The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
My second challenge: pastry. Not my forte, for sure. I’ve tried strudel one other time, for a photographic scavenger hunt. It was a lot of work just for a photo of a strudel, but it helped a little in this challenge. But just barely.
I decided not to make a traditional apple strudel, but cherry with a ricotta filling. I used the pastry dough recipe given to us as part of the challenge, but for the filling I used a Ricotta and Cherry Srudel recipe from Epicurious.
Normally my baking is done at night, sometimes when I get off work at 11:30p. But my skills as a photographer are lacking when it comes to low-light situations, so I waited for a day off work so I could take my time and take advantage of the natural light that pours through my kitchen skylight during the day.
I started by soaking the cherries in a mixture of sugar, lemon juice, and Cointreau.
Next I made the dough.
While it rested under the dome of an overturned glass bowl, I toasted the breadcrumbs. I couldn't contain my eyeroll at the instructions on the top of the can.
I grated some citrus and mixed it with ricotta, sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla.
[I need this line in here to make the next photo show up. I have no idea why, and I've given up trying to figure it out. I also can't figure out why the right end of the above photo is cut off.]
When I give myself a day to bake, I take advantage of the day. This day I flipped the radio station between CBC and NPR, took breaks to check email, chat with friends online, and take photos. I multitask, to put it mildly. And sometimes I get distracted and things take a little longer than usual, so by this time my cherries were getting nice and boozy…
Time to roll out the dough. As suggested in the challenge recipe, I used my kitchen table, allowing me room to stretch the dough out adequately.
The next step is where I made my first mistake. I didn’t want an entire strudel for just the two of us, so I decided to split the dough into two portions so I could give half of it away. More on that later.
I got the dough beautifully thin, stretched it out on the table, applied a layer of melted butter, then sprinkled it with the toasted bread crumbs (to encourage the layers to crisp while baking). Next came the ricotta mixture and the cherries, which were drained of their sweet alcoholic marinade. (Which would have been perfect poured over a bowl of vanilla ice cream, except I never got around to buying ice cream.)
Back to my error in judgment. I guess because I was using two separate recipes, I made a lot more ricotta filling than I needed. I ended up using too much in the strudels, so I didn’t really have enough dough left on the sides to create more than maybe three layers, maximum, of dough.
But so far they looked okay, so I put them in the oven and crossed my fingers. Then turned my attention to the pile of dishes I’d created for myself.
By the time I was finished cleaning my kitchen (with breaks to check email, surf the web, etc.), the strudels appeared to be done.
I let them cool a bit, then put them on plates and delivered them to their recipients – one went to friends, the other I took to my husband, who was house-sitting in a nearby town.
I was so disappointed when I cut into it. Not only was it lacking multiple layers of flaky pastry, it was undercooked.
It tasted fine. Maybe a little too much citrus for my taste, but it was good, and I ate most of my share over the next few mornings accompanied with a cup of espresso.
Maybe I’ll try tackle strudel again someday, but I’m really more of a cake/cupcake/cookies kind of girl.