This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was like a dream come true. I’d been thinking about and planning to learn how to stretch real strudel dough for years. But it always seemed quite time consuming and a bit intimidating. With phyllo dough readily available as a substitute, I’d never attempted the real thing. If I had only known how easy it was! The dough recipe by Rick Rodgers from his wonderful “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” was a little miracle, an absolute pleasure to work with. I managed to stretch the dough effortlessly to the required size, without making a single hole. The whole process of rolling and pulling of the dough took me about five minutes the most. Thank you, Courtney of Coco Cooks  and Linda of make life sweeter!  – this month’s hosts, for choosing the wonderful recipe for the challenge. It is such a useful skill to acquire. And yes, it was worthy of clipping freshly manicured nails.
As for the strudel filling, I roasted a large pineapple in a mixture of rum, pureed caramelized bananas, ginger and chile flakes (Sherry Yard’s fabulous idea) first. Then I thinly sliced the pineapple and piled it over some toasted coconut spread over the pulled dough. I topped the pineapple with goat cheese pastry cream. The goat cheese I used was fresh, unripened and very delicately flavored, not strong or offensive at all. And for serving, I quickly whipped a fresh mango sauce. The dessert tasted pretty spectacular.
I made a savory strudel as well. There’s, unfortunately, no picture to show since it was baked for a late dinner and there was no daylight for a decent photo to take. The filling was nothing extraordinary, I just utilized every bit of leftovers sitting in my fridge (mostly spinach and baby potatoes, some feta and olives, sautéed onion and garlic, fresh herbs). I didn’t brush the stretched dough with melted butter this time. Instead, I sprayed it with extra-virgin olive oil. I also didn’t sauté fresh bread crumbs in butter as I did for the sweet strudel earlier. I substituted them for Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs. It cut calories down and substantially reduced cholesterol intake. The strudel was as flaky and crispy as the first one.
Makes 1 large strudel, about 12 servings
For the filling:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup;114g) unsalted butter, divided
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- ¾ cup toasted unsweetened coconut, divided
For the pineapple filling (adapted from Sherry Yard):
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large bananas, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp dark rum
- ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Tiny pinch of salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dark rum
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 ¼-inch-thick slices peeled fresh ginger
- Pinch of Thai chile flakes or hot red pepper flakes
- 1 large pineapple, peeled, quartered, and cored
- 4 dry vanilla bean halves (saved from previous use) or 1 vanilla bean, split and quartered
For the goat cheese pastry cream:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp cornstarch, sifted
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 oz creamy fresh unripened goat cheese
- 2 tbsp whole milk yogurt
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into about ½-tbsp pieces
For the mango sauce:
- 1 large ripe mango, peeled, flesh cut into large chunks
- 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
For the dough (adapted from Rick Rodgers):
- 1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
- About 2 tbsp Demerara sugar for sprinkling over the rolled strudel
Make the filling:
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook while stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely. Set aside until needed.
Make the pineapple filling:
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 375F.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat until the solids separate, sink to the bottom, and begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. When the butter is a dark golden color, add the sugar and brown sugar and stir until dissolved, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the bananas and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, or until the bananas are softened and caramelized. Remove from the heat and carefully add the rum, lemon juice, and salt. Place the pan back over low heat and cook for 1 minute more.
Remove from the heat and puree in a food processor.
In a medium bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the banana puree, water, rum, sugar, ginger, and chile flakes. Set aside for a moment.
Place the pineapple quarters into a large baking pan (a glass 9×13-inch Pyrex pan works). Poke or push the vanilla bean pieces into the flesh of the pineapple. The dry ones will be stiff enough to go in on their own, but for a fresh bean, you may need to poke the holes with a paring knife. Pour the banana-rum mixture over the pineapple.
Bake for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until the juices are bubbly and the outside of the pineapple is lightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Now you can proceed with the recipe or store the pineapple in the liquid, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
About an hour before filling the strudel, remove the pineapple from the marinade. Pat-dry the pineapple with paper towels, cut each quarter in half lengthwise, and then slice thinly. Place into a colander set over a bowl and let drain.
Make the goat cheese pastry cream:
Prepare an ice bath.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to a boiling point, stirring often. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together; whisk until combined. Temper the egg mixture by whisking a little bit of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered egg mixture. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan and place the pan over the medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture returns to the boil. Keep whisking energetically for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat) until the custard is thick as lightly whipped cream. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the goat cheese, followed by the yogurt, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a clean bowl. Check the temperature of the pastry cream (now it should be about 140F – a perfect time for incorporating the butter). Whisk the butter into the pastry cream, one piece at a time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next portion. Place the bowl with the pastry cream into the ice-water bath to continue cooling. Stir the cream occasionally to prevent a skin forming, until it has completely cooled. Pres plastic wrap directly over the pastry cream surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 2-3 days).
Make the mango sauce:
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove tough fiber. Refrigerate until serving time (up to a couple of days).
Make the dough, fill and bake the strudel:
Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry; add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to an oiled plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with a table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with pizza wheel or scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, or in a glass bowl in a microwave, melt the remaining butter. Skim the foam.
Very gently brush about 4 tablespoons of the melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough; you could also use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough evenly with the bread crumbs. Spread ½ cup of toasted coconut about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip, leaving a 2-inch uncovered border on each long side. Spread the sliced and drained pineapple over the coconut. Top the pineapple with the goat cheese pastry cream. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of coconut over the pastry cream.
Fold the two 2-inch edges of the dough in toward the center over the filling, and then fold the bottom edge of the dough up over the filling. Now lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter leaving any milk solids in the bottom of the saucepan. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the top.
Bake the strudel for about 35-40 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked. But the leftovers can be recrisped and rewarmed in 350F oven for about 10-12 minutes before serving.
- The ingredients are cheap so it’s recommend to make a double batch of the dough for the first time, that way you can practice the pulling and stretching of the dough with the first batch and if it doesn’t come out like it should, you can use the second batch to give it another try;
- The tablecloth can be cotton or polyester;
- Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, get rid of long nails, and wear short-sleeves;
- To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
- Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making the holes (most of them) invisible.