Wednesday, 27 May 2009

May Daring Bakers - Squash & Shitake Strudel

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.
I approached this challenge rather unenhusiastically. You see, I had been inspired to join the Daring Bakers Challenge when I read about Granny's Rose Syrup Cheesecake - Ummmm! So I eagerly signed up and waited for the challenge to be posted. And finally on the 27th April it was there - Strudel!! I was so disappointed. To me strudel is cinnamon and apples and just doesn't excite me. Truth be told, if it doesn't have chocolate (apart from cheesecake) then most desserts don't excite me. Anyhow I wasn't going to try and get out of it, it was after all my first challenge, so I decided to go down the savoury route. After a bit of web browsing I came up with my filling. The whole procedure looked fiddly so I booked hubby to look after baby for the afternoon while I got it done. However, I had most of it sorted before my little one even got up from his nap - it really was simple. I cut the dough quantity in half and therefore it didn't have enough weight to let it hang over my hands and be stretched but I managed to roll and stretch it nonetheless. My filling wasn't as nice as I had expected simply because the only squash I managed to get my hands on was rather flavourless but that will teach me to use winter veg at the start of summer. Looking back I wish I had concocted some delicious chocolate filling but this month has been hectic with the planning of two birthday parties and a wedding so the strudel was pushed well down my priority list. But it has taught me a lesson - I will embrace the next challenge much more enthusiastically and give it much more consideration.

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.
Strudel Filling
300g butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes
3 tbsp vegetable oil
150g shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
350g ricotta
3 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
Small handful each fresh sage and chives

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Put the butternut squash in a roasting tin and toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a grinding of pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until golden and very tender.

2. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the shiitake mushrooms and crushed garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until tender and golden. Cool.

3. Put the ricotta into a large mixing bowl. Fold in the roasted squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, sage and chives, then chill.

1. Spoon the mixture about 3 inches from the short end of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip.

2. 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.
3. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at 5 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. It is best on the day it is baked.

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