Sunday, May 17, 2009

Culinary Creativity!

This week my big sis, Helga, visited us from Arizona and we all had a grand time with each other. One of my favorite childhood memories is one of her making apple strudel from scratch so I asked her to teach me and Fiona how to make this incredible pastry. You see the word "strudel" used all over the place and it never, never is actually real, authentic Viennese appel strudel. Forget that "toaster strudel" crap! Here is the real deal. A simple, elegant pastry that takes a good three hours in preparation and another hour in baking. But, oh so worth it!

First, I prepared the table for later by taping down a linen tablecloth. The tablecloth will prevent the polish from the wood table from getting into the dough and will also help us in the final crucial assembly.

Here is lovely Helga kneading the small portion of dough. Doesn't seem like a lot, does it? A little of this goes a long way!

The dough is resting now under a warmed ceramic bowl. Fiona got to try her hand at the kneading too.

While the dough was relaxing, Helga and I peeled and sliced apples, Granny Smiths, of course. Here is my bowl of apples. Fiona is addicted to eating the peels so we both had to work to make nice, long ones for her.

Helga cored and sliced the apples into sections while I sliced them thin on my mandoline. And, yes, if you look closely, you can see I did not use the finger guard--dangerous! But the apple pieces were just too small for the guard and I promise I was very careful. I only ended up nicking one fingernail and no slashed fingertips or knuckles. Whew--it made me nervous nonetheless because that thing is sharp.

And we needed some chopped nuts--we decided on pecans (um, it was what I had in the pantry.)

Here's the whole bowl of filling with apples, raisins, sugar and cinnamon and pecans. Simple ingredients, huh?

Now for the nerve-wracking part--the rolling of the dough. The dough came out of its seclusion a little sticky (uh-oh!) but beautifully elastic (yes!). So with a little flour on the tablecloth and on top of the dough, Helga begins to carefully roll it out working from the center to the edges.

Its getting bigger! This dough is delicate and will bake up that way too. Tears or holes can be patched but the patches will show so its best to go slowly in these rolling stages.

Wow, we're there! Look how large Helga managed to roll that dough! And nary a blemish in it either. Beautiful.

You can see that the dough is rolled so thin that its actually translucent. See Helga's fingers? Its an egg dough (no yeast) and so has a lovely silken texture.

Now to paint the dough with some melted butter. (you knew that butter had to come in somewhere, right?)

A thin layer of bread crumbs come next.

Now the apple mixture!

OK--its all on the dough now.

Quickly, I remove all the tape holding down the tablecloth and Helga slowly lifts the leading edge and causes the dough to roll itself loosely up. No hands touch the dough at this point at all.

About halfway rolled up--cool, huh?

All done! Now to slide this strudel onto the cookie sheet. Four hands make it work without tearing.

Thar she blows! (I think it looks strangely organic; almost alive. No doubt I've watched too many midnight creature features)

Before baking, a bit more butter is called for...

And here is the finished strudel. A lovely golden brown with a thin delicate dough on the outside (crispy) and the inside (melt in your mouth.) Not like the interior layers of phyllo dough in baklava that are always leathery and tough (you know they are.)

Naturally we had to try it--you can see the lovely loose layers inside.

Here's the piece of strudel I enjoyed after dinner. Heaven! Well, to be truthful, it the first of two that I consumed, ahem. Finishing options were powdered sugar to prettify it a little, or, if you are truly Viennese, a dollop of "Schlag" (whipped cream). It was so good, though that we all enjoyed it au natural.

Thanks, Helga, for sharing your knowledge, expertise and (without a doubt) love!

1 comment:

Marty From SF said...

I had no idea Strudel was so laborious! Looks delicious!