Over the L.A. river and through the wood to Grandmother’s house we go…
I look at images like this and I remember my grandmother’s house. The teenagers in my life get the same glazed look they exhibit whenever I turn the channel to TCM. “It’s old-timey!” Which, of course, is why we (the Royal We) love it. And then they wander off to do homework (I have my suspicions).
Now, as to the title of this post, I must remind you the L.A. river is paved concrete so old that islands have formed in the vast channel—from which trees spring—and as you cruise by on the freeway you look through their canopy to the river below. As for snow, the last appreciable snow fall was decades before I was born, in 1949.
This was my grandmother’s favorite cookbook – and I still dig into it for the best cake and cookie recipes.
The way to a man’s heart…is through his stomach? Hm. Not bloody likely. I could be more tactful and say that depends on how old the man is… And, that old would be dead…which means it’s a topic for another day.
Today’s topic is Strudel, and my grandmother really did make it, and had she been alive in 1992 she would have had a look on her face like Michael Douglas as he listened to Melanie prattle on about her prowess in the kitchen.
Here’s the recipe from her favorite cookbook, with a few modern updates from yours truly, and a little instructional video at the end so you can see the process.
1 1/2 cups flour, 1/3 cup warm water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, slightly beaten
To Mix and Knead: Into a large mixing bowl, place salt, flour and egg. Add the warm water, mix dough quickly with a knife, then knead on board, stretching it up and down to make it elastic until it leaves the board clean. Toss on a small, well floured board. (What they didn’t clarify in The Settlement Cook Book is that you have to really work the dough to make it pliable. You can do this by throwing it into the bowl 100 times, or throwing it 100 times on a floured surface. Then knead the dough. It should be very malleable when you’re done.) Cover with a a hot bowl and keep it warm 1/2 hour or longer.
Apple Strudel Filling
6-8 apples, peeled and chopped. (The better your apples taste the better your Strudel. I like Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Arkansas Black), 1 cup dried tart cherries, 1/2 cup currants, 1/4 pound almonds, blanched (put peeled almonds into a bowl and cover with boiling water and let sit for one minute, drain) and chopped, 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup melted butter, zest of one lemon, juice of 1/2 lemon. Combine all the ingredients and then spread in about a 4-6 inch strip on the prepared Strudel dough.
To Stretch Dough: See that the room is free of drafts. Have materials for filling all ready before stretching dough. Work quickly. Lay dough in the center of a well floured tablecloth on table about 30 by 48 inches. (Instead of the tablecloth you can use a well floured old bedsheet.) Flour dough. Roll the dough with a rolling pin until it is 1/4 inch thick. Brush top of dough with 1/4 cup of the melted butter. With hands under dough, palms down, pull and stretch the dough gradually all around the table, towards the edges, until it hangs over the table and is translucent and as thin as paper. Cut off dough that hangs over edge (the part that isn’t paper-thin) and spread filling over quickly. Brush 1/4 cup more of butter over surface of dough. Sprinkle the buttered surface with either almond flour or breadcrumbs.
To Fill, Roll and Shape: Spread the filling a few inches in from the edge of the Strudel on the greased, sprinkled, stretched dough, fold a little of the dough at one end over the filling. Hold the cloth high with both hands and the Strudel will roll itself over and over, like a large jelly roll. Trim edges again. Twist roll into a greased, parchment lined pan (11 by 16 inches) or cut to fit into 3 sections.
To Bake Strudel: Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in hot oven, 400º F., 1/2 hour; reduce heat to 350º F. and bake 1/2 hour longer or until brown and crisp, brushing well with the remaining butter, from time to time during baking, using altogether about 1 cup melted butter for the Strudel with its filling.
The Beekman Boys write wonderful cookbooks and here they craft a Cherry Strudel:
It’s a winter treat, delicious served warm with a dollop of whipped cream and a good cup of coffee.