Cream Rolls with Apple Mousse (Šamróle)

If somebody writes a food blog, it’s probably fairly safe to assume he or she doesn’t mind spending time in the kitchen. In my case that’s definitely true. I’d cook and bake 24/7 if my back would cooperate, and if I didn’t have to clean the kitchen afterwards. Cleaning is one aspect of culinary endeavors I could absolutely live without, but thankfully I have people in my life who are quite willing to load the dishwasher and clean the counters in exchange for good food.

Years in the kitchen have made me into quite a foodie, which is probably just a nicer way of saying that someone is a bit of a culinary snob 🙂 I won’t touch boxed anything and prefer to make what I can from scratch. It makes sense, especially in light of our family’s dietary restrictions: Gluten-free grub isn’t the cheapest, but when you make it at home, this way of eating is actually quite doable. I like knowing what I’m feeding my men (so they have the strength to clean the kitchen for me!), I like saving money (so that I can buy more good food), and I absolutely and positively love playing with food.

My obsession with all matters culinary was the main reason why I’ve been stubbornly resisting Mr. Photographer’s suggestions to buy a pressure cooker. You see, for years he’s been singing praises for melt-in-your-mouth tender meats his Mom used to make in her pressure cooker, and trying to convince me just how much time would that little gadget save me. But I’ve bravely opposed the pressure (pun intended). I don’t need darn pressure cooker and I don’t care for less time in the kitchen, thank you very much! And what, you want to tell me I can’t make the meat tender with just the good old stove and oven?! All the pressure cookers and crockpots and similar nonsense are for people who don’t have time to cook or who hate cooking! Poor souls who haven’t yet discovered that chopping and stirring and tasting can be fun! (Can you feel the foodie snobbism just dripping from my lips? Yup, and as it’s often the case, I was about to fall from my high horse and it was going to hurt.)

A couple weeks ago a friend of mine called me saying she got herself the Instant Pot, the mighty machine that does the work of seven kitchen gadgets. It was before Christmas, it was on sale, and so I thought: “What the heck, I’ll buy one too. I’ll play with it a little, declare it not good enough for what my needs, and swiftly return it. I’ll prove to Mr. Photographer that such gadgets have no place in life of a self-respecting good cook, and he’ll forever hold his peace.

Yes. Well. That was the plan.

Ever since that little devil of a machine showed up in its brown box on my doorstep, it’s been plugged in pretty much non-stop. Holy jackpot! It’s a slow cooker. It’s a pressure cooker. It’s a rice cooker. It’s a yogurt maker. It sautées, it cooks, it bakes. It doesn’t constantly ask me questions like my men do (How much oil? Is that enough water? How long do I cook it for? And do I need to stir it or not?). It. Just. Knows. Everything. By. Itself. Remember the old fairy tale about a little girl who was gifted a porridge making magic pot? She just said, “Cook, little pot, cook!” and when she had enough, she ordered it, “Stop, little pot, stop!” Well, I feel just like that little girl, except my pot doesn’t even need to be told to stop – it stops by itself when it’s time! (No sticky porridge running down my counters, woot!)

Please, I’m begging you – do yourself a favor and don’t just go, but run to buy the Instant Pot. (I just accidentally typed Magic Pot, but could’ve just left it, because, well, it’s true!) It’ll make your life so much easier, and if you want to stay in the kitchen, no one is stopping you. The pot just frees you to do something else while it cooks dinner for you. It’s as if you hired an assistant chef!

And that’s exactly what I’ve done this weekend. While the soup was bubbling away in the pot on the counter, I wrapped puff pastry around the metal molds and licked the cinnamon-y apple mousse off my spatula. And these little cream rolls are the result. My grandma used to make them each December and send them to us as a part of her Christmas cookie assortment, but I think they’re good any time of the year! They’re pretty easy to make too, especially if you buy puff pastry from the store. The baked apples will fill your home with the most delicious aroma, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to use all your willpower not to gobble them all up just as they are coming out of the oven, and leave at least some for the mousse. Be strong. I promise, when you’ll taste the crispy cream roll overflowing with the smooth sweet filling it’ll be all worth it!

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Cream Rolls with Apple Mousse (Šamróle)

(adapted from http://www.bonvivani.sk; makes about 12 – 15 cream rolls)

Quick Puff Pastry for the rolls – makes about 500 g (1 lb.) of dough:
  • 235 g (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 60 g (2 oz.) cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g (1/2 lb.) cold unsalted butter
  • 125 ml (4 oz.) iced water
Apple Mousse:
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 125 g (4.5 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 2 big apples (I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp apples)
  • ½ teaspoon each vanilla extract and ground cinnamon

+ 2 egg yolks, mixed with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash for brushing the rolls)
– extra powdered sugar for sprinkling the rolls if desired

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Method:
  1. Prepare the puff pastry: In a bowl of a food processor, combine cake flour and salt; pulse to aerate. Add in the cold butter, diced, and pulse until the mixture resembles peas (you should still see pieces of butter throughout the dough). Lastly, with the processor on, slowly and carefully pour in the icy cold water, just enough so that the dough comes together. Wrap the ball of dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. While the dough is chilling, bake the apples: Wash the apples, but don’t peel or core them, leave them whole. Place them on a baking sheet, add in a little water (about ½ cup) and bake them at 375 °F (190 °C) for about 50 minutes until soft.
  3. Let the apples cool a little and then scrape out the pulp, leaving peel/core behind. Place the scraped out pulp into a food processor and give it a little whirl to make smooth and thick apple sauce. Transfer the apple sauce into a glass bowl, mix in vanilla and cinnamon, and set aside.
  4. Making the puff pastry rolls: Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly butter your cream roll molds and preheat the oven to 360 °F (180 °C). Take the chilled puff pastry dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 3 mm thickness. Work fast, and try not to handle the dough too much – you want it to stay as cold as possible. Cut the dough into stripes about 2.5 cm ( 1 inch) wide and 30 cm (12 inches) long.
  5. Working with one strip at a time, wrap the dough around the mold, overlapping the dough slightly. Brush the dough on the molds with the egg wash and bake them for about 15 – 20 minutes, until they puff up and are nice golden brown in color. Take the rolls out of the oven, let them cool on the molds for about 5 minutes and then take them off the molds and let them cool completely.
  6. Make the apple mousse: Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar into a glass/metal bowl (I used the bowl of my stand mixer), and then set the bowl over a pot of boiling hot water. Whip the egg whites in the water bath until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Transfer the egg white mixture into a bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment and with the mixer on a medium speed gradually start adding the powdered sugar.
  7. Heat the apple sauce in a microwave for couple of seconds until lukewarm/warm, but not hot. With the mixer still on, by small increments start adding the lukewarm apple sauce to the egg white mixture, whipping constantly, until you use up all the apples and the mousse forms very firm peaks.
  8. Assembling the cream rolls: Transfer the apple mousse into a piping bag. Fill the cream rolls with the mousse, dust the tops with powdered sugar if desired, and serve.
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Apple Cheesecake Tart

As I was trying to elbow my way through the masses of people in the supermarket and getting out of the crowded parking lot yesterday, I was pondering that not many people actually seem to be very thankful on Thanksgiving. Everyone just looks… grumpy. Stressed. Maybe it’s just the sheer amount of work involved in making the food that will then be gone in twenty minutes. The mountains of dirty pots and pans that will follow. Or the anticipation of mandatory family visits with more than a few uncomfortable questions from nosy relatives. The day just doesn’t exactly mirror peace and contentment.

And yet I feel this day’s important. Even if we don’t think about these things very often, buried under tons of day to day responsibilities, I found that when you just start thinking about what you’re thankful for, the things just keep flowing. And it’s not just the big, obvious stuff, like good health, family, friends, and roof over our head. It’s also countless small, silly things that make life enjoyable. Such as… Driving. If you’d tell me fifteen years ago I’d love zipping through town in my small (red!) electric car one day, I’d think you’ve lost your mind. But I love everything about it: the road, me time, the music, all of it. GPS. Admittedly, the driving would be much less enjoyable without it. I have absolutely no sense of direction and quite possibly wouldn’t find my way back home. Sleeping in. There is nothing better than to be able to burrow under covers on Saturday morning for some extra zzzz-s. Big kids. Yeah, there would be no sleeping in if the boys would still be little, I’m afraid. Life with teenagers is no picnic, that’s for sure, but on the upside, I don’t have to potty-train anyone anymore, they’re able to cut their own food, and on good days they even put their dirty plate into the dishwasher. Speaking of which… Dishwasher! There would be much less cooking/baking going on in this house without that magical box in which one puts dirty dishes and from which they emerge clean. Wine and Chocolate. An absolute must when trying to survive the teenage years of your kids. If you have teens of your own, you know what I mean. If your kids are still little, you’ll find out what I’m talking about soon enough. Boots. A wonderful pick-me-up during those cold and dreary winter days. I’m still searching for that perfect pair of leather boots in burgundy red. Fireplace. A substitute sun between November and March in the Pacific Northwest! Facebook. I know everybody says social media eat up way too much of our time, yadda, yadda… but to me Facebook is an absolute godsend. It makes me feel connected to my family and friends I’d otherwise get to see only rarely, and be a part of their lives. I could go on and on, but since this is a food blog, I’ll finish with Good Food and the big warm kitchen to make it in.

And this is what I made in my kitchen for our Thanksgiving dessert this year. I admit we’re not big fans of pumpkin pie, and would pick cheesecake over it any day. So that’s exactly what we did. The cheesecake tasted great, and the cinnamon-scented apples made it look very Fall-appropriate. It was also gluten-free, very easy to make, and since it needed to chill overnight, I made it the day before and had the oven free for the bird on the Thanksgiving day.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and are enjoying your time together. The turmoil and sadness going on around the world is putting all things into perspective for me. I’m blessed with all the cooking, dirty dishes, know-it-all teenagers, and a freezer that broke week before Thanksgiving. Let’s make the best of this day, this weekend, next week, and the next. Because we can.

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Apple Cheesecake Tart

(adapted from Southern Living 9/2014)

Crust:
  • 200 g (7 oz.) gingersnap cookies
  • 1/2 cup walnuts/pecans
  • 55 g (4 tablespoons, ¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Cheesecake Filling:
  • 450 g (16 oz., 2 packages) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Apple Topping:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jelly mixed with 2 tablespoons water
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Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F ( 190 °C).
  2. Make the crust: In a food processor, finely grind the gingersnap cookies and the walnuts. Add in the sugar and butter and combine. Lightly butter 9 inch (22 cm) tart pan with removable bottom. Evenly press the mixture on the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
  3. Make the Cheesecake Filling: Mix all the ingredients until well combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth out the top with a spatula. Put the tart on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until almost firm, but still a little jiggly in the center. (If the filling browns too quickly, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.) Cool the tart on the rack and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  5. When the tart is chilled, prepare the apple topping: In a large skillet, melt the butter. Combine apples with sugar and cinnamon, and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes, until softened. Don’t overcook, you don’t want the apples to turn mushy. Drain the excess liquid from the apples and let them cool.
  6. Assemble the tart: Arrange the cooled apple slices in a concentric pattern on the top of the chilled cheesecake. Heat the apricot jelly and water mixture in the microwave, strain it, and brush the apple slices with the glaze. Put the cheesecake tart under the broiler for couple of minutes until the apples brown up a little (watch them closely so they won’t burn.) Alternatively, use the torch to brown the apples. Chill the tart until serving.

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Apple Cheese Galette

Of all of the seasons I love Summer the most, but Fall is a close second. They say Autumn is the year’s last smile… before life comes full circle and everything begins anew in the Spring. We’re in the middle of gorgeous fall around here and I love all about it: The colorful leaves and warm drinks, not to mention soft sweaters and tall boots. Thankfully,  they haven’t gotten the memo that they should’ve started pouring down by now and not stop for the next five months up there yet (shhh, please don’t tell them… just a little while more!) The mornings might be crisp, but later in the day it still warms up enough so that we can enjoy all the beauty around.

Fall fills me with nostalgia, and as usual, I deal with it by firing up the oven and filling the air with all the wonderful aromas this time of year has to offer. Today it’s apples, scented with gingerbread and cinnamon. I paired them with sweet cheese, and created a simple but very flavorful galette. Not much to write about it: galette is a free-form crusty cake with various sweet or savory fillings, and to me, it’s a very laid back type of dessert that can be tailored to whatever fruit you have on hand. I chose apples because they’re such a typical fall treat for us to enjoy, but I imagine pears or plums would work just as well; the key is to vary the amount of sugar and cornstarch depending on the fruit used. The dough is simply folded over the filling, creating a wonderfully crispy crust, while allowing the fruit to shine in all its beauty. Galette is also much easier and quicker to make than its somewhat temperamental and high maintenance relative pie – thus giving you more time to  curl up by the fire with a book, or go for a walk on one of the last sunny afternoons, and still come home to a great dessert.

Put on a thick scarf and go play in the crisp leaves, and then drive out the chill from your fingers and cheeks with a warm galette. Who says you can’t have it all? With just a little planning you absolutely can!

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Apple Cheese Galette

(inspired by Nejlepší recepty 3/2015)

Pastry Dough:
  • 250 g (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 180 g (6 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • pinch salt
  • 80 g (3 oz.) powdered sugar
Filling:
  • 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread cookies
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 250 g (9 oz.) soft white cheese, cream cheese, or quark
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vanilla “cook and serve” pudding powder
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 2 – 3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into rings
  • 2 tablespoons piquant jam (raspberry, cranberry)
  • 2 tablespoons spiced rum
  • pinch cinnamon
Gingerbread Streusel:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread cookies
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

+ 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

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Method:
  1. First, make the dough: Place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cold cubed butter into the bowl of your food processor; pulse until the mixture resembles peas. Add in the egg and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap the dough and chill it for at least an hour before proceeding.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the apple rings in water with 2 tablespoons sugar for about 5 minutes until soft. Drain the apples and let them cool.
  3. Prepare the cheese filling: Place cheese, 4 tablespoons sugar, egg yolk, vanilla pudding powder, and lemon zest into the bowl of your food processor fitted with an s-blade. Mix to combine. Whip the egg white until firm peaks form, and mix in carefully with a spatula into the cheese mixture to lighten it.
  4. Make the Streusel Topping: Combine all the ingredients with your fingers; chill until needed.
  5. Remove the cold pastry dough from the fridge; roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle about 3 cm (a little over an inch) bigger than a 23 cm (9 inch) round springform pan. Line the springform pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides. Preheat the oven to 350 °F  (180 °C).
  6. Fit the pastry into the pan, pressing the overhang up the sides for now. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with 80 g (3 oz.) ground gingerbread crumbs and cover them completely with the cheese filling. Arrange the cooled apple slices onto the cheese.
  7. Mix jam, rum, and cinnamon. With a teaspoon, place a tiny bit of the jam mixture into the apple slices, and sprinkle the entire galette with the gingerbread streusel topping. Gently fold the overhang pastry over the fruit, pleating as you go along. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  8. Bake the galette for about 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. Cool the galette for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at a room temperature.

Fall Apple Pie

Every marriage and family has an issue or two on which the people involved don’t quite see eye to eye.   In our house, we don’t fight over the correct way to squeeze toothpaste out of the tube and don’t have “over versus under” toilet paper debates.  We butt heads over the vacuum and its proper resting place in our day-to-day life. I like to keep it in the kitchen, plugged in, and always ready to conquer the next mess that emerges. With two starving teenagers plus a husband who likes to eat,  our family life pretty much  takes place in the kitchen, and as we all know, life can be messy. I’m not going to keep the vacuum neatly stowed away in the closet only to have to take it out five minutes later. No, our trusty Dyson is right there in the middle of the kitchen floor, together with its endless cord that enables me to reach in every corner.

And Mr. Photographer hates that. According to him, it’s the dumbest idea ever and disaster waiting to happen. He claims the stupid vacuum is constantly in his way. He’s tripped over it couple of times, which is something I don’t understand – you see it’s there, so just step over the cord and move on with your life. It’s not like it’s a needle in a haystack, right? Everybody can see a vacuum!

Under normal circumstances, absolutely. Unless you just came home from the other end of the world, are jetlagged after a 15-hour flight, are trying to catch up on the laundry, and cooking 3 meals at once. The washing machine is beeping. You jump up to put the stuff in the dryer. Everything is under control, you’re doing great. Just five more loads to wash and put away. The soup is boiling over. You rush to take care of that, when you hear the oven announcing the bread is ready. You leap over to take it out, and what’s right there in the middle of the kitchen floor? Yep, your trusty Dyson. With its endless cord that enables you to reach in every corner. Except this time, it enables you to land with your whole palm on the open and red-hot oven door.

Sitting here whining and pondering if I should go to the ER or not, I can now with an absolute certainty tell you three things: As big as it is, there are times when you really can’t see a vacuum under your feet. You can’t write, bake,  nor do pretty much anything else with one hand stuck in a bowl of icy water to relieve the pain of a burn.  And lastly, it pays off to listen to our partners more.  As much as it burns me to say it, occasionally they might actually be quite right.

*****

Since baking one-handed can be quite a challenge, this pie is actually a throwback recipe I made last year. I had a lot of fun with it, playing with painting the leaves and decorating it, and I think it turned out beautiful, and would be a great addition to any of your fall celebrations. Enjoy, and please be careful in your kitchen endeavors!

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Fall Aple Pie

(adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com)

Pie Crust:
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 200 g (7 oz.) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg
Apple Filling:
  • 1.5 kg (3 lbs.) baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Gala
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling over the pie
  • 55 g (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg

+ 1 egg, beaten – for egg wash
1 egg yolk + assorted food colors for painting the leaves
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Method:
  1. To make the crust, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your food processor fitted with an S-blade, and pulse to combine. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles peas. Add the egg and pulse again 1 – 3 times only – do not let the mixture come to a ball. If the dough is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of cold water. Remove the dough from the food processor and bring it together by hand. Wrap and chill for two hours before proceeding.
  2. Meanwhile, make the apple filling: Peel and core the apples. Quarter them and cut each quarter into 2 – 3 wedges, depending on the size of the apples. Toss the apples with sugar and lemon juice to prevent browning.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts and the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
  4. Strain the apples over a bowl to catch the juices. Return the juices to the pan and cook until reduced and caramelized, about 8 minutes. Combine with the apples and spices and set aside.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll each half into a circle about 10-inch (23 cm) wide. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Roll out the scraps of the dough and cut out decorative pieces with cookie cutters. Lay them out on a plate/tray and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Take one circle of the dough from the refrigerator. With a sharp knife, cut out the trunk/branches of a tree in the center.(The cut-out will work as a steam vent while the pie is baking.) Set aside.
  8. To assemble, fit one circle of the refrigerated dough into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan. Pour in the cooled apple filling, mounding it slightly in the center. Brush the edges with egg wash and place the top circle on the apples pressing the edges together. Put the pie back in the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  9. To paint the cut out leaves, place the egg yolk in the middle of a paper plate and put a drop  or two of assorted food colors all around the edges of the plate. Mix a little of the yolk in each color and paint the leaves with a small brush. Put a little egg wash around the cut out tree and on the edges of the pie and decorate the pie with your painted leaves.
  10. Carefully brush the top of the pie with remaining egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes until golden brown. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. Cool on rack before serving.

Mom’s Pulled Apple Strudel

For this recipe I’ll make a quick trip back home again, if only down the memory lane. I’m about eleven, standing in Mom’s red and white kitchen and watching in awe as she takes off her wedding ring, slides her hands under a sheet of rolled-out dough and starts stretching it gently with her fingers. She walks around the big kitchen table and pulls the dough slowly and carefully, until it is paper-thin – so thin, you can actually see through it. Magic. Then, when the sheet of dough is as big as the table, she scatters apples, raisins, and nuts all over, gives them a generous dusting of sugar and cinnamon, and starts rolling. Again, slowly, carefully, so she wouldn’t tear the delicate structure of the dough. And when she’s done, there is this freakishly long curved snake of filled dough ready to go into the oven. The kitchen is warm, and smells of baked apples, caramelized sugar, and cinnamon. Home.

Mom is quite the baker. Ever since I was little, she has tried to pass the mastery on to me (as a responsible Mother, she had to – what would my potential Mother-in-law think of her, if she wouldn’t teach me how to cook?!) I was eleven and was just starting to think that maybe boys weren’t as repulsive and horrible as I previously thought, yet I was already having nightmares about imaginary mothers-in-law that were watching my every step in the kitchen. As it was, standing side by side with Mom at the kitchen counter, I was never fast enough or neat enough. After about 10 minutes of cooking school, she always ordered me out of the kitchen saying it would be better if she did it herself. She knew her stuff, but not everyone is cut out to be a teacher 🙂

I still learned a lot just by watching her. She loved playing with food and feeding people. Still does. Nobody within a mile of her kitchen is ever hungry. (Hunger is a four-letter word at Mom’s. Not allowed, under any circumstance.) I don’t remember her ever weighing anything, yet her cakes always come out of the oven airy and perfect. She cooks by throwing a little bit of this and a little bit of that into the pot, and yet we are always licking our plates.

Looking back at my growing up days, and after many years in my own kitchen, I now think that maybe those grams and ounces aren’t all that important after all. And even though Mom and I had to cancel our cooking lessons when I got older so we wouldn’t risk killing each other, I’m quite certain she managed to teach me what’s most important: She taught me that food is a language – language of love that everybody understands and responds to. It brings people together, and tells them everything they need to hear. Even if the cook might have trouble finding words sometimes. strudel detail Pulled strudel – made with either apples, sweet farmer’s cheese or poppy-seed and cherry filling – used to be a staple dessert in all the countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Even though making it is not that hard, it is time-consuming, and not many people make it at home these days. The simple dough made of high-gluten flour, butter, egg, water, pinch of salt, and a splash of vinegar needs to rest under a preheated pan, and then it is rolled out, pulled and stretched until it’s extra-thin. It takes some practice to learn to stretch the dough with the back of your hands, but the process is actually very therapeutic: you can’t rush it, it forces you to slow down and take your time. And the smell and taste of freshly baked strudel is the best therapy there is, that’s for sure. Give it a try on a beautiful spring afternoon such as we in the Pacific Northwest were blessed with today. Nothing says “home” like the aroma of baked apples and cinnamon coming from the oven! apples

Mom’s Pulled Apple Strudel

(makes 1 big strudel or 2 smaller strudel pastries)

Dough:
  • 300 g (10 oz.) high-gluten (bread) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 100 – 125 ml  (around ½ cup) lukewarm water
Filling:
  • 1500 g (55 oz.) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and grated
  • 80 g (3 oz.) plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) finely chopped walnuts/pecans
  • 100 g (3.5 oz.) raisins/currants/dried cranberries
  • 150 g (5 oz.) white sugar
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

+ 2 tablespoons of melted butter for brushing the top of the pastry
1 egg yolk + 3 tablespoons of milk for the egg wash Pulling the dough

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Butter a large (15×11 inch) baking sheet. Preheat a small (2 qt./1.9 l) pan by boiling some water in it. Pour out the water and let the pan dry.
  2. To make the dough: Place flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of your food processor, fitted with an S-blade. Pulse to combine. With the food processor still running, add an egg, vinegar, and as much water until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Continue mixing for another minute or two to activate the gluten. Place the dough ball on a wooden block, cover it with the preheated pan, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: Toast breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, stirring constantly. Set aside and let cool.
  4. Press out the juice from the apples. Combine the apples with the lemon juice to prevent them from browning, and set them aside.
  5. To make the strudel: On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 12 x 12 inch (30 x 30 cm) square. Transfer the rolled-out dough onto a tablecloth dusted with flour.
  6. Lift the dough from the work surface, and start gently stretching it with the back of your hands. Move your hands constantly and pull the dough with your fingers, working from the center to the edges, until the dough is paper-thin. (If the dough tears in some place, don’t try to repair the tear. Small tears are OK and won’t harm the strudel).
  7. Cut off the thicker edges of the dough, discard.
  8. Drizzle the dough with 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle the dough with cooled toasted breadcrumbs, leaving the edges clear. Cover the dough evenly with apples, sprinkle with raisins, chopped nuts, lemon zest, sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.
  9. Fold the empty edges of the dough over the filling. Roll the strudel up, and transfer it onto the buttered baking sheet seam side down. Tuck the edges on both sides under. Brush the strudel with melted butter.
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes. Turn baking sheet around, brush the pastry with egg wash, and continue baking for about 20 minutes more until golden brown.
  11. Let cool before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.

strudel before rolling up

Note:

Alternatively, you can make 2 smaller pastries instead of one long strudel (the smaller pastries will be easier to transfer and position on a baking sheet.) Just divide the dough ball in half, and keep one half under the hot pan while working with the other. Roll the dough thinly, and pull/stretch it until very thin. Use only half of the ingredients for the filling, and after transferring the first strudel onto a baking sheet, make the other one in the same way.