Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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Apfelstrudel – Apple Strudel

The Austrian part of me has been wanting to make Apple Strudel for some time now.  My husband, who is of German heritage, returned from a recent business trip to Munich just before Christmas.  He raved about the Apfelstrudel (German for Apple Strudel) that he enjoyed there.  He was in San Diego on a speaking engagement and I wanted to surprise him upon his return home with homemade Apfelstrudel.  One of the reasons this was a secret mission was that if it failed miserably he would not be disappointed.

When I was in college, I was invited to a friends house to make Apple strudel from scratch.  She and I pulled the dough into a flaky layer that you could read through.  I walked away feeling intimidated by the task.  I have several German and Austrian cookbooks that address how to make an apple strudel, but it scared me.  I finally found a book that spelled it out beautifully.  The book was written by Rick Rodgers, who has authored or co-authored about 20 books and is a culinary instructor.  Armed with his “hand holding” I finally got up the gumption to make one. The book I used is Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.  The book is out of print now, but you can still find copies through Amazon.  I do highly recommend this book.

I knew two things going in:  The dough had to be thin and my first attempt would not be perfect.  I was right, but it sure was yummy no matter.  I did succeed in pulling the dough into a thin flaky crust, but I also succeeded in putting a lot of holes in it.  I baked the poor strudel too long in the end and it started to caramelize more than I wanted, but it was still yummy.  Not burnt, but just a few minutes past that golden I was going for.  Don’t let the intimidation of the task stop you like it did me for so many years!  It is so worth the process and really not THAT difficult.  Use a good quality unbleached flour.  I love King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour and buy it exclusively now for all my baking.  You do need room to pull the dough and preferably a space you can walk around.  I used my island in the kitchen, but a table, even a card table, will be large enough.  I was surprised to find vinegar in the list of ingredients for the strudel dough, but it is such a small amount you do not taste it at all.  I am sure it serves some purpose…I love that this version uses a Kitchen Aid mixer to make it.  Many strudel recipes are made by hand. This made it more fool proof for me.

Strudel Dough

Makes 1 strudel that serves 5-6

Adapted from Rick Rogers Kaffeehaus pages 78-79

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (King Arthur’s brand is wonderful)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 7 Tbsp water, plus more if needed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar (I used Apple cider vinegar)

Preparation:

Place the flour and salt in the bottom of the mixing bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer (if you have one: you could also mix by hand).  Use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients at this point.  Combine the liquids in a glass measuring cup.  Slowly add the liquids to the flour and salt with the mixer on low.  You may need to add more water – I actually added a little flour as it was sticking to the bottom of the bowl a bit (not very much though less than 1 Tablespoon).  Scrape the dough into a ball and  switch to the dough hook attachment.  Continue kneading the dough at medium low to make a soft ball.

Transfer the dough to a un-floured pastry board.  Knead by hand and occasionally pick it up and slam it down hard on your board from time to time, this will get the gluten activated and make the dough pliable.  Remember you will be stretching it into a very thin layer of dough, much like a filo dough.  Pour about 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into the palm of your hand and gently rub the top of the dough with the oil.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes even better 1 1/2 hours or more!  I think mine rested for 3 or even 4 hours while I picked up kids from school, carted them to the doctor, returned home with dinner, ate dinner, made phone calls, helped with homework… Yes, it was still okay.. I was tired, but the dough was fine!

Use a table, kitchen island or card table for the next step.  Cover your work space with a clean table cloth (if the table cloth has a pattern it is actually an aid you should be able to see the pattern of the cloth through the dough and you can see where the dough still needs stretching)  and sprinkle it with flour and rub the flour around to cover the work space.  Roll the dough out with a well floured rolling pin (sprinkle with flour between as well, or the dough will begin to stick to the rolling pin- don’t ask me how I know.. I just do!).  Roll it out as thinly as you can and then the fun begins.

Wash your hands (wear a t-shirt) and wash your forearms all the way to your elbows.  You will be using these surfaces to stretch it out as well.. thank goodness for the invention of gravity, that helps in this process as well! :-)  Take off any jewelry or watches that could snag and damage the dough as you pull it. I found that pulling the dough was easiest when using the back of my hand to pull and stretch the dough.  My hands would be toward the center of the dough and my arms had dough draped over them — I pulled from the center going out, walking around the kitchen island to work on different parts of the dough.  In the end I had an almost 2 foot by 3 1/2 foot dough pulled – I imagine it could have and should have been pulled out more, but it was my first time and this was my first strudel. The edges will be thicker than the inside and that part gets cut away.. I used a knife, in hind sight I should have used my kitchen shears that are used only for food — NEXT time!  (My husband likes the sound of that I am sure).  Once the edges are trimmed away it is ready to be filled.  Choose your filling.  This time I am making apple strudel, so I will use apples, but other fillings can also be used.

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Apple Strudel Filling:

Makes 1 strudel that serves 5-6

adapted from Rick Rogers Kaffeehaus page 80

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp raisins
  • 2 Tbsp golden rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I increased the amount from the original)
  • 1 stick butter, melted (divided use)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • prepared strudel dough
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts- I like pecans better)
  • 2 lbs tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices (I used 4 Granny Smith apples)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (to toss the apples in to prevent them from browning)

Preparation:

Mix the raisins with the rum and allow them to soak up the rum. I did this before pulling the dough to give it time to absorb all the goodness. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in another bowl and set aside.

In a small pan, heat 3 Tbsp of the butter and add the bread crumbs to the pan.  Toast the bread crumbs in the butter over medium high heat for 3 or 4 minutes or until they are nice and golden brown.  Spread the bread crumbs out on a large plate to allow them to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Line a large baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Melt the remaining 5 Tbsp of butter in a small dish.  I used the microwave for this it took about 45 seconds on high, but watch it carefully.  Use a soft pastry brush (a bristle one may be too rough- use a feather one if you have one.. I don’t have one I used my hands after the butter had cooled some.  Remember to reserve some butter to brush the top of the strudel just before baking.  Sprinkle the dough  with the toasted bread crumbs.  Spread the nuts in a 6 inch strip along the long side of the strip, but stop about 3 inches from the short ends of the dough. (I actually made an error here and spread the apples across the whole strudel rather than having one 6 inch strip and then rolling it but NEXT time I will get that right!) You will use the ends to fold over the filling before rolling the strudel up.

Toss the sliced apples in the lemon juice to prevent browning and combine with the raisins.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and mix to combine.  Spread the apple mixture over nuts.  Fold the short end of the pastry dough (the 3 inches) I found the table cloth to be an aid in this next part- using it for leverage to roll the strudel.  I used the end with the holes as the inside of the strudel, as you roll it it adds layers (if you did it correctly) and those imperfections will be hidden.

Lift the strudel onto your prepared baking sheet.  If you did it correctly the strudel will probably not break. (I did it wrong, so mine did, but it won’t next time! I will read the recipe 4 times instead of 2 times next time! Learn from my mistake will you? lol)  Brush the top of the strudel with the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter, leaving any solids in the bowl.

Bake in the preheated 400 F oven for about 30 minutes.  When it is golden brown remove the strudel from the oven.  I should have removed mine at about 25 minutes it got a little browner than I wanted and the juices that escaped actually caramelized more than desired.  Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.  Serve with whipped cream or the vanilla sauce – more like a vanilla custard (Recipe follows).

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Vanilla Sauce

adapted from Rick Rodgers Kaffeehaus page 18

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cup milk, divided use
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (the increased the amount I used after tasting it)

Preparation:

Pour 1/2 cup milk in a Pyrex measuring cup. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the milk and whisk it.  Add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk well to combine.

In a small sauce pan, bring remaining 2 cups of milk to a simmer over low heat.  Slowly pour the egg and sugar mixture into the simmering milk whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently with the whisk, over low heat just until the mixture comes to a boil.  At this point whisk in the vanilla extract.  Pour the custard through a fine sieve into your serving dish.  Serve warm (If you make this sauce ahead of time, reheat it in a glass bowl over hot water over the burner.)  Pour the vanilla sauce over a slice of apple strudel.  Enjoy.

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This first attempt though it was not perfect, still had my husband who usually has good table manners licking the plate after he finished the strudel.  I think it must have turned out well enough!  My children loved it as well.  They especially liked the vanilla sauce that was with it.  Yes, it was time consuming to make, but I think it will only get better as I practice making strudel, so my family can look forward  to my making Apfelstrudel again soon.

My strudel dough had holes in it, but it still worked (and I spread the filling across the whole dough, and not along the long edge like instructed-this is your opportunity to learn from my mistakes.)

Strudel before baking – it had some tears, but it was still a beautiful thing:

Here is the baked strudel.  You will see that the juices caramelized almost to the point of burning, but the dough itself was golden brown.  I should have removed it at 25 minutes rather than going  to 30.  Do watch carefully towards the end.


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Raclette

Many of you are familiar with Cheese Fondue which has its roots from Switzerland.  Raclette is another Swiss innovation.  It is melted cheese (broiled) that is served over boiled baby potatoes and accompanied by pickled vegetables, pickles and olives.  A few models of Raclette ovens have a grill pan on the top of the broiling elements where you can cook meats, seafood, bacon or grill vegetables if so desired.  My parents gifted us with a wonderful Raclette oven a few years ago (link) and we have enjoyed it over the past few years.  My daughter especially likes shrimp and though I know that shrimp and cheese do not typically get served together I do make some for the kids.  There is even a Raclette cheese.  I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, but you can find them at well stocked grocery stores from time to time.  I have had success in freezing the cheese too – to keep it until the day I make it. If you cannot find Raclette cheese Gruyere will make an excellent substitute as it is similar in taste and texture.  Preheat the Raclette oven for about 10 minutes before using.  The cheese is melted in non stick trays under the broiler.  The meats and vegetables are grilled above on the grill pan if your Raclette oven has that option.

Melt the cheese and serve over boiled baby potatoes that you have roughly mashed with your fork. Season with caraway seed if desired, and dried minced oregano.  Serve with pickled vegetables, roasted bell peppers, pickles and an assortment of olives.  For meats I cooked Filet Mignon cut into 1 inch pieces and jumbo shrimp that had been peeled and cleaned.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Zwetschkenkuchen (Austrian Plum Cake)

Yes, I know too many consonants and not enough vowels – but that is German for you! Here is a recipe my Mom would make frequently, when I was growing up.  Recently I had beautiful organic plums that I wanted to use up and asked my Mom for the recipe.  Now I can share it with you.  It is not a very sweet dessert – I find American’s use way too much sugar in desserts anyway. This is best enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee.  The batter is pretty thick, and plums are cut and placed on top of the batter and baked.  A dusting of powdered sugar and this simple dessert looks attractive.

You could make a variety of Kuchen (Cake in German).  Cherry (Kirschkuchen); Apricot (Marillenkuchen).  Cherry is my all time favorite, however because they are so small they leave the pit in the cherries which complicated eating the cake – I remember accidentally biting down on a cherry pit, which was not pleasant.  You could probably even use pineapple as a topping too.

Zwetschkenkuchen – Austrian Plum Cake
Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 lb plums, cut in half
  • powdered sugar

Directions:
Beat eggs and vanilla well, add sugar, beat, gradually add dry ingredients, add water, mix well.  Pour into a greased 13x9x2″ baking dish.  Press the plums (cut side down) on batter.  Bake at 350 F for 20-35 minutes or until lightly browned.  When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 12 squares.

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Buttered Potatoes

In Austria, Buttered Potatoes are commonly found on the menu of restaurants.  It is comfort food to me.  My family also enjoys eating these little nuggets of goodness.  I like to use the Baby Potatoes (sometimes Baby Dutch Potatoes).  Pre-cook them in boiling water for about 12-15 minutes, or until fork tender.  Drain the water.  Let the steam evaporate for them to completely dry.  Add 3 Tbsp of butter and 3 Tbsp of olive oil to a hot skillet.  Add the baby potatoes and toss them in the butter.  Season with a few grinds of sea salt and sprinkle with parsley flakes (fresh or dried work fine).  If you like garlic add garlic powder.  Toss and stir the potatoes to coat from time to time and cook in the butter for a few minutes.  Serve.  They never last long at my house.  My husband circles my son’s plate like a vulture if he does not eat them all and then when no one is looking pops them into his mouth.  (I have eyes in the back of my head, so I know this).

Austrian Butter Fried Parsley Potatoes

  • 1 package Baby Yukon (Baby Dutch) Potatoes – even baby red potatoes will work, boiled until fork tender
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes (or fresh if you have it)
  • Salt and pepper (Sea salt is lovely with this recipe)

In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil until hot.  Carefully add the cooked potatoes (make sure they are dry or they may splatter).  Toss to coat them in butter.  Add the salt, pepper and parsley flakes.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.  Serves 4-5.

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Wiener Schnitzel

I grew up in Austria.  My favorite meal was Wiener Schnitzel, which is a Breaded Veal Cutlet.  It has become difficult to find veal and often pork will be substituted for it.  Well, a Baron’s Market opened near me and while I was browsing the meat section I discovered veal cutlets.  I could not believe my eyes.  So tonight  I made Wiener Schnitzel.  The famous dish of Vienna, Austria.  Best served with a squeeze of lemon.  My first bite took me back to Austria.  Delicious.  Great with garlic roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad with a Vinaigrette dressing.

Wiener Schnitzel- Breaded Veal Cutlets

Serves 6

  • 6 veal cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • plain dry breadcrumbs
  • lemon slices

Pound the cutlets with the smooth side of a meat mallet until it is pretty thin, but not so hard as to destroy the meat please.. it is after all veal (if you found it)  Very tender! Season with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour, dip in beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs.  Stack the breaded cutlets onto a wire rack so they get a chance to dry a little (20-30 minutes is fine).  Heat about 1/2 inch canola oil or another vegetable oil in a large skillet (12 inch size works nicely).  When it is hot add two or three cutlets (if you can fit that many) to the oil and cook a few minutes on each side until golden brown.  Drip on a paper towel before removing to a platter and serve lemon slices on them.

They are really good with a little lemon juice squeezed on them.  If you have ever been to Austria and have had this dish, this will instantly take you back to the taste of Austria. Enjoy!

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Rahmschnitzel (German cream cutlets)

Here is another classically German/Austrian recipe that is great with the Semmelknödel (posted under the Ethnic-German category).  It is a recipe for veal cutlets that are serves with a rich creamy mushroom gravy.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  The one downside is of course that veal is hard to come by sometimes.  Work with your butcher and have it ordered if you desire, but in a pinch you could even use pork. I consistently find Veal at the Baron’s Market that is nearby.  Well stocked grocery stores may also carry it from time to time though.  Or if you have a good relationship with your butcher he may be able to order some for you.

Becky’s German Rahmschnitzel

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Veal Scallopini cutlets
  • 1 cup Lemon Juice
  • dash Salt
  • dash Pepper
  • Flour, as needed
  • 4 Tbsp Butter
  • 4 Tbsp Oil
  • 8 ounces Mushrooms, Sliced
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Instructions

  1. In a dish, marinate the cutlets in the lemon juice for 1 hour, turning them every 20 minutes or so.  Remove cutlets, pat dry, pound the cutlets with the smooth side of a meat mallet, until they are thin.  Season with salt and pepper, dredge the cutlets in flour on both sides.
  2. In a heavy stainless skillet (don’t use a non stick you want some of the breading to stick to the pan for the gravy), heat butter and oil over medium -high heat until foam subsides.  Cook cutlets for 1-2 minutes each side.  Lower heat to medium and cook 5-6 minutes longer on each side.  Arrange them on a platter and set them in a 300° F oven to keep warm.  Pour off all but a film of fat in skillet, add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook them for 3-4 minutes.  Pour in the heavy cream and bring to a boil, using a whisk to loosen any browned bits from the pan.  Cook briskly until cream thickens.  Pour over cutlets and serve with Semmelknödel or Noodles along with a nice fresh green salad or sweet and sour red cabbage.

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Marillenknödel – Apricot Dumplings

Here is another very German/Austrian meal.  We would sometimes have this for dinner, but more frequently as a dessert.  A lovely cream cheese dough is wrapped around an apricot (or plum) and then it is boiled in water and rolled in toasted breadcrumbs and sprinkled with sugar.  A word of caution if you are going to eat these after you make them (that usually happens around my house) They are quite hot on the center and depending on how juicy your fruit was to start with it does tend to squirt hot juice from the fruit and can scald – so please be careful! How do you eat it? with a fork.  It is a great summer dessert.  Also beware the pit! This recipe is also from my mom.

Images: Click Here

Marillenknödel – Verna H. (Apricot Dumplings)
Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1  large Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 lb Butter — or margarine
  • plain dry bread crumbs (3/4 cup more or less)
  • granulated sugar, to taste
  • 8 medium Apricots (or plumbs)

Instructions
Mix creamed cheese, egg, salt.  Gradually add flour.  Flour hands, take a piece of dough, pat it flat and wrap the fruit in it.  Drop in boiling, slightly salted water for about 10 minutes.  Fruit balls will float so use a large pot.
In the meantime, brown breadcrumbs in margarine.  When dumplings are done, roll them in the browned breadcrumbs and sprinkle with sugar and serve.

Dumplings using plums as center are called “Zwetschkenknoedel”

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