Strudel is a delicious dessert made from high gluten flour, stretched thin over a filling. Many people associate strudel with western European companies like Germany and Austria where it has been enjoyed for hundreds of years but strudel was born from traditional Turkish baklava when it was introduced into Austria during the mid 15th century.
Attempting to make strudel for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. But if you are an adventurous baker there are several tips to keep in mind if you want to try to make homemade strudel on your own. There are several steps to making strudel that makes strudel what it is. Without these steps strudel wouldn’t be strudel.
The first thing that a baker needs to know before buying ingredients to make strudel is to look for high gluten flour. Gluten is needed to give strudel dough its elasticity. Strudel dough is stretched so thin over filling; sometimes so thin it may appear translucent. Not just any type of flour will give you this elasticity.
The second thing a baker needs to know in order to make authentic strudel is that kneading the dough is the key to giving gluten flour its elasticity. When you make strudel for the first time you may feel as if you just worked out on a punching bag. In order to make thin dough you may need to punch and knead dough for up to 20 minutes.
Recipe for Authentic Strudel Dough
1 1/3 C high gluten flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ C water
2 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
In a large stand mixer mix flour and salt.
Mix water, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add to flour mixture.
Mix in stand mixer until a soft dough forms. You may add more water if necessary. Once a soft dough is formed change beaters to dough hooks and mix on medium speed until a dough ball forms and the sides of the bowl are clean.
Remove dough ball from mixer and rotate punching and kneading the dough ball for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of kneading place dough ball in a bowl, cover and set aside while you prepare your filling.
Once filling is prepared your dough needs to be worked with to stretch it. Take your dough ball out of its bowl and knead it for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then you want to place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it as thin as you can possibly get it. Rolling strudel dough works best if you have a large area such as a table or a kitchen island where you can roll out the dough.
Your strudel dough needs to be rolled until it is just millimeters thick. Try to roll it into a square if you can. A dough square 2 feet by 2 feet is a good goal. If your dough still isn’t thin enough roll until it is almost transparent.
Your dough is now ready to be filled and baked.
Here is a traditional recipe for authentic apple strudel (Apfelstrudel):
¼ C golden raisins
1/2 T cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 stick of melted butter
½ C brown sugar
½ C walnuts or slivered almonds
2 lbs tart apples (baking apples), cored, peeled and diced
strudel dough prepared (see recipe above)
Mix raisins, apples, nutmeg and cinnamon together and set aside.
Using a pastry brush coat your strudel dough with melted butter.
Cover strudel dough with nuts.
Cover nuts with apple mixture.
Starting at the left roll your strudel dough into a roll.
Trim the ends.
Place your roll on a parchment lined baking sheet. You may choose to leave it in a log, make a horseshoe shape or make a circle.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until your strudel is golden brown and bubbling in the center. Serve warm.
Today many bakers choose to substitute traditional strudel dough with phyllo dough or premade pie crust. This may be because strudel dough can be difficult to prepare but keep in mind if your goal is to make authentic strudel using a substitute is nothing like the real thing. Thin, transparent dough is what makes strudel.
Apple strudel is the most popular kind of strudel. Many other types of fruits are also enjoyed in strudel as well but authentic recipes may include different kinds of nuts and seeds, dates, and figs. Savory strudels may be enjoyed as a dinner meal. Vegetables and meats may be baked in a strudel. In Germany and other western European countries blood sausage is often baked into strudel.
If you are the type of baker who learns by example you may want to check around your local community. Many communities in the United States have German settlements (over 51 million people in the United States can claim German ancestry) and within these settlements annual festivals and heritage days are often held. Introduce yourself at a local festival and you may just make a German friend who has a recipe that has been handed down through the generations.