Apple Strudel

Apple strudel, fresh from the oven.The most common form of strudel in North America is puff pastry filled with sticky jam or compote, the final product very similar to a turnover or a chausson.

The original strudel, the Viennese strudel, is a different beast entirely.

Austrian strudel is made with a simple dough consisting of flour, salt, water, and vegetable oil.  High protein flour is used, and the dough is mixed extensively so that there is intensive gluten development.  This allows the baker to stretch the dough until it is so thin it is almost transparent.  The expression in Austrian kitchens is that the dough should be thin enough that you could hold the dough over a newspaper and read the text through the dough.  In concept the dough is similar to phyllo, though the finished baked goods that the two doughs make differ greatly.

A dough that has been stretched so thin must be layered several times for the pastry to have any structure.  With phyllo, the baker stacks a few sheets of the dough, separating each with a layer of butter.  During baking the water content of the butter turns to steam and keep the layers of dough separate.  The butter also aids in the browning of the pastry.

With strudel a similar effect is created not by stacking sheets of dough, but by spreading butter over a single sheet and then rolling the sheet around itself a few times.  Since the dough is so delicate, the traditional method is to stretch the dough out on a table cloth, add the filling, then lift the tablecloth so that the filled pastry rolls away from the baker.

When prepared properly and eaten fresh, strudel is a very unique pastry.  I compare the preparation of the dough to phyllo, but the eating experience is completely different.  Baked phyllo is delicate like thinnly blown glass: it is brittle, and fractures if you press on it.  Strudel dough is delicate and slightly crisp, but also has a little bit of give to its structure.  It is firm and crisp but also slightly yielding and pliable.

How this preparation ended up as a puff pastry turnover, I have no idea.

 

Apple Strudel

Dough Ingredients

  • 225 g bread flour
  • 4 g kosher salt
  • 195 mL water
  • 35 mL canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Filling Ingredients

  • 900 g apple, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced into pieces not exceeding 1/4″ thickness
  • 240 g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 360 mL toasted breadcrumbs
  • 450 g unsalted butter, melted

Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with a dough hook on high speed for 10 minutes.  This is a very slack dough.  It will pool on the bottom of the mixer bowl.  After mixing, cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for several hours, or overnight.

Once you are ready to stretch the dough, rub flour into a clean tablecloth.

Stretch the dough until it is extremely thin.  The recipe above should be able to be stretched into a sheet that is 2′ x 3′.  Most bakers use the back of their hand to do this.

Stretching traditional Austrian strudel dough by hand.

The stretched dough:

The fully stretched strudel dough

Brush the entire surface with melted butter, then generously sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs.  The breadcrumbs help keep the layers of dough separate.  Lay out the apple mixture in a line along the 3′ edge closest to you.

Filling the strudel dough with toasted breadcrumbs and apples

Lift the edge of the tablecloth closest to you so that the apples fall away from you and roll themselves in dough multiple times.

The raw strudel, all rolled up.

Now you have to get this two foot long pastry onto a tray somehow.  You may need an extra set of hands to accomplish this.  You can curl or snake the strudel to fit it onto your bake sheet.

The rolled strudel on its baking tray, ready to be baked.

Bake at 425°F until the pastry is golden brown and crispy, and the apple filling is softened and started to leech sugary goodness onto the pan, about 30-40 minutes.  Dust with icing sugar.

The finished, whole strudel, ready to be cut.

Let stand to cool before cutting.  Service with whipped cream.

A piece of strudel awaiting whipped cream.

Éclairs

Another example of how to use the custards I’ve been talking about.

Come to think of it, most of the posts this advent have been short, simple introductions to basic pastry preparations: whipped cream, for instance, and ganache.  Now we can start combining some of those building blocks to make more elaborate preparations.

Take éclairs.  Éclairs are long choux pastries filled with whipped cream or pastry cream, glazed with chocolate.

We discussed choux pastry here, whipped cream here, pastry cream in this post, and ganache in this one.  Several birds, one stone.

I ate my fair share of éclairs growing up.  My dad often brought them home on Saturday mornings from the doughnut shop in the mall.  These homemade éclairs are a bit different from the ones that have to sit in a glass display case for a few hours before consumption.  The pastry stays delicate and crisp.  The pastry cream filling with all the egg yolks and butter is much, much richer than any filling you would find at a typical doughnut shop.  And the glaze is simple, dark chocolate ganache, so it is soft, without the crystalline texture of commercial fondant.

A formal recipe, of sorts.

Éclairs

Ingredients

  • this choux pastry recipe
  • this pastry cream recipe
  • 5 oz of this medium ganache

Procedure

1.  Transfer the choux pastry to a piping bag.  Pipe the batter onto a sheet pan lined with a silicon mat into pieces roughly 1″ wide by 3″ long.

Piping choux pastry to make éclairs

2.  Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake further until the pastry is golden brown, crisp, and hollow, roughly another 10 minutes.

Baking choux pastry for éclairs

3.  Transfer the pastry cream to a piping bag.  Once the pastries have cooled to room temperature, roughly 20 minutes, make a small hole in one end of each pastry by partially inserting a paring knife and twisting.  Pipe pastry cream into each pastry.

4.  Dip the top of each pastry in warm, medium ganache.  Consume immediately.

Homemade éclairs

Doughnut Revival

Homemade doughnuts: jelly-filled, cinnamon sugar, and a doughnut holeThe doughnut: an important food that for most of my life I have known only in its commercial form.  Other examples of such food include hot dogs, ketchup, and potato chips.

Until recently, every doughnut I had eaten was commercially produced.  On top of that, the only freshly-fried doughnuts I had eaten were the mini-donuts at the Calgary Stampede, and a few Krispy Kremes.

As you might expect, the homemade version is vastly superior, especially when consumed within ninety seconds of being removed from the oil.

What would a Button Soup post be without some mention of spelling or etymology?  For the longest time I assumed these pastries were originally called “doughnaughts,” as in naughts (zeroes) made out of dough, and that “doughnuts,” was just a corruption.  The logic is irresistible, but I’ve scoured all my culinary references, and it seems that all the earliest written records refer to “doughnuts.”  So the origin of the word eludes me.  Certainly, though, the increasingly common “donut” is a corruption.

 

Doughnut Varieties

Doughnuts are roughly divided into two classes.  The first is the raised doughnut, which is light, airy, and relatively large.   I’ll give you some well-known reference points.  The original glazed Krispy Kreme is a raised doughnut.  Many Tim Horton’s doughnut styles fit this category, including most of the “dips,” like maple, vanilla, and chocolate, as well as the Boston cream.  Raised doughnuts are good for stuffing with creams and jellies because the lighter dough gives way to the injected filling.  The filled doughnuts called Berliners in most of Germany, and Krapfen in Bavaria and Austria, are raised doughnuts.

The other class is the cake doughnut, which is usually richer and denser than the raised variety.  Tim Horton’s makes several kinds of cake doughnut: old fashion, sour cream glazed, double chocolate, and walnut crunch, for example.  Cake doughnuts keep longer than raised doughnuts because they have more fat.  The packaged sugared doughnuts found in convenience and grocery stores are typically cake doughnuts for that reason.

An aunt recently told me that my grandmother would occasionally make doughnuts and fry them in lard.  My father confirmed this account.  Since then I’ve had doughnuts on the brain most every day.  It’s time for a doughnut revival.

I started with a recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook.  These doughnuts walk a near perfect line between the cake and raised varieties, combining the buttery luxury I associate with cake dougnuts and the fantastic texture and flavour that results from prolonged fermentation.

A syringe full of crabapple jelly

I need 10 mL of crabapple jelly, stat.

I’ve altered the French Laundry recipe in two ways.  First, I’ve converted the unreliable American volume measurements to more consistent metric units of mass.  Second, as this dough is a good conveyance for jams and jellies, I’ve adapted the procedure to make jelly doughnuts instead of classic ring doughnuts and holes.  (The following recipe will work just fine for ring doughnuts, but the frying time would be only thirty seconds per side, instead of one minute.)

The only special tool required is a syringe.  If the nozzle of the syringe is too narrow, you might run into problems.  I had to cut mine back to increase the diameter and aid jelly flow.

 

Jelly Doughnuts
adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook

Ingredients

The Sponge:

  • 225 g water, room temperature
  • 12 g active dry yeast
  • 225 g all-purpose flour

The Dough:

  • 12 g active dry yeast
  • 90 g whole milk, room temperature
  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 130 g granulated sugar
  • 15 g kosher salt
  • 155 g egg yolks (about 9 large egg yolks)
  • 85 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Other:

  • canola oil for frying
  • granulated sugar
  • your favourite homemade jam or jelly (my favourites so far have been crabapple and rosehip)
  • icing sugar

Procedure

  1. First we make the sponge.  Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the yeast and bloom for 10 minutes.  Add the flour.  Using the dough hook, mix slowly until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.  Transfer to a bowl lightly wiped with canola oil, cover with plastic wrap, and proof until the sponge has doubled in volume, 1-2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Now we make the dough.  Add the yeast to the milk and bloom for 10 minutes.  Combine 350 g of the flour, the sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix briefly on low speed to combine, then add the milk and yeast mixture, followed by the egg yolks and butter.  Mix to combine, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the proofed sponge and the remaining 150 g flour to the mixing bowl.  Continue to mix at low speed until combined.  Turn up the speed slightly and knead the dough until it has formed a ball, cleaned the sides of the bowl, and developed a uniform, smooth consistency, about 4 minutes.  If the dough seems wet, add a few more tablespoons of flour.  Cover the bowl and let the dough proof, 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
  4. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a 1/2″ thickness. Cut out the doughnuts using a 2″ ring mold.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour.  Cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with canola oil.  At this point the doughnuts can be frozen.
  5. Proof in a warm place until the doughnuts have risen to approximately 3/4″, about 20 or 30 minutes for the fresh dough, 1 or 2 hours for the frozen dough.
  6. In a deep heavy saucepan, heat canola oil for deep-frying to 325°F.  Add a few doughnuts to the oil and cook for about 1 minute.  Flip the doughnuts and fry until cooked through and deep golden brown, roughly another minute.  Remove the doughnuts, drain briefly on paper towels, and toss in a bowl with granulated sugar.
  7. Poking the nozzle of the syringe into the side of each doughnut, inject 3 mL of jelly into the interior.  Dust profusely with icing sugar.  Consume immediately.

Crabapple jelly doughnut