Strudel – The Old Fashioned Way!

Way back in October Cheryl and I attended a hands-on strudel making demonstration at Dank Haus (German-American cultural center here in Chicago).  When we lived in Washington DC Cheryl used to get strudel from Heidelberg Pastry Shop in Arlington (they’d also have grilled sausages on the weekends which were great after my men’s league soccer matches) so we decided to see how to make it firsthand.  At the demo we made apple, sweet potato, cheese, and butternut squash strudels.  The tricky part, of course, is the dough.  You’ve got to get it paper-thin without tearing.  I was really intrigued by this demo since I’d heard stories of my Hungarian great-grandmother making strudel and how she’d spread a huge cloth on the dining room table, flour it, and pull the dough out in a huge sheet.  The demo was great and I’m keeping my eye on their event list because they also have a sausage making demo over the winter. 

With this knowledge we figured we’d kick off the Christmas baking season by trying our hand at making some strudel.  As long as we got the dough right how hard could it be?  Well we got the dough right and even though it wasn’t perfectly stretched our first attempt at it came out pretty good.  Pretty tasty too.  Cheryl is most definitely a better dough stretcher than I am.  She’s got way smaller hands and fingers.  Sorry for the lack of pulling dough pics, we needed all our hands for that!  I think this is one recipe you need to practice practice practice.

The dough recipe that follows is enough to make 4-5 strudels.  The edges you tear off when pulling the dough can be saved to make a 5th one.  That dough will be a lot tougher to pull.  When we made ours the other night we halved the dough recipe and made 3 (2 + 1 with the leftover edge dough).  Once the dough was ready it didn’t take that long to make the three strudels.  The most time spent on this was waiting for the dough and baking time.  The pics are all from the third one we did so it was a little smaller.

Traditional Strudel “Ziehstrudel” (from Linda Mueller)

Prep work

  • 1 C plain bread crumbs
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 1 C raisins
  • Rum or whiskey

Toast your bread crumbs in the butter until medium brown.  Set aside.  Soak raisins in rum or whiskey.

Dough – This will make enough dough for 4 strudels

  • 4 C all purpose four
  • ½ Tbs salt
  • 4 tsp canola oil (plus some extra for coating plates and drizzling on dough)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 2/3 C warm water
  • 1/8 tsp vinegar

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl of Kitchen Aid mixer and mix using dough hook on #4 for 3 minutes.  Remove sticky dough to floured board and with floured hands knead gently.  Grease 4 small plates with oil.  Divide dough into 2 disk shapes and place on oiled plates.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350-375

Make your filling

Apple Filling ingredients (the following should be enough for 2)

  • 10 medium-sized granny smith apples, peeled cored and sliced into ¼” wide slices
  • ½ of the soaked raisins
  • Cinnamon and sugar to taste

Combine ingredients in bowl and set aside.

Sweet Potato Filling ingredients (should be enough for 2)

  • 4 large sweet potatoes peeled and grated
  • Remainder of the raisins
  • Cinnamon and sugar to taste
  • Take a handful of the apples and mix in

Combine ingredients in bowl and set aside

Put a ¼-½ C of canola oil in a small saucepan and warm the oil on the stove.

Pulling the dough and filling

You will need an old table-cloth that is smooth, one that will cover an area of at least 28”x28” on a table or board.  We didn’t have one so we used a large kitchen towel to make some smaller sized strudels.

Dust the cloth with copious amounts of flour.  Take off all jewelry, rings, watches and flour your hands well.  Take one dough disk and place in the middle of floured cloth.

Begin carefully pulling the edges of the dough evenly around all sides.  You will want to stretch it to the edges of your cloth/table.  This example is pretty impressive.  We made ours much smaller!

When you have your dough stretched out (thin enough to read a newspaper) into a large square or rectangle pull the thick edge off.  Save this.  You can make an extra strudel with it later.

Using a pastry brush drizzle some warm oil onto the dough.  Sprinkle a layer of the toasted bread crumbs onto the dough. 

Pick the best looking end of the dough and place a 2” wide row of squeezed out handfuls of the apple filling about 4” from the back edge and leave yourself a couple inches on each side.

Leave room along the edges when putting your filling in

Picking up the cloth, flip the back edge over the filling.  Now flip both sides in.  Using the cloth flip/roll the filling over on itself.  Drizzle with some more oil.  Flip/drizzle until you reach the end. Keep flippin'

Place the strudel seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.Ready for the oven

Repeat with the second dough disk.  If you want to make a third with the pile of edge scraps you can.

The scraps one will be tougher to pull, you may have to roll it out a little with a rolling pin and then pull.

Put strudels in oven and cook for 1 hour.  You can baste with some butter or oil a couple times if you want to.

The finished product!

Allow to cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  They turned out well and tasted good.  We didn’t overdo it with the sugar and cinnamon so the tartness of the apples remained.  Next time we may have to try it the way the women in the video did!

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