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21.3.14

APPLE STRUDEL - ALMÁSRÉTES

Apple strudel might be the national dish of Austria, but Austrians never invented it. It all started with the baklava. The filo came from Greece through the Turks and from filo Hungary created the strudel. When the Turks invaded Hungary in the sixteenth century they stayed for 150 years. There was an understanding that as long as they spared Vienna the Turks could stay in Hungary. That was a really bad deal for us. At the same time we were introduced to filo and that was the beginning of the strudel. Hungarians called it rétes. Now if life was fair rétes would be the word world famous. But life is not fair. 

I watched my grandma make rétes. You see I know exactly how to do it. I just never got into it; I was told we didn’t have the right flour in Canada. But that’s not true. I went on line to Cheftalk and asked the opinion of North American experts how to make strudel without rétesliszt [strudel flour]. Yes, Hungarians developed a specific flour for strudel making. Not every chef knew about it. One chef even told me he can make strudel from all purpose flour. Of course THAT would not be strudel. The best advice pointed me to Greg Patent’s video. It was a start, I admit, but still it was not the real thing. Eventually I came to the realization you have to have hard wheat [bread flour] for structure so the dough can stand the stretching. But you also need softer wheat [all purpose flour] so the dough can stay soft and doesn't harden into a crispy monument. I arrived at the ratio of bread and all purpose flour arbitrarily. And then finally after two years of procrastination I opened up Margit néni’s 150 year old cookbook and read up on rétes. Here is my first real strudel. I think I will make a video of the entire process one of these days. In the meantime I can at least show you the soft consistency of the dough required for strudel. My grandmother did it all by hand, but I have grown soft too haha… it is not a task a Canadian is willing to do without a Kitchenaid.

 

You will need both bread and all purpose flour. You cannot hurry the strudel, there are no shortcuts. The dough has to become incredibly soft and pliable. After that the dough needs time to rest for 2 hours. Strudel dough must be pulled by hand. You can’t use a roller. It should be so thin that you can see through it. Use fresh fruit to fill your strudel if you can. The fillings should not be watery. If you must use frozen fruit, make sure it’s completely thawed out, sugared and squeezed out of all its juices. The melted butter has to be dribbled onto the pastry. The pastry brush must not touch the dough. It’s OK if you end up with an irregular sheet of dough. It will even out in the end. Holes are OK too, even large holes. As the dough is rolled up the holes are covered up by the following layers. That’s it for strudel. The rest is just recipe. 

1-1/2 cups bread flour 
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 cup very soft unsalted butter 
1 egg 
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water 
1/2 tsp vinegar 
flour for flouring the tablecloth 
12 apples, pealed, cored and grated or sliced very thin 
1/2 cup sugar light sprinkling of cinnamon 
1 cup melted butter [to drizzle and brush. You will need it all and maybe more] 
1/2 cup ground walnuts or almond meal or breadcrumbs [it's your choice] 

• Place the flours and the salt in a bowl of a standing beater. 
• With the whisk attachment, start beating the flours just under medium. Continue beating at this speed. Don’t stop the beater even while you are gathering the rest of the ingredients. 
• Add the soft butter and continue beating. 
• Add the egg, the vinegar and the lukewarm water and continue beating. 
• When the dough comes together, take off the whisk attachment and put on the dough hook.
• Continue beating just below medium speed for 10 to12 minutes. 
• Take out the dough, it will be sticky, and place it on a floured board. 
• You don’t want folds and air pockets, so knead the dough gently until it no longer sticks to the board. 
• Form the dough into a mound. 
• Lightly butter the top and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. 
• Let the dough rest for a full two hours. 
• Meanwhile prepare the filling. 
• Peel core and very thinly slice or grate the apples on a mandolin.
• Place them in a large bowl with the sugar and stir to coat evenly. 
• Leave the apples until it’s time to fill the strudel. 
• Place a clean white tablecloth or an old sheet on the kitchen table. Don’t use your good linen, because it will stain from the fruit and the butter. 
• Scatter some flour all over the tablecloth and spread it around with your hands. 
• Pick up the dough and stretch it a bit with the back of your hand to every direction. 
• Place the dough on the center of the cloth. 
• Pat it gently to flatten it slightly. 
• Now reach under the dough with the backs of your hands against the dough and gently pull your hands apart slightly and toward you, stretching the dough as you do so. 
• Work your way around the table repeating this process. 
• Stretch the dough further by grasping the outer part of a thick edge and gently tugging on it. 
• When the dough has been stretched a few inches more on all sides, repeat the hand movements described above. 
• In a few minutes of stretching, a paper thin dough will have reached the edges of the table so you will have a few inches of overhanging dough on every side. 
• Rip off the thick edges by hand. Don't use scissors. 
• If the dough tears at any point, just leave it alone. If you try to patch it first of all it won't work and secondly it will harden the dough. Any tears will be covered up when the strudel is rolled. 
• Use a pastry brush to drizzle the dough with melted butter. Do not let the brush touch the dough and be generous with the butter. 
• Turn on the oven to 450 F. 
• Scatter the ground walnuts or almond meal or fine breadcrumbs all over the dough. 
• Pour the apple mixture into a large colander to drain off the liquid. 
• Press down on the apples and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. 
• Arrange the drained apple mixture in a haphazard log three inches from the edge. 
• You may sprinkle a tiny amount of ground cinnamon on the top. 
• Using the tablecloth flip the dough over the apples and drip some melted butter on the top. 
• Now slowly lift the tablecloth and let the dough slowly roll over the apples. My dough was not a perfect rectangle with lots of tears and I ended up with a fair amount of dough scraps. But that’s OK, nobody will know it in the end. 
• Roll over all the dough, cut the extra ends and tuck the ends under. 
• Place the strudel on a buttered baking sheet and shape the strudel to fit the pan. 
• Brush generously with melted butter. 
• Bake in the preheated oven at 450 F for 15 minutes. 
• Then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for further 30-35 minutes. 
• Dust with icing sugar and serve the strudel warm, cut into slices 
• Cover up leftovers with a clean kitchen towel and store on the counter or in the cupboard. It will keep for a couple of days. However strudel is best on the day it was made.

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. Happy cooking!

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