Friday, September 16, 2011

Strudel Dough-The Art of Fine Baking, Paula Peck

When the Art of Fine Baking was published in 1961, making pastry at home must have been somewhat mystifying. I find the instructions in this book overly fussy, but I have to remember that people weren't skipping off to the kitchen to whip up a batch of puff paste, or strudel dough-at least no one in my family was. I'm not sure what year dough in a tube showed up on supermarket shelves, but if that was the baking landscape at the time of publishing, it would certainly explain a lot. The Art of Fine Baking assumes the bakers is starting from zero knowledge.

The recipe worked, rather well at that. With practise, I might be able to stretch the dough tissue-paper thin, but the results I achieved weren't exactly heavy. I warned the boys they'll be eating a bit of strudel as I work on technique, but I don't see any reason they can't be savoury.

I improvised a filling of Seckel pears, Golden Delicious apples, raisins and cinnamon sugar. I had a loaf of soft white bread that made excellent breadcrumbs, though I question Peck's wisdom in suggesting 2/3 cup of butter to saute 2 cups of fine, white bread crumbs. I thought that was a bit overboard, and would use much less next time.

You should probably use clarified butter for basting. The recipe did not call for it, and I regret not doing it anyway. I'd go ahead and clarify at least half a pound, as it is always better to have more than you need. The dough really needed frequent basting to keep it from drying out.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups strong (bread) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons oil (I used soybean, she calls for peanut)
1/4-1/2 cup warm water
2 cups fine white breadcrumbs sauted in 2/3 cup butter (start with less and see what you think)
Extra butter for brushing strudel
4 cups filling

Place flour in a bowl. Make a well. Add salt, lemon juice, egg whites, and oil. Using your hand, mix together adding enough water to make a soft, sticky dough. Knead and beat well (I did repeated slapping against the counter along with kneading). Knead at least 15 minutes or until it is elastic and smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough, then cover with a plate. Place entire bowl into a larger bowl of very warm water. Let sit 15 minutes, turning once or twice in the bowl in that time.

Cover a table with a pastry cloth large enough to hang over the sides (I use an old flat sheet). Rub flour into the cloth, particularly in the centre. Place dough on cloth. Roll out to the size of a large handkerchief. Brush all over with oil.

Dip your fists into flour. Working with your fists under the dough (palms down) stretch from the centre outward until it is as thin as tissue paper.If it begins to dry before you have stretched it thin enough, brush the dough with oil. If it has small holes, ignore them. Let dough dry about ten minutes, but do not let it become brittle.

After the dough has dried, trim the thick edges. Brush entire surface with melted butter. Scatter with breadcrumbs. In the bottom nearest you, place a 2 inch strip of filling across. Fold over flaps of dough to right and left of filling. Brush them with butter. Lift the cloth nearest you and use it to lift the dough and flip it over on the filling. Continue this until it has rolled up. Flip onto a greased pan. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Bake 1 hour, basting at least three times . Bake until golden brown. Cool on rack, then dust with icing sugar.

No comments: