Thursday, December 11, 2014

Apple Strudel: Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge 14, Fear Factor

Apple Strudel

The Challenge
Fear Factor (November 30 - December 13)
What foods have you always wanted to attempt, but were afraid to attempt to make - or afraid to eat? Choose a dish that is either tricky to create or nerve-wracking to eat, and get adventurous! It’s historical Fear Factor!

I chose Apple Strudel because I have always thought the the recipe to make the dough seemed to be really time-consuming and hard to make.  The dough needs to be rolled and stretched on a large table (countertops are too small) until it is as thin as possible. This has always been fear-inducing to me, especially because I have never known anyone to make it and had no past experience with this kind of a dough.  As it turns out, I was right to be afraid of this recipe!!!

The Recipe

Apple Strudel
"Aunt Babette." "Aunt Babette's" Cook Book: Foreign and Domestic Receipts for the Household: A Valuable Collection of Receipts and Hints for the Housewife, Many of Which Are Not to be Found Elsewhere. Cincinnati: Bloch Pub. and Print. co., c. 1889 

Take about one pint of flour, sift it into a bowl, make a hole in the center of the flour, pour in it gradually one cup of lukewarm water, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of butter or goose fat. Stir this slowly, making a nice smooth dough of it and adding a little more flour if necessary. Cover up the dough and set it in a warm place until you have pared half a peck of apples, and cut them very fine in the following manner: Pare, quarter and take out cores and seeds, and cut or rather shave them very fine. Now cover your kitchen table with a clean tablecloth, sift flour all over it and roll out your dough as thin as possible. Now use your hands, placing them under the rolled dough and stretch it gently, very gently, so as not to tear it, walking all around the table as you do this, to get it even and thin as tissue paper. Pour a few tablespoonfuls of melted butter or goose oil over the dough; next the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. Now take hold of the tablecloth with both hands, about a yard apart, and begin to roll the strudel (it will roll itself almost--just lift the cloth high
enough). Now butter or grease a large cake-pan, hold it up to the edge of the table and dump in the strudel. Bake a nice brown, basting often with butter or goose oil.

Modern Recipe Adaptation

To Make the Dough
3 2/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Lukewarm Water
12 Tablespoons Melted Butter, Divided

To Make the Filling
8 Large Apples (Peeled, Cored, Seeded, and Cut in Thin Slices)
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Raisins
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice

1. Using an electric stand-up mixer, mix together the flour, salt, warm water, and just 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Mix until all of the ingredients come together into a soft, pliable dough that is not sticky.  This mixing/kneading process can take as long as 10 minutes so keep at it until the dough is soft and smooth. Start off using a paddle attachment to mix all of the ingredients; then switch to a dough hook for the rest of the mixing/kneading process.

2. When finished mixing, set the dough aside and let it rest for 15 minutes. This is very important because if the dough doesn't rest you won't be able to roll and stretch it too much without it breaking.

Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

3. While the dough is mixing, prepare the apples:  
Mix together the prepared apples with the brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and lemon juice.  Cover and set aside until needed.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F.  Line a jelly roll pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

5. Time to Roll and Stretch: 
  • Cover a table with a tablecloth and sprinkle flour on it; lay the ball of rested dough in the center:  
Floured tablecloth ready for
working the dough.

  • Roll the dough on the cloth until it starts to get very large.

  • Keep rolling until the dough starts to get really thin and covers a large portion of the table surface:
Roll and stretch as much as you can
without the dough ripping.

  • You can allow the dough to lay off the side of the table to allow gravity to help stretch it:

  • While it is impossible not to tear the dough, don't over roll and stretch it if it a lot of tears start to occur.

6.  After the dough is fully stretched, brush the entire top of it with melted butter:

Brushing the dough with melted butter.

7.  Spread the prepared apples off to one side of the dough:

Lay apples off to one side of the rolled dough.

8.  Roll the dough around the apples.  Make sure to brush all surfaces of the dough with the melted butter.  Use the tablecloth to help roll up the strudel.

Brush all dough surfaces with melted butter.
Brushing the dough with the butter is very important!

Use the tablecloth to help roll up the strudel.

9.  Place on the prepared sheet and cut slits in the top to allow the steam to vent.

Ready for the oven!

10.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Cool 15 minutes before slicing.

Date/Year and Region
American (Ohio)/Late 19th century

How Did You Make It?
Because I had no prior experience with making a strudel dough, I did a lot of research to see the best proportions of ingredients and to find a good procedure. I tried to follow the recipe as much as I could based on the research that I found. You can follow the steps I took as described above. Of course, I used a modern electric stand-up mixer and oven. Therefore, not quite the most historic procedure.

Time to Complete
This is where the patience factor came into play.  It took all morning (about three hours) to make the strudel.  But the smells wafting from the oven made it worth it!

Total Cost
About $6 for the apples; I had everything else.

How Successful Was It?
While  the filling tastes really good, the crust was a bit tough and the dough could have been a lot thinner. I would definitely try this recipe again using a modern recipe, and I would try to make the dough even thinner, if possible!  I would also cook it for less time; I cooked it for 1 hour but I think 45 minutes would be better to prevent the outer crust from getting too crunchy.

How Accurate is it? 
I really have no idea as I have never had homemade strudel before!


  1. Here are some tips from one who's a) seen her grandma make strudel before, b) has already made several strudels herself, following c) a very nice thorough modern cookbook.

    1) Don't use all-purpose flour, use fine / pastry / whatever other name you can get it under in your neck of the woods: more gluten = well-behaved dough that you can stretch really thin. (Also, it helps to go by weight rather than cups in this case, except that I don't know how much your recipe would call for in weight...)
    2) The advice to cover and set aside in a warm place is also important. My clever cookbook suggests boiling water in a pot and covering the dough with the pot: two birds with one stone. (I presume the boiling of water is to assure the pot is really thoroughly warmed up, not just lukewarm.) As you said, setting it aside helps the dough behave, but covering it and really keeping it warm speeds it up considerably.
    3) You are not supposed to put all the filling in one place like that: you spread it evenly over the dough, keeping the edges clear cca 1-2 inches. Fold one end over the filling, roll up, close up the other edges. That way, you get thin layers of dough with yummy layers of apple filling in between. And no tough dough (except usually at the edges).
    Also, the recipes I know don't call for vents, instead they tell you to add a thin layer of breadcrumbs after you butter the dough and before you add the filling. The breadcrumbs soak up the moisture, but - I presume - when you keep the steam in like that, it actually becomes airier.
    4) When the original recipe says "basting often with butter", it really means often, during the baking, not just that one time before you put it into the oven. That way, it's not too dry and flaky. (Warning: it eats up LOTS of butter.)

    I hope this helps! I've still had trouble stretching it evenly, but otherwise, sticking to those steps, even as a complete strudel novice I managed a really nice one. And it only gets better afterwards. :-) It really is time consuming, but when you get the hang of it, it's totally worth it.

    1. Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


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