Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two Strudels = One Toodle?

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.

Mango Coconut

Woo hoo! This was indeed, a Tasty One befitting this blog. I can't say I completed it without swearing, but I did so through I smile!


The challenge was to make our own dough, like my Gram Zupsic used to make. Apparently she was a real champ at strudelling. Unfortunately, my mom has been out of town and had no time to track down her recipe, so I used the apple filling provided in the challenge for one strudel, and a mango/cardamom/cocunt filling for the other.

My plan was originally, like my friend Kathleen, to stretch out the batch of dough and then fill it with two fillings at once, but I got a few giant holes in my first stretch (hence some of the swearing), so I just trimmed it smaller to the less-holy center, and mushed the scraps together and let them rest again an hour or two before I made the second one, which ended up stretching even better than the first one.

The second stretch was a lot more successful... as was the second filling. With the first filling (the apple and walnut), I managed to forget to put it in a strip. Instead, I spread it over the whole dough, which resulted in only one layer on the outside and a bunch of soggy dough layers in the middle (hence a touch more swearing). Duh.

Log of DOOM. Just kidding.

It was decent, but to be honest, I was not thrilled about the overall flavor. However, my German friend gave it a good review, so if it passed as apfelstudel, I can't complain.

The mango one was a true delight. I plan to make it again. And that's all I really need to say on that... onto the recipes and more pictures! First my notes:

- I made a half recipe of the apple filling, but the full recipe is posted; anything I deleted is crossed out and my additions are in italics.

- The mango/coconut filling is my recipe, just made it up... the measurements might be wrong, sorry.

- I don't have a mixer, and it is very easy to do it all by hand-- I had no trouble.

- 1 and 1/3 of a cup of flour is not 200 grams. It is 160, so that is about what I used.

- The instructions for stretching the dough don't make sense to me-- just do what feels right, as long as you make sure to start at the center in the beginning.

Mango Coconut Strudel

1 large, ripe mango cut into strips
5-6 cardamom pods, seeds ground
25 g creamed coconut, chopped up
100 ml hot water
100 g dessicated coconut

Melt the coconut in the boiling water until there are no lumps. Add the dessicated coconut, sugar, cinnamon, and half of the cardamom, mixing to form a creamy cookie-dough-ish paste.

Sprinkle the mango with the other half of the seeds.

Once the dough is stretched, spread the coconut mixture first, then lay the mango slices on top, and you're ready to roll.

Apple strudel

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
juice of one lemon
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. 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 baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the lemon and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. 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. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool 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.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by 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

1. 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.

2. 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 a 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).

3. 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 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.

4. 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 scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Pre-oven strudel.

Post-oven strudel.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Better May than Never: Hot Crossed Buns

I made these for Easter, there are some in the freezer that I will one day turn into a bread and butter pudding-- but between everyday healthy cooking, Daring Baking, a social life, and my dissertation, I doubt that will be anytime soon (if ever)!

I adapted the recipe, like many recipes I do, from Rachel Allen's cookbook, Bake!, which I highly recommend as a general cookbook for all things baking-related. Hers calls for a variety of dried fruits, but I used raisins, a different combination of spices, and of course, whole wheat flour.

The recipe will go up later, as I doubt anyone is aching to try this Easter treat over a month late!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First-Ever Daring Cooks Challenge: Ricotta Gnocchi!

This is a few days late, but my activities have been limited lately as apparently I am 8 years old and have strep throat (I didn't think grownups got it for some reason-- and now I feel so sorry for all the wee lambs that get it a few times a year).

But I'm on the mend so now it's time to talk food again. Gnocchi is great. These gnocchi are amazing.

The first Daring Cooks Challenge required us to make ricotta from scratch (I chose this recipe, using whole milk and buttermilk, instead of cream or milk powder), let it dry out a little overnight, and then make clouds gnocchi out of it, along with a sauce of choice. I decided to make a sun-dried tomato pesto.

The result got rave reviews. I look forward to making this again-- but would try using prepared ricotta, as the one you make yourself-- although delicious-- results in too much whey and the ingredients are more expensive than just buying a tub prepared. I have used the whey in bread, but there is only so much bread a woman with no electric cooking tools can make.

The recipe below has been taken from Daring Cooks, then adjusted to the way I did it.

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.

Equipment required:

- Sieve
- Cheesecloth or paper towels or clean tea towel
- Large mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Tablespoon
- Baking dish or baking sheet
- Wax or parchment paper
- Small pot
- Large skillet
- Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

Videos that might help:

- Judy Rodgers Gnocchi Demo
- Making fresh ricotta demo
- Making ricotta gnocchi

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
A few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

I used this instead:

  • 8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), chopped, as well as some of the oil (one to three tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pine nuts
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons red wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Combine all ingredients and pulse in blender until smooth as you like. Add more oil if necessary.

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.