Daring Bakers Challenge : Strudel

(Reinterpreting the strudel, with warm cinnamon apple and vanilla custard)

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.

I have strange obsessions with certain words, and strudel is one of them. It’s an almost comical word that sounds like it was conceived by a stroppy noodle. Strudel = stroppy noodle = a thin man with a sharp chin, angry skin and raisin eyes. But the word also conjures up romantic images in my mind of sepia-toned cafes in Vienna that I will one day visit. To visit, and have a wedge of sachertorte or apfelstrudel, washed down with delicate porcelain cups of tea. Afterwards, a quick word to the waistcoated waiter for Die Rechnung, bitte, followed by a stroll down snow-covered cobbled streets.

In the lesser rose-tinted corner, strudel also reminds me of the word patience, of which I have none. I recall making strudel pastry several years ago, and watching in dismay as little holes in my pastry bloomed into massive ones. The rips ran just like stockings do, and there was no equivalent little dab of nail polish that was going to solve this problem. The holes were even big enough for a camel to walk through. In fact, not only did a camel walk through one of them, but he even turned back and looked at me disdainfully.

So, I approached this month’s challenge with some apprehensiveness. Fortunately it also occured to me that I could reinterpret the strudel-eating experience to make life easier for myself. The result is an apple compote with a warm caramelised vanilla custard, hidden beneath shards of strudel pastry, and a few rum soaked raisins on the side. I stretched the pastry in small batches, so there was less tearing. The pastry was brushed with butter and dusted with icing sugar, cinnamon, and chopped walnuts, before being baked in the oven until crisp.

The warm vanilla custard recipe comes from Crème Brûlée by Dominique and Cindy Duby. In this unusual recipe, the custard is set with the help of gelatine and agar and is capable of being cut, then heated in the oven until warm, before being bruleed. The overall effect, as the fork comes crashing down on the strudel layer to reveal warm, nutty, spicy, apple and vanilla flavours, mimics the strudel experience. It also tastes just like a normal strudel.

(Mini banana strudels with caramel, chocolate sauce and peanuts)

In case my version of strudel above didn’t count, I also made some mini banana strudels, following Claudia Fleming’s recipe in The Last Course. After stretching the pastry, I divided it into small squares, and proceeded with the recipe given below, forming little banana parcels. Still warm from the oven, these parcels were delicious with caramel and chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts.

Strudel dough :
(from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers)

200 g unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
105 ml water, plus more if needed
30 ml vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

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.

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).

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, 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.

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 used.

Banana-Pecan Strudels :
(yields 4 servings, from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming)

2 sheets phyllo dough, thawed [I used strudel pastry as made above]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons icing sugar [I added some cinnamon to this as well]
4 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans [I used peanuts]
1 medium-ripe banana, sliced lengthwise in quarters
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Brush 1 phyllo sheet with some of the melted butter. Sift 2 tablespoons of the icing sugar evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons of the nuts. Cut the phyllo sheet in half lengthwise. Place one quarter of the banana along a short edge of each phyllo half. Starting with the short end, tightly roll up the banana in the phyllo. When you get almost to the end, dab a little bit of honey along the edge to help seal the package [Note : This is not necessary when using the freshly made strudel pastry]. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Just before baking, brush the tops of the strudels with more of the melted butter and place them seam-side down on a baking sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper or a nonstick liner). Bake until strudels are golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

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  1. Susan said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 1:15 am

    Good Lord! That’s one heck of a beautiful interpretation! I am overwhelmed!

  2. Veron said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 1:23 am

    Oh..my…God!!! Cinnamon apple and vanilla custard in one dessert…please shoot me now!

  3. Chez US said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 1:23 am

    Brilliant! Brilliant! I love this idea and it is outstanding – fantastic job!!

    I wish I could have a piece with my coffee right now!

  4. Vera said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    Awesome, Y!

  5. Ria said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 2:03 am

    Stunner!! I can think of no other word to suit your creation!! 🙂 J

  6. Jenna @ Newlyweds said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 2:08 am

    Love your interpretations of the strudel! Great job

  7. Jen Yu said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 2:16 am

    Girl! You really know how to do it right. I love both versions of your strudel. My word, you are such a creative inspiration, my dear. That first one is *awesome*. xxoo

  8. Shellyfish said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 2:42 am

    I so love your deconstructed and reconstructed versions of the strudel! You’re really full of inspiration. I need to try those minis – I think they would be as fun to eat as they would be to make.

  9. Lisa is Bossy said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 6:02 am

    What I would give to take a spoonful of that creme brulee and apple compote – you have me sold, and I don’t usually love appley things either! I love your creativity and the little banana, chocolate, caramel strudels are making me swoon in my office. I just finished lunch – definitely time for some sweets! Beautiful photos!!

  10. Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    Wow, I am absolutely blown away, Y! I must, must try that warm set custard. It sounds and looks utterly amazing.

  11. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 9:39 am

    Hubby is laughing heartily now. He suggested that I make banana strudel and I poopoohed it! However in my defence I didn’t think to do delicate batons like you have. More a hulking great big strudel.

  12. kellypea said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 9:47 am

    Absolutely fabulous! Totally agreed on the word “strudel” and we’ve been muttering “glockenschtroodle” for a week because of it, cracking up each time one of us mentions it. Easily entertained, I guess. The creme brulee version sounds fabulous, and the banana has me swooning. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Zoë Fançois said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 9:49 am

    Fantastic! What a wonderful interpretation of the strudel. Both forms are gorgeous!

  14. Juliana said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 10:27 am

    WOW, looks great! Very creative…love the pictures! Creme brulee…love it! Congratulations for such a nice work.

  15. art and lemons said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 10:39 am

    Utterly amazing, both the photos and strudels.

  16. Dana McCauley said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Y, you are a deconstruction dessert diva! Very well done indeed.

  17. Sophie said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

    My dear Y, Yesterday I gave you an award: please come over @ my foodblog & come to pick it up!! Why?? Because you deserve it!!

  18. gine said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

    Looks great :-). Love the mini-ones :-)!! XOXO

  19. Anita said,

    May 28, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

    I love your take on the strudel – for both of your designs. I could definitely eat a couple of the mini banana ones at the moment 🙂

  20. Laura said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 12:09 am

    Y, those mini strudels look amazing, chocolate and bananas, oh my!

    I have The Last Course too and love it.

    Great job as usual!

  21. jillian said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 12:41 am

    So beautiful and creative! I really love the mini ones!

  22. Natalie said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 2:17 am

    Simply glorious reinterpretation. I love the small banana strudels with all the yummy drizzled chocolate. Great job on your pictures too!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  23. clumbsycookie said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 3:04 am

    The little strudels are adorable but the strudel dessert has such charm! So creative of you!

  24. Jenny Tan said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 7:01 am

    Oh boy, those looks so delicious!!! Wish I could taste them! 😉

  25. Lauren said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

    Yum!! I love what you did with the strudels =D. Your pictures are beautiful!!

  26. cakebrain said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

    Zowee! your pics are gorgeous! You have elevated strudel in my eyes!

  27. Manggy said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

    Your reinterpretation leaves everyone in the dust. That is seriously out of this world, Y. And you are a pastry genius of the highest caliber 🙂

  28. lisa (dandysugar) said,

    May 30, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    Wow, gorgeous unique creations! I love those little banana strudels- your ideas are so genius! Beautiful photos!

  29. Dimah said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 1:28 am

    Wow! beautiful, that’s all I can say!

  30. cathy x. said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 1:40 am

    wow 79 comments! that’s impressive! nice strudel too by the way 😛
    kaffeehaus is such a good book. i bought breadcrumbs just so i could make a cake (some time in the near future i hope)

  31. Elyse said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 5:15 am

    As much as I love your mini-strudels, I ADORE your deconstructed strudel. What a gorgeous presentation and a fabulous looking dessert. So genius! I have little patience, too, so I’m not sure how well I would fair working with strudel dough (especially when there’s no “nail polish” fix for the holes).

  32. anjelikuh said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 6:37 am

    The vanilla custard idea is genius!! Your patience surely paid off 😀

  33. Thip said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 7:01 am

    The first presentation looks really cool, Y. 🙂

  34. Y said,

    May 31, 2009 @ 8:25 am

    Just wanted to say thanks to all for the comments/feedback! I haven’t had time to check out everyone’s DB masterpieces yet, but will eventually!

    Linda : Yes on both counts. The agar can withstand higher temperatures than the gelatine.

    Sophie : Thank you so much for the award! x

    theprojectivist : The McD apple pie used to be a favourite childhood snack. Haven’t touched it since, but I fond memories of that crispy crust and goey filling.

    Lorraine : I wouldn’t have thought of doing a banana one either, if not for Claudia Fleming.

  35. Holly said,

    June 6, 2009 @ 11:03 am

    Simply amazing!

  36. Jude said,

    June 9, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    Fantastic presentation. The last thing I expected to see in a strudel post is a neatly sliced cube!

  37. marvellous said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    Even without the brilliant photographs your writing perfectly captures the dish. I love the stroppy noodle/ strudel and man with raisin eyes image!! Stellar!

  38. Roses R Red said,

    June 19, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

    Those strudels look fantastic! What I would do for one of those right now…
    This is my first time visiting your blog and I have to tell you how much I adore your photos. What lovely ways you present your dishes. They all look scrumptious 🙂


  39. Laura said,

    July 9, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    Wow!! Amazing pictures and such incredibly creative ideas. I love the idea of seperating out the strudel shell from the apple (no getting soggy). I also love the crisp geometry of the apple under the randomly shaped shards of strudel crust.

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