Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Strudel

Don't bother me. I'm strudeling...

My first full day off in awhile. My friend Vince in Vienna hooked me up with his chef sister Barbara, who on her day off set up the perfect "how to" strudel day. It was epic. I have never strudled that hard and for that many hours before....

-Strudel Recipe-
Recipe written and taught by Chef Barbara Weissbacher

250 g flour
3 T oil
dash of vinegar
150 ml warm water
pinch of salt

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil, the vinegar and gradually the lukewarm water. Knead the dough until it's silky-smooth and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Divide the pastry in two and form into balls. Coat each ball lightly with oil (just brush on with your hands) cover and let rest for at least an hour- you can just put an upside down bowl over the top of the dough which rests on a plate-
Spread a cloth out over a table and dust well with flour. Lay a pastry ball in the center of the strudel cloth and dust with flour. Flatten the edges of the pastry ball (a "pastry hill" is left in the center of the strudel dough) then stretch the flattened edges by pulling lightly, so that "frills" are formed. Coat the backs of your hands with flour, place the pastry on the tem and carefully stretch it out by gentile stretching and pulling. Work from the center outwards. Gently stretch the dough until it has acquired more or less of a square shape and evenly translucent appearance. Cut off the thick edges and coat the pastry with melted butter. Spread desired filling over one third of the thin pastry. With help from the cloth, fold the sides of the pastry inward. Then from the filling side of the pastry, roll the pastry over itself. Place strudel with seam-side down on a covered sheet pan (use only the cloth to fold and pick up, not your hands.) Brush with melted butter and bake at 200 C (375 F) for 30 minutes.

Fillings such as classic apple, with cinnamon and toasted bread crumbs. Caramelized cabbage and ham, fresh strawberries on top of velvety curds, scented with vanilla and lemon zest. Sour cherries from her uncles farm. And anything in between...

Traditional strudel dough is stretched, by hand, on a strudel cloth. Your chosen "strudel cloth" is one that should be at least 3x the size of your desired strudel, and should be of a flexible/fairly thin fabric. Also, your strudel cloth should not be washed during strudel season. This seasons the cloth, if you will, keeping it floured and ready for any and all strudelling needs...... how many times could I possible say the word, strudel, in one paragraph!?

Pulling the dough delicately with soft tips of your fingers or knuckles from the middle out, making it thin and velvety. There is just something so sultry about pulling soft dough with floured hands. This is a kitchen meditation to me, and I can do it for hours and hours.
It is said that you should be able to read a newspaper, or preferably a love letter, through the dough. Seems I am fresh out of love letters at the moment.... but will surely get right on it for next time!
Reading through a stain glass strudel dough sounds awfully romantic though.

France has the Pastis. Morocco and Spain have the Pastilla. Borek in Turkey...... and Austria has the strudel.

Best eaten the day you make it. Warm out of the oven, crisp and flacky pastry dough. At that moment in time, there was no where else on the planet I would rather be than at that table, with those people, and a plate of incredible fresh strudel. A highlight to my short life in Vienna, and the strudel cloth that was given to me by Barbara at the end of our day together, will be caring on the essence of Austria that my day of Studeling created.

Till we meet again, Vienna.....
Off to the Amalfi coast to eat lemons, swim in grottos off Capri, and test out my sea legs for cooking in a galley of a sailboat. xo -A

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