Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cherry Cheese Strudel (Kirschen-Topfen-Strudel)

Yesterday I made cherry cheese strudel. Strudel is a typical Austrian pastry. It consists of thin, parchment-like layers of dough which are wrapped around a filling, e.g. apple, cheese, and fruits like grapes, sweet or sour cherries. It can be savory as well, e.g. spinach or cabbage strudel.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about strudel:

A strudel is a type of sweet layered pastry with a filling inside, that became well known and gained popularity in the 18th century through the Habsburg Empire.

Strudel is most often associated with the Austrian cuisine, but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The oldest Strudel recipe is from 1696, a handwritten recipe at the Viennese City Library, Wiener Stadtbibliothek. The pastry probably has its origins in the similar Byzantine Empire or Middle Eastern pastries (see baklava and Turkish cuisine), thus it is even related to the Balkan burek pastry.

The word itself derives from the German word Strudel, which in Middle High German literally means "whirlpool" or "eddy".[1]

In Hungary it is known as Rétes, in Slovenia as štrudelj, in Czech Republic as závin or štrúdl, in Romania as ştrudel, in Croatia as štrudla or savijača and Slovakia as štrúdľa or závin). It is very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other ex-Yugoslav republics.

I apologize to all the people who have come to my blog looking for a strudel recipe and I did not find one here. After getting numerous requests to post the recipe I have finally come around to do it. I usually try different recipes and stick with the one that works for me. So my recipe is actually a combination of recipes I have found in baking books. This one works for me but I have to tell you that I always weigh my ingredients and I cannot guarantee that the conversion to cups and ounces will work for you.


For the dough:

1 1/3 cups unbleached flour

1/8 tsp. salt

7 Tbs. water, plus more if needed

2 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1/2 tsp. cider vinegar

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Knead dough till it is smooth and feels like the lobe of your ear. I usually slap the dough onto the work surface a few times while kneading. Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly oiled plate. Put a little oil on top of the dough and cover with stretch foil.

For the Sour Cherry Filling:

7 Tbs. sugar

1 Tbs. cornstarch

12 ounces fresh sour cherries, can us canned ones as well

1/8 tsp. almond extract

In a small saucepan stir together sugar, cornstarch, salt and cherries. Let sit for a few minutes so that the cherries start exuding their juices. Cook on medium heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Don't forget to stir. When the juice has thickened it is ready. Set aside to cool.

For the Cream Cheese Filling:

12 ounces (1 1/2 packages) of cream cheese, can use low fat

1/2 cup of sugar

2 large egg yolks (mine is vegetarian, I use egg substitute)

pinch of salt

2 tsp. grated lemon zest

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour creme

1 Tbs. cornstarch

With hand or stand mixer beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg yolks or substitute and beat again. Don't forget to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add salt, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Lastly, beat in sour cream and cornstarch until blended. Cover and refrigerate.

Bake strudel at 350 F on upper rack for about 40 to 50 minutes or until filling is set and dough is nicely golden brown. Do not eat right away. Let the finished strudel cool for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before eating. I like to dust mine with powdered sugar.

Strudel dough is very similar to filo dough which is used for making Baklava.

I'll show you how I made my cherry cheese strudel. Keep on reading...

First I make the strudel dough. This is about the only thing I bake that is not made with whole wheat flour. I use King Arthur all-purpose flour. The dough needs do be brushed with oil and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. It needs to rest for at least 30 minutes. Mine probably rested for at least one hour.

While the dough is resting, I prepare my filling. In Austria quark is used for cheese strudel. Quark is called Topfen in Austria. Quark is what it is called in Germany. Even though both countries speak German, some things have different names in Austria. Like carrots are called Moehren in Germany, and Karotten in Austria. But this post is not about the differences in the German language so I will not elaborate further on this topic.

American cheese strudel recipes usually call for cream cheese instead of topfen. I use a mixture of cream cheese and topfen, sour cream, sugar, corn starch, vanilla extract, lemon flavor, and lemon juice.

This is the cherry filling before I cooked it. I used sour cherries from a jar, added some sugar and cornstarch plus a few drops of almond extract. Then I cooked it till it thickened nicely.

I use my dinning room table to stretch the dough. I use a big sheet to cover the table. The sheet is dusted with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. I put the dough in the middle, dust it with flour and roll it out with a rolling pin as far as it will go, which usually is about 20 inches in diameter. Then the fun part starts....

STRETCHING! I lift the dough up and gently stretch the dough with the back of my hands.

See how thin it is getting! You can easily see my hand through the dough. The rule of thumb is that it should be so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. While I have never tried that I think it might be possible. I just go by feel. When I am afraid that it might tear if I stretch it any further, I stop.

When the strudel gets to big I put it on the table and walk around the table, stretching each side as far as it goes.

Then I do the borders/edges. Professional bakers just trim the thick edges off and discard them. My kids love the strudel ends, so I leave them on. Trying to stretch those borders usually causes the dough to tear a little bit. Small holes are okay, especially on the edge. It would be a problem though to have a hole in the middle of the dough, especially a big one. That never happened to me, even when I made it for the first time. The secret is the right dough consistency. And of course, practice makes perfect.

All done stretching. As you can see, the dough almost covers the whole table. You can also see that I have a fairly large hole on the bottom right hand corner of the table. It happened when I stretched the dough over the corner. This hole is not a problem as it is on the edge. The dough is hanging off the the table edges. Now one has to work quickly or the dough will dry out in a matter of minutes and be like dried up filo dough.

Next I brush the entire surface of the dough with ghee. One could use butter as well. Ghee seems to give nicer layers though.

Put the filling on the short side of the dough, near the edge and fold the edge of the dough over the filling and start rolling, at first just a couple of turns.

Then I fold over the edges on the long side. This will prevent the filling from leaking out. Usually my edge is not as wide as this one. Brush the edge with ghee, since it used to be the underside of the dough which did not have any ghee brushed on yet. Then keep on rolling till the strudel is all rolled up.

Voila! All done.

Transfer the strudel to a baking sheet and brush it with ghee and bake.

And this is how it looks when it is all done. See the layers separating on the top of the strudel. Traditionally strudel is dusted with powdered sugar in Austria.

And this is the guy who asked me over and over again to make him cherry cheese strudel, his favorite. I did not make just one, but two. Actually, I always make two strudel when I make strudel. We had it for dinner and when we were all done, only one piece was left! I asked Janardan to rate the strudel and he gave me a million thumbs up. In reality he only has two though, as you can see.

Now Marisha wants me to make Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) next, her favorite. Since my husband will not be able to babysit Nimai till the end of this semester in school, it probably will not happen soon. Sorry, Marisha!

And this is what else I baked yesterday: Five loaves of unyeasted sourdough bread. Three are sunflower-sesame seed loaves, one just plain and one cinnamon raisin. No, we are not going to eat it all. Most of them are for my customers. We only started to eat the cinnamon raisin and I am not quite satisfied with it. Needs more sweetness and more cinnamon. There is always room for improvement.

And today I am taking the day off baking... Even a baker needs a break sometimes.....


Devadeva Mirel said...

oh my god! these pictures are AWESOME!!! RECIPE PLEASE!!!

you are the pastry master!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like great recipe and good step by step explanation. It would be wonderful to get the list of ingredients for the dough for this strudel.
I am very tempted to make it for my son.
Anna from Sydney Australia
October 11 2009

Anonymous said...

I am in the US and want to make this for my family, but I can't find the proportions for the various ingredients relating to this recipe to go with your pictures and directions. Please post it here. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

My request for the proportions for the various ingredients is related to the recipe for kirschen topfenstrudel for which you have pictures and directions. Thanks.

Varacita said...

Recipe posted!

navalcharles said...

Großartig!! Absolute perfection!! I made the strudel for the first time and it was wonderful; no one could believe that I made it. The key to good dough is to kneed it well and give it a good rest. The only problem I had was that some of the filling burst out of the side. The next time I will cut Slashes in the top to vent excess pressure. This was easier and tastier than a cherry pie.
I am fortunate to have a sour cherry tree in my back yard. I canned 14 quarts of cherry pie filling last summer and can put them to good use.
Thank you again for this wonderfull recipe.
Charles. New York City

Varacita said...

Thank you for your kind words Charles!
Even with slashes some of the filling might "escape". It happens to my strudel too. Using less filling might help.
You are truly fortunate to have a sour cherry tree in your back yard. Canned ones are so expensive here in the US and also hard to find.

navalcharles said...

Hello, I'd like to make an apple strudel with a tart apple like the granny smith. will I have to pre cook the apples with sugar to soften them?
What would you recommend?

Varacita said...

Charles, I do not pre-cook the apples for apple strudel. I use Granny Smith, slice thinly, then mix with sugar and raisins and let sit for an hour or more. This will soften the apples somewhat and draw out some liquid. I then strain the liquid and cook it down to syrup consistency. I mix this syrup with the strained apples and then fill the strudel dough with it. I also spread toasted bread crumbs (homemade whole wheat)and sometimes mixed with toasted walnuts as a "base" for the apples. Similar to first spreading the cheese mixture and then the cherry mixture for cherry cheese strudel. The bread crumbs will also soak up some of the liquid.

I hope this helps! Good luck making apple strudel!

In this way you do not have too much liquid oozing out of the strudel while baking.

navalcharles said...

Thank you so much for the help and advice. I am so forunate to have discovered you blogspot. Nothing tops authentic Austrian Baking.
Thanks again

Sue said...

Hello, I am going to try this cherry cheese strudel for my dear friend who grew up in Czernowitz and remembers her mother making it. I was thinking of buying frozen phyllo dough from the store and was wondering how that would work out.
I live in NYC, like Charles who posted last year and was astounded to see that he has a sour cherry tree. Maybe it's the backyard of his country home!

Varacita said...

Sorry for the late reply. I have never made Strudel using phyllo dough but I have seen strudel recipes that call for it. I think it will work just fine. Make sure you overlap the phyllo dough if you want a longer strudel. You could alternate the sheets that overlap so that you have several layers of sheets that overlap at different spots so that the filling will not want to escape too much. Good luck! Let me know how it worked out.
The part of Austria where I grew up has lots of sour cherry trees. Sadly, I have a hard time finding sour cherries here in the USA, even in canned form. I haven't made sour cherry strudel in months.

Anonymous said...

Just came across your stroudel recipie, will be attempting this over the weekend for a friends farewell but I was wanting to find out if it is at all possible, once the stroudel is made, can it be frozen and cooked later? We will going out for dinner and coming back home afterwards, thought it would be really nice to prepare beforehand and just put it in the oven just before ready to serve. Any suggestions?
Thank you for an authentic recipie. Love all things simple and made from scratch. Kind regards.Des