

-The Baker

STRUDEL DOUGH:

  • 2 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 t Baking Powder
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 T Sugar, granulated
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 T Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 1 1/2 C Cake Crumbs (or bread crumbs)
  1. sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl
  2. in a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs and oil
  3. using a dough hook combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture; knead until it looks very shaggy
  4. add the water and continue to knead with the dough hook until a soft and pliable dough is formed
  5. remove from the mixing bowl and knead a few times by hand on a lightly floured work surface
  6. wrap in plastic and let the dough relax for at least an hour, but two or more is even better (the longer you let it sit the easier it will be to work with)

CHEESE FILLING:

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 16 oz can Pie Filling
  1. in mixer blend cream cheese until soft; don't over mix it or it will be grainy
  2. add egg yolk, mixing just until incorporated; again, don't over mix
  3. add sugar and vanilla; it's better to under mix slightly because once the egg and the sugar are added too much mixing will cause the mixture to become liquid