Friday, January 9, 2015

Who Wants Strudel?

One of the things my children have been wanting to learn is how to make Strudel.  When I lived on the Iron Range of Minnesota, an elderly friend taught me to make it.  I have never found a recipe in any cookbook that was made the same way as it was made up there in the North Country.  My Aunt Betty made delicious Apple Strudel, also, but not much of it got out of her house, with four sons and my uncle who all loved it.  My sons loved strudel so much, they would volunteer to peel the apples if I would make it, and even sometimes requested Apple Strudel instead of a birthday cake.  I remember them coming in from their paper routes at 6:00 in the morning and peeling apples on those days I agreed to make it… before apple peeler/corers were available, or if they were available, they were beyond what we could afford.  So this Christmas, my youngest son and his wife had a strudel lesson on their agenda.  I must say, it was especially fun for me, as all I had to do was sit my behind in a chair and give instructions!  Donavon complained several times about his back aching from standing and kneading the dough (we made two strudels and each needs to be kneaded for 15 or 20 minutes) and he proclaimed a new respect for all the times I made them strudel when they were children!  He had no idea it was so labor-intensive!   Of course, I sat adorned with my martyr’s crown in humble acceptance of his praise.  When it came time to stretch the second strudel, Alyssa pushed him aside and did it herself.   The photo below shows the strudel dough when she had it partially stretched.

Mix in large bowl:
4 cups flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 ¼ cup warm water
I now put the ingredients in a food processor and zap it quickly several times just until the dough forms a ball, but it can be mixed in a bowl by hand, as well.  Do NOT overmix in the food processor, or the dough will break down and will not stretch properly.  Knead on lightly floured board for 15 minutes until dough is no longer sticky and very soft and elastic.   Add as little flour as necessary to keep it from being sticky.  As you knead the dough, it will become less sticky so don’t be tempted to add too much flour.  Put dough in a bowl that has a bit of oil in the bottom.  Cover strudel dough completely with oil.  The oil can be returned to the bottle after you remove the dough the next day.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place overnight, or at least 8 hours, until dough rises and is soft and pliable.  Cover table with a large tablecloth that has been sprinkled with flour.  Lift dough out of oil and let drain over bowl for a moment.  Put dough in center of table.  Begin to carefully pull dough outward from center, and then using the palm of your hand and being careful not to tear the dough, stretch dough out to hang over the table on all sides.  The dough will be very thin and you can see where the thick spots are and can put your hand in those areas to gently stretch it thinner.  Let the stretched strudel dry for a few minutes.  Melt ½ cup butter.  Drizzle over stretched dough and then carefully pat it around so all dough is buttered.  Don’t try to rub it, as you could tear the dough.  Dough will be fragile at this point, so work quickly and carefully.  For Apple Strudel, sprinkle buttered dough with crushed cornflake crumbs or dried bread crumbs, to absorb some of the apple juice.  Skip this step of crumbs for the Cheese Strudel. Spread with filling and tear off thick edges that are hanging over the table edge.  Roll up, jelly roll style, lifting the edge of the tablecloth and gently shaking it to begin rolling.  Carefully coil strudel in shallow roaster or large baking pan.  Drizzle with another ½ cup melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees about 40 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and filling is cooked.  Baste the top a time or two with the butter and juices that accumulate around the strudel.  The strudel will puff up somewhat, but fall a bit as it cools. 

Cheese filling: (Shown at right)
3# small curd cottage cheese, drained and rinsed in large colander

4 eggs, beaten slightly
½ cup sour cream
1 to 2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon dill weed OR a handful of chopped fresh chives

Apple filling: (Shown below)
Peel and slice 3# apples
Sprinkle buttered, stretched strudel dough with dried homemade bread crumbs or crushed cornflake crumbs.  Spread apples over strudel.  Sprinkle with about 1 cup brown sugar (may substitute white granulated sugar).  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  May add chopped walnuts.
 Donavon, ever the perfectionist, was being a true worry-wort, sure that it wasn’t going to turn out as good as mine used to be.  My table here is much bigger and the strudel cannot be hung over the edges of the table, and he was sure it wasn’t working.  After stretching one batch of dough and worrying that it wasn’t going to be like mine, Alyssa firmly pushed him aside and said she would do the second one herself.  It was a good thing, because then Donavon was free to snap a few photos… not as many as we should have had, but hopefully sufficient to make your mouth water.  When the strudels were baked and cool enough to cut, Donavon absolutely beamed as he took his first bite and realized it was EXACTLY like my strudel, and tasted just as good as he remembered.  Middle son Craig and youngest daughter Tricia were also here to enjoy the fruits of their labor!  It was a very good day. 

My neighbor, Rose, taught me about making the cheese strudel, and it was one of the things that we always made when the Chives in the garden began to grow in the springtime.  When I married Ted, he taught me to make it with Dill Weed, the way his mother used to make it.  My children and I talked about how it would be interesting to sprinkle the cheese topping lightly with fresh raspberries or blueberries before rolling it up.  It will be fun to experiment with those additions.  Now, with many of my beloved friends and my husband gone, these recipes help to keep them alive and close to me in thought.  I shared many good times with them, and those thoughts are my company now when the nights are long and lonely.

Speaking of times gone by, when having their strudel lesson at Christmas, my children were coveting
my 2-cup flour sifter they remembered from their childhood… Donavon searched in stores and online and was unable to find anything like it… until he stumbled upon a couple on e-bay.  Who knew they are vintage items and no longer being made???   He bought one for himself and had one sent to his sister, also.  It delights me that they want to have these vintage items in their own homes… things that remind them of their childhood.   Older daughter Michelle wants to learn how to make strudel, also.  She lives in the area, so we will get together some weekend and she will have her lesson.  Maybe we can try one of the berry additions to the cheese strudel when we make it together.  What vintage items do you have in your kitchen that cannot be replaced?  It makes me wonder why they stop making items that are so much handier than the modern things for sale now.


  1. Thank you for the wonderful strudel lesson! I am amazed that the dough will rise with no yeast in it. Your children did a great job, Madam Professor d' Strudel-maker!

  2. Oh alaena! That looks so yummy! The recipe thwt alawys gets requested at our home is cheesecake. Yum! I have my grandmother's measuring cups. I put one in each container of flour, sugar, etc.... so I see and use them all the time!

  3. Victoria... the strudel doesn't actually raise like a yeast dough, but it does get lighter and more pliable. Lorene... I have some of my grandmother's mixing bowls, made of the heavy pottery like the old crocks. And I have some of her baking sheets that make sheet cakes, too. It makes me happy to know that they will be appreciated by my children some day, also. Those old measuring cups were great... are yours aluminum with the various markings on the side for 1/2 cup, etc.? Thank you all for your lovely comments... and Cat, it was even more delicious than it looked!

  4. So fun to read this blog post I stumbled across. Is there truly no yeast added to the strudel dough?

  5. Ah, if I'd read the earlier comments, I'd have seen that topic addressed about the yeast. Thank you.

  6. Denise,,, I think the trick into making the dough elastic enough to stretch so thinly is in the kneading. There is a "feel" to the dough when it is kneaded enough. It becomes kind of smooth, needs no more flour to keep from being sticky, and it seems to have an elasticity that helps it draw back into shape when you knead it. Hard to explain... but seasoned bakers will understand. And the best way to become a seasoned baker is to practice!

  7. Interesting method to let it rest in oil. My grandmother made great strudel but after kneading you just let it rest under a bowl for about 30 minutes and it becomes elastic enough to stretch paper thin. I'll be interested to try your method to see how different the dough is. Thank you for sharing.

    1. It would be interesting to hear the differences in the dough recipes. Letting it rest overnight in the oil seems to make it more pliable... but that was the way I learned to make it. I'd be interested in hearing how your dough differs.

  8. Thank you for sharing how to make strudel. Have you ever frozen your strudel? Baked? Unbaked or partially baked? Would love to have some in my freezer when there is not time to make from scratch.

    1. I have frozen the baked strudel and it works fine. Don't leave it in the freezer for a very long time, or it may get freezer-burned.

    2. Thank you! Mainly I would like to make them for Christmas giving/get togethers. So they won't be in there for very long. LOL I've been seeing you post on Stashbusters and was curious about your blog. Excellent blog by the way!