After four and a half hours and about 72 square feet of dough, our 16-person Strudel Workshop class came to one conclusion: bakeries don’t charge enough for strudel. According to Chef Instructor Jeff Yoskowitz, few people still make strudel by hand, which means most people have never had real strudel. But there were no fakes in our class! Our six batches of dough were beaten, relaxed and stretched within an inch of their life to make a wide variety of flavors of this timeless Austro-Hungarian treat.
Classes like this remind you how important hands-on demonstrations are when learning a new technique. If someone had told me to take a yarn-ball sized hunk of dough and stretch it to the entire surface area of a massive work table, I would have said that’s impossible. But that’s the magic of it, nothing’s impossible in the world of pastry. I learned that, and all of this:
* Grow that Gluten: A big part of dealing with the dough was to “grow the gluten.” How do we do that? We smacked it again the table about a hundred times for our sticky ball to become a nice, smooth hunk of soon-to-be pastry perfection.
* Minimize the Moisture: Laminated doughs get their flakiness by being composed of many individual layers of dough. If you have too much moisture the steam will cause the dough layers to rise and eventually burst, so make sure to dry out all the filling ingredients as much as possible.
* Apples to Apples: Different apples have different levels of firmness, and some apples will disintegrate if you try to use them in baked desserts such as pie or strudel. The best apples for baking? According to Chef Jeff stick to Golden Delicious or Gala.
* Deep in the Heart: In 2003, Strudel was named an “Official State Pastry” of Texas, sharing the title with sopaipilla.
* Sweet vs. Savory: Though we only tackled sweet strudels, strudel dough itself doesn’t have any sugar in it, so it can easily be used for both savory and sweet treats!
My group filled our strudel with a pistachio-grape filling, others tried apples and sour cherry-almond filling. I’m excited to try my hand at creating my own fillings. Olive and goat cheese in a strudel crust, anyone?
Interested in learning how to make more pastries? Check out the recreational classes coming up at ICE!