Apple Cherry Strudel (how to get paper thin pastry)

Apple cherry strudel recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I loved this Daring Bakers’ Challenge. I hadn’t made a strudel in years, not since I worked in a restaurant and had lots of space and hands to help. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever stretched strudel dough solo. When I was in culinary school we made one as a class that stretched out about 5 feet long and was nearly transparent. Never half measures at the CIA. There were at least 6 of us gingerly pulling and stretching and our instructor, Stacy Radin, was coaching us through the whole process. I think we all napped after that class!

I went into this apple cherry strudel recipe thinking I’d be lucky to come out alive, and in the end I vowed to make it often. I had a wonderful time, it went together very easily and the strudel was flaky and delicious! It is all about staying calm and allowing the dough to speak to you. Yeah, you heard me, the dough will tell you when to pull or stretch or just leave it alone! I suggest some chamomile tea, your favorite jazz CD and just have fun with 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

I used the recipe provided by the challenge and it was excellent. I only varied from the text in a few places, I’ll explain as I go along.

Apple Cherry Strudel by Rick Rodgers from Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague

Strudel dough:

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon kosher 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

Strudel Filling:

3 tablespoons raisins (I used 1/4 cup dried cherries)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided

strudel dough, rolled out to 3’x2′ rectangle (directions to follow)

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (this is something I always have on hand, I used brioche from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (my kids are in an anti-walnut phase so I left them out! ;(

2 pounds tart cooking apples, peeled and sliced thin. You want to use an apple that will keep its shape when baked. I used a combination of Granny Smith and braeburn.

To make the dough:

Apple cherry strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Combine the flour, salt, water, oil and vinegar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add more water if necessary. Mix until the dough forms a ball, it will not be smooth at this point.

Apple cherry strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is very smooth. It may not come together in one ball, but will be a few balls chasing each other around the bowl. Once it is smooth take it out, cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 30-90 minutes. I let mine sit over night in the refrigerator. Maybe I’m just used to handling dough this way, but it really worked nicely! 😉

When ready to roll out your dough and make the strudel, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the raisins (cherries) and rum in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar in another small bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden brown and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes.

Dusting and rolling apple cherry strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once your dough has rested you will need to set up a large work area with a cloth. Dust the cloth generously with flour and rub the flour into the cloth. This prevents the dough from sticking as you work it.

Apple cherry strudel dough rolled out | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I started the process by using my largest rolling pin.

Stretching strudel dough with hands | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the dough has gotten too big and too thin to use the pin you will just use your hands to finish the dough. This is where you begin to listen to the dough. Turn up that music, get another cup of tea or a glass of wine and relax!

Only use the backs of your hands and be sure to remove all of your jewelery. You will also want to wear short sleeves, because you get your arms in on the action too. Start at the short end and very gently slide your hands under the dough. Starting in the center slowly move your hands out to the edges of the dough, pulling very gently on the dough. Repeat this move over and over, moving in towards the center. Then move to the other side and repeat on that end. Do this until you have stretched every part of the dough evenly. Don’t worry about it being paper thin at this point! You just want to stretch it evenly.

Stretching strudel dough with hands | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Now you want to stretch it by holding one side down with your hand and forearm and gently stretching by pulling from underneath the dough with the other hand. You need to move slowly so that you can feel if the dough is getting so thin it might tear. If there are spots that feel thin, lighten up with your pressure.

If there are sections that get very thin, just leave them be and focus on the parts that are thicker. Remember that you are going to roll this up and even if you get several tears in your dough NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!

Stretching strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Repeat both stretching techniques until the dough measures 3’x2′ and is paper thin, or close to that.

Rubbing butter on stretched strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Using your hands gently rub the melted butter onto the entire surface of your dough. There are special pastry brushes made of feathers that are soft enough for the job, but don’t try this with a regular hair or rubber bristle brush or you will tear the dough.

Apple cherry filling on rolled out strudel dough | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the entire surface of the dough. Spread the nuts about 3 inches from the short end of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (cherries), including the rum, and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the apples over the nuts.

Rolling strudel into tight log | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Using the cloth to help you, roll the dough into a tight log.

Apple cherry strudel rolled and on a baking sheet | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Curve the strudel into a horseshoe shape to fit on the sheet pan, lined with parchment or a silpat. Tuck the ends under and coat with the remaining butter.

Baked apple cherry strudel | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake in the top 1/3 of oven for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Apple cherry strudel recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes and cut with a sharp serrated knife. The recipe says to eat the same day, but we all loved the left overs for breakfast the next day! Serve with softly whipped cream and a good cup of coffee!