Friday, May 22, 2009

May Daring Bakers

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It's that time of the month, Daring Baker's reveal. This month's was extra special. 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 Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers. Now I don't consider myself Austrian, more like half Italian, half Serbian. However, when my mom traced the ancestors many years ago, there were Austrians in the mix. This strudel recipe is eerily similar to what we call pita. Do not think pita bread. Think more of spanakopita from the Greek. Pita when I was growing up was made by my mom and Grandma. We had a pita tablecloth, 100% cotton damask, stained with butter and thin and frayed from years of use. I am the proud owner of it. Today I had my grandma here in spirit as I made this month's challenge. We eat pita at every holiday, but we use boxed phyllo dough, today I made it from scratch. And surprisingly it was easier than it looked 20 years ago.

There are a few thousand Daring Baker's out in the blogosphere, so I am not going to reprint their recipe. I will however give you mine. I decided if I was going to make the Daring Baker's strudel, I ought to make it side by side to the family recipe. A few things struck me right away. My grandma's called for Mazola corn oil, which is no longer here, so I used canola oil. She was very brand loyal and I can remember her always using Mazola. Also, her recipe had more oil and flour than the DB recipe. The DB recipe also called for a half teaspoon of cider vinegar, apparently this is to hinder the gluten development. My grandma never used a stand mixer, and I wasn't going to do it without. As usual, today is reveal day, so time is of the essence. It took additional flour to get my grandmas dough to come together, it was very gooey. On the flip side, I had to add another Tablespoon of water to the DB dough as it was very crumbly and raggy. Both doughs rested for about an hour, and in the end, grandma's dough stretched more evenly than the DB dough which felt a little tough.

We were free to fill it with what we liked, so for the DB I chose apple filling. With the family dough, I chose cheese filling also known as burek. Traditional burek is made with feta cheese, more like the Greek version. My family's cheese pita is made with cottage cheese, brick cheese (only found in the midwest, sub monterey jack) eggs, butter and maybe a little yellow cheese for color. Both recipes follow. My house smells delightful right now, and I am thrilled to eat pita for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days. So let's compare the finished product. My dough was a larger batch, and I rolled the strudel about 4-5 times in it. I don't think it was hot enough in the oven because it really was doughy after baking and never really got crispy. The DB dough was so crispy it shattered. Hmmmm. It makes me rethink the vinegar, I think I will add it to my Grandma's. I love the way both doughs held in the filling, it sort of stretches with it as it bakes unlike phyllo which tends to split. Both were incredibly delicious, and a true success. However, I will make a few adjustments. I'm using my dough plus ½ teaspoon vinegar. Also, I think I will make 2 rolls with the dough since they are a little hard to pick up when rolled. I can honestly say I will not likely buy frozen phyllo dough again. This was far easier for me. The dough takes a few minutes to put together then rests for an hour. The stretching took all of 10 minutes and I was done. I think of all that time buttering the phyllo layers, this is a much tastier version. I'm so glad I have a Serbian grandma who passed her love of the kitchen to me. I admit this is a project, I am glad I jumped in, the results are delicious.

When you make this, turn off the air conditioner, lock the doors and remove watches, bracelets and rings. Get on short sleeves or roll them up good. One draft of cool air will make the dough seize back, you want it to stay relaxed. Also, as you stretch it, you are using the back of your hand so you want to be careful not to have it tear.

Pita Dough
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ oil
¾ cup warm water

Mix in bowl of stand mixer with flat beater. Add additional flour until dough becomes smooth and comes together. Replace flat beater with dough hook and mix for about 3 minutes. The dough should come onto the hook. Add more flour if it is too sticky. Remove the dough and place in an oiled bowl, flipping it around so it too is oiled. Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for an hour somewhere warm.

Cheese or Burek Filling
1# brick cheese shredded (substitute monterey jack if need be)
1 large carton cottage cheese 4%
5 eggs
1/4 cup yellow cheese grated for color

Apple Filling
6-8 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 crushed graham crackers
4 Tablespoons melted butter (salted please)
⅓ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Cover a small round or oval table with a cotton cloth and rub flour into the fabric. Roll the dough out as best you can and then begin to use your hands. If you let the edges come over the edge of the table, the weight of the edge will help stretch it. The dough should be paper thin, you can read through it.

My grandma would trim the fat edges and re-roll them. Drizzle a little melted butter (salted please) all over the dough. Do not use a brush as it will tear. Place your filling along one long edge and using the tablecloth start to roll the dough into a long log. Tuck the edges in as you roll. Carefully place the roll in buttered pan and bake at 375° for about 15 minutes to brown and then drop heat to 350° and continue to bake for about 30 more minutes. Cool slightly before cutting.

Yes, I insist on salted butter. You have to have that contrast of salt with the very plain dough and the sweetness of the apples or the cheese filling. Trust me on this, I have made it with unsalted butter and felt cheated. Enjoy!

BTW, if you haven't checked out my interview on the Daring Baker's site, come on...

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, shades of grandma. Great photos, thanks for sharing. Hope you put a piece in the freezer for me when I visit :)