Amateur Hour Baking: A Tale of Two Strudels

It seems that many of us have taken to the kitchen more than usual in these strange, Covid quarantine days. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cooking, trying out new things, and cleaning up the kitchen nearly non-stop.

The first weekend in, I spent in a South Tyrol-influenced bakeathon. Like many of social media accounts, the official ST Instagram account has switched over from “come visit us!” posts to, “stay home and experience South Tyrol through pictures and food until you can come visit us at some indeterminate point of time in the future!” posts. For the best, of course, but it did lead us into the dangerous territory of too much dessert.

When this recipe for Apfelstrudel popped up in my feed, I immediately grabbed a screenshot and decided it was time to give Strudel another shot. It’s been ages since I made the peach brie variety, and making a decent Strudel is undoubtedly a life goal I aim to accomplish. To the kitchen!

I began by whipping together my dough. About halfway through, it occurred to me to check and see what I had done last time, following the Classic German Baking method. This pastry dough was completely different to that one, but as my bowl was already chock full of butter and such, I pressed on.

I had started with butter that was already quite soft, so my dough was as well. It was less kneading, more mixing, but I hoped that some time in the fridge would firm it up well enough.

While that was in the fridge, I got to work on the filling. Naturally the recommended apples for this recipe would come from South Tyrol itself, but we settled for German apples of unknown origins, because the little signs at our local Tante-Emma-Laden are less than legible. I whipped together the apples, whatever quantity of pine nuts we still had, and threw in some cranberries as raisins were nowhere to be found in the drawer.

Filling prepared, I pulled the pastry dough out of the refrigerator and got to rolling. It was… slightly firmer but it quickly became apparent that I should have mixed the butter and sugar a bit better before throwing in the other ingredients. Besides a dollop or two of butter in my rolled-out pastry, it was still entirely too soft and I soon realized that there was no way to get it any thinner while also being able to fold it over the filling.

Finally I did get it rolled out to approximately the size recommended in the recipe, 25x35cm, and started to pour on the apple mixture. A problem quickly became apparent.

After reconsulting CGB, I think there may have been a slight conversion error. All the recipes in that book recommend closer to 25×35 inches, not centimeters. But even if I hadn’t already piled my apples on, there was no way that my sticky, sticky dough was going to get that big. Not a chance. So what to do? Call it a tart!

The filling was good, and the pastry itself was quite good. Of course it was too thick for the filling where I had folded it over, but I was in general pleased with the flavor.

But I still had nearly half the filling and what to do with that? I considered a few options, but in the end, I decided that I did not want to be defeated by this damn Strudel. I could have just gone on with the CGB pastry recipe, but I did really like the buttery sugary crust of this tart, so I headed back to the internet to source a likely-sounding replacement. Happily, South Tyrol came through for me again when I found this recipe for Apple Strudel with a Shortcrust Pastry.

The amounts of sugar, butter, and flour were much more reasonable sounding, but I did also switch out the vanilla sugar for bourbon vanilla and added lemon zest as in the first recipe. I also opted to do the smart thing and whip together the (colder this time) butter and sugar before adding the other ingredients… no butter pockets today!

At the end, I had a lovely pastry dough, not a hint of stickiness. I did give it some time in the fridge again, just in case, and then got to rolling. Lo and behold, I managed to get it to a much more impressive size, with nary a hint of sticky!

I retrieved the filling from the fridge and piled it on. Wait… could it be that now I don’t have enough? It was looking a little thin, so I pulled another two apples out of the pantry and quickly chopped those up to add in. A few minutes later, it was time to wrap and roll, with BV’s assistance.

It was a fairly secure package, but it was rather large and unwieldy, so his long arms were very helpful here. Between the two of us, we got it curled onto the baking sheet and bathed in egg yolk. Another 45 minutes, and we had a house of delicious smells and  this thicc boi.

I was sorely missing a bit of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream, but this really worked out much better on day two. I do think more filling would’ve been good as well, so I think if I used this pastry recipe again with the full amount of filling the recipe yielded originally, it would’ve been nearly perfect. Possibly immovable, but the ratio would’ve been better anyway.

Note to self: brush up on food photo skills. As you can see,the filling was a bit thin, but so was that top crust… thin and gloriously crisp and flaky. If anyone wants to give their own Apfelstrudel a try, give the link above a shot. Just try not to get distracted by all the other delicious things on that website. Ahhhhhh…. Strudel and dumplings and Vinschgauer, oh my.

For the time being though, it’s vicarious travel through food and photos. Hopefully, we can get back to South Tyrol sooner rather than later. Happy, and healthy, with any luck. Stay inside if you can. Bake stuff if you want. It helps…  or at least for me it does.

 

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