Hurricane Strudel

Well, the Frankenstorm is raging outside; in an effort to stave off cabin fever (since I’m now officially stuck home tomorrow as well), I decided to take on some projects. I replaced the buttons on the vintage cape I bought last month. And I made strudel. And I cleaned my house. Thankfully, I made strudel before I cleaned – this is not an un-messy baking project.

The reason I never made strudel before: I need an entire kitchen table to stretch the dough out, half of mine is usually full of junk mail and recipe books.  Since I have nothing but time today, though, I cleared it off and covered it up with an old sheet – in place of the recommended old tablecloth.  I only have new tablecloths.

You may notice the color above – and the pictures in this post in general – are a little off. This is because I can’t have nice things; in a fit of klutziness I dropped my nice Olympus camera on the tiled floor, and now we need to take a little trip to the camera hospital. Seriously, tile is great for kitchens – but this floor has now done in both an iPad and an Olympus. Told you I can’t have nice things.

Anyway, strudel dough is easy to pull together; it rests for 30 minutes, so I had plenty of time to recover from camera accident shock after kneading. Any remaining frustration got worked out in rolling out strudel dough.

And then in stretching out strudel dough.  I actually had to channel a lot of zen for this process – to stretch out strudel pastry, you pull it over the back of your hands, working quickly  enough that it doesn’t dry out, but carefully enough to avoid poking holes in it.

I managed to get my pastry properly translucent, but I still don’t have German granny-level pastry ninja skillz, so I wound up with sheet showing through a few spots in my dough.

It was intact enough, thankfully, to support my apple-cranberry-toasted almond filling.  And I was intact enough yesterday to remember to buy those apples; the bodega downstairs from me was insane yesterday, but it is definitely closed today.

Here’s the fun part: after spreading the pastry with butter, putting the filling down, and tucking in the side edges, you get to pick up your tablecloth (or sheet) and just roll your strudel log on up.

Roll it right onto a baking sheet – and either cut it in two, or curl it into a horseshoe, like so.

Apple-Almond-Cranberry Strudel (Serves 12) – Adapted from The NY Times Cook Book
6 tart apples, peeled and cored
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. sifted flour
2/3 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 egg plus 1 yolk, well beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
Melted butter
2 tbsp. fine breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour into a medium mixing bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the water, and stir the rest together with the oil, eggs, and salt. Pour this liquid into the flour and mix together with a wooden spoon.
2. Pull the dough together with your hands, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons of water if needed – the dough should be stiff but not overly dry. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for three minutes, until it feels smooth. Place a warm bowl or warm damp towel over the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
3. While the dough is resting, assemble the filling: toast the almonds for 2-3 minutes, until golden, slice the apples very thinly, and combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl.
4. Cover a table with an old tablecloth, pull the cloth taut, and secure it underneath (I tied it, duct tape will work too). Flour it liberally and evenly.
5. Flour your rolling pin, flatten the rested dough into a flat disc, and roll it out in an even circle. When you’ve rolled it out as far as you can with the rolling pin, use the backs of your hands, in a hand-over-hand motion, to stretch the dough until it is translucent and hangs over the sides of the table. Trim the edges of the dough with kitchen scissors, so it’s an even rectangle.
6. Brush the pastry generously with melted butter, and sprinkle it lightly and evenly with the breadcrumbs.
7. Spread the filling in a line two inches from the bottom of the rectangle. Fold those two inches over and pat it down. Fold the sides of the dough in, the length of the rectangle.
8. Pick the edge of the table cloth up under the line of filling, and roll the dough over and over itself until it forms a log.
9. Roll the log onto a parchment-covered baking sheet, form it into a horseshoe, and brush it generously with butter. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown, and serve hot.
Note: Leftover strudel can be wrapped up, frozen, and reheated later.