Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Strudel, ja!!


This might be the funnest baking challenge yet. Joe loved it so much that he helped me make a few more (and eat most of them). I wanted something different from the usual apple filling, so I made Cherry Cheese Strudel.

I was surprised by how easy it is to make strudel, especially the dough. Holes and tears are inevitable, and I sure had some, but they're not visible after the dough is rolled up and baked. It comes out beautifully golden and crispy, and the cherry filling is delicious. You do need a lot of space -- a whole table to move around -- and a cloth for assembling the dough. The rollup is definitely my favorite part!

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.

The dough had to be rolled out thin, then stretched and pulled even thinner.

You had to be able to read through it. Then came the cherry and cheese filling.

Filling adapted from Martha Stewart's Cherry Cheese Strudel
I had to adapt the filling to fit the smaller dough recipe used in this challenge. I also used a bag of frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed.
12 oz. fresh sour cherries, stemmed and pitted, juices reserved
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg yolk

Combine the cherries and their juice, half the sugar, half the salt, and cinnamon in a medium high-sided skillet. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook until juice is reduced, about 10 minutes. Transfer 2 tablespoons of juice to a small bowl; add the cornstarch, and whisk until combined. Return mixture to skillet and cook, stirring until thickened, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, and the remaining sugar and salt on medium-high speed until very smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk, and beat to combine.

Once you've rolled out the dough, starting about 6 inches from the top edge, spread the cream cheese in a 6-inch-wide layer, horizontally, leaving a 3-inch border on each end. Arrange the cherry mixture evenly on top of the cream cheese. Using the cloth, lift up and flip the 6-inch top edge of the dough over the filling. Repeat lifting and folding once, leaving sides open. Then fold in sides of dough to enclose the filling. Continue lifting and folding until the dough is completely rolled into a flat log. If the ends are very thick, trim them as you work.

The recipe for the strudel dough (along with the apple filling suggested in the challenge) and the remaining instructions follow.

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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Strawberry Tartlets

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Strawberries from the store have been so delicious lately, I had to make strawberry tarts. Except for the arm workout I got while whisking the pastry cream, these were easy. For visual interest, I usually also top each one with a blueberry and sliver of kiwi, but I love the pure strawberry of this version and it made for lighter work. And they were still plenty tasty.

Strawberry Tarts
Half-recipe of Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee
Pound of Strawberries, washed, dried, and hulled
Pastry Cream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out the tart dough and cut it into squares a little larger than the square tart wells, or whatever mold you plan to use. Tuck the squares of dough inside the wells, cover the entire tray with a sheet of foil, and bake 12 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake 10 more minutes. Let it cool before removing the pastry shells, and repeat with remaining dough. Allow shells to cool completely before assembling.

Strawberries last longer if you wait until you use them to wash them. Darker ones tend to be sweeter. Choose 12 small berries that won't be bigger than the tart, and slice them in half.
Spoon or pipe the pastry cream into each shell. I like to pipe it with a star tip. Top each tart with a strawberry half. For extra shine or sweetness, you can also melt a bit of seedless jam and brush it on top of the berries. That's it! Makes 24 tartlets.

Pastry Cream
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch, sifted
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3½ tsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Neanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well-blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about ¼ cup of the hot milk -- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly -- as I always do -- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.