When I first heard about the May 2009 challenge I thought to myself "Easy!" until it dawned on me a few seconds later that we would be making our own pastry. I'm slowly getting into the whole pastry making process having found reliable recipes for a Quiche pastry and a shortcrust pastry. Puff and Filo however remained off limits due in part to an innate fear of pastry (and does pastry, like dogs, smell the fear?). They even make an excellent all butter and vanilla flavoured puff pastry so I had no motivation to go even further into the "Dark Arts".
Once I had resigned myself to the challenge and talked myself down off the ledge I went through all kinds of strudel options from savoury to chocolate & nut ones. Then I decided to go a more traditional route and make a cheese and cherry strudel with a slight twist - adding coconut to it to give it an unusual texture and flavour.
The pastry wasn't too hard to work with and I think the key was really letting it rest overnight. That way it provided very little resistance when pulling and stretching with very little tearing or holes. As for the method, I think we are one of the few households that don't own a tablecloth so I used a large butcher's apron instead which worked perfectly. They say that the dough needs to be tissue thin so that you can read love letters through it and I was pleased to see that I didn't get too many holes and I could easily see the striped pattern underneath it.
The flavour was gorgeous with the breadcrumbs providing a crunch and allowing each layer of the pastry to remain their own distinct layer. The filling was gorgeous with the three flavours harmonising beautifully. Sometimes you just have to go the traditional route - with a twist of course. I wouldn't be "the weird girl" without it.
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, Cheese & Coconut Strudel
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes 3 hours 30 minutes
15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool
From Kaffeehaus Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers
350g ricotta cheese-I used Perfect Italiano's ricotta
150g caster sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
350g jar sour cherries, drained, juice reserved
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar extra to sprinkle
2/3 cup of sugar for syrup
Icing sugar to dust and split vanilla bean to decorate
Vanilla ice cream to serve
Golden buttery breadcrumbs
Step 1 - Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
Step 2 - Beat the eggs lightly in a medium sized bowl and then add the ricotta cheese, sugar, coconut and lemon and combine well.
Butter spread carefully on the pastry and then covered with breadcrumbs
Step 3 - 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 but I used a silicon one and there were no problems with tearing). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the cheese mixture about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip (as my filling wasn't very solid it spread). Spread the drained sour cherries on top of the cheese mixture.
Step 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. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
Step 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. Heat the cherry juice with the sugar and reduce until thickened slightly and serve strudel with the syrup and vanilla ice cream.
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
Step 1 - 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.
Rough surfaced dough ball
Step 2 - 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). I let it rest overnight.
Step 3 - 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 - I didn't have a tablecloth or a plastic sheet so I used a large butcher's apron anchored down with what I could find (a ceramic canister and a bottle of drink) and I tucked the ends into the drawer. 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.
Rolled out dough
Step 4 - 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.
- Ingredients are cheap so we would recommend making a double batch of the dough, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn't come out like it should you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyester or you can use an apron. Make sure that it is well floured though.
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.
Both Courtney and Linda did a trial run on making the strudel. Below are their notes:
- She couldn't get it to stretch to 2 feet by 3 feet, it turned out more like 2 feet by 2 feet. But the dough was tissue thin nevertheless;
- She got some serious holes, but after rolling it wasn't noticeable;
- She used a large cheese cloth which helped manipulate and stretch the dough more than a heavier cloth would have.
- I made the dough by hand, just mixed the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Kneaded it for about 5 min like you would bread dough. This worked as well. Haven't tried using a standmixer so I don't know how it compares.
- Instead of cider vinegar I used red wine vinegar;
- I used bread flour;
- Picking up the dough to let it stretch didn't work well for me, holes appeared pretty much instantly. Instead I stretched the dough while it was lying on the tablecloth by putting my hands underneath and stretching it out further and further