Whenever we speak of Strudel, we think of Austria or Germany. For decades, the Austro-Hungarian empire was under Moorish rule. At the end of the XIX century, there was an outbreak of war, which resulted in the Moorish expulsion from those lands. Many stayed, though.
In Moorish cuisine, filo pastry has always been a classic. It has much in common with strudel pastry, as its basic ingredients, as well as the way in which the pastry is rolled out (as thin as a sheet of paper, looking almost transparent) are the same. Melted clarified butter is also brushed onto strudel pastry, though not in layers as in the case of filo pastry.
Characteristics of filo pastry
Simple pastry, rolled out until it is as thin as paper, which is assembled in layers, brushed with clarified melted butter in such a way that once baked, it looks as puff pastry. Clarified butter is essential as it allows the layers of pastry to puff well and separate from one another.
How to get clarified butter
It is obtained after melting butter in a warm double-boiler or in the microwave oven and discarding the whey. The element used to separate the filo pastry sheets is the solid, fat part of butter. If we used common melted butter, the whey present in it would soak the pastry and wouldn' t let it puff well.
Moorish cuisine traditionally used filo pastry in the preparation of delicious treats with poached fruits and nuts covered in syrup. Over time, some of the recipes changed into simple combinations with apples, which gave origins to strudel.
The word strudel means mill, and it refers to the fact that the pastry is rolled up into a cylinder. Then it is usually shaped into a horse-shoe to bake it.
Strudel pastry can be used for both sweet or salt preparations. The important detail about the fillings used is to keep them dry.
Strudel pastry step by step
Itís a simple pastry with ordinary ingredients: flour, water, eggs and a greasy element.
Sift flour onto worktop. Make a well at the centre.
Place one egg, tepid water and a pinch of salt in the well. Knead dough, avoiding the formation of lumps.
Work with the exact amounts of the ingredients. Do not add any flour or water. Shape dough into a smooth ball. The dough shouldn' t be sticky.
Knead well until gluten breaks up.
Open up dough and add greasy element (pork fat, butter or cooking oil). If you use cooking oil, add it in step 2.
Knead until all the ingredients are well blended. Beat the dough against the worktop, drop it and knead again as many times as required.
This step can take between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on your training and strength.
Open the pastry and knead backwards until gluten is well processed to allow us to roll out the mixture.
Shape pastry into a ball. Brush with clarified melted butter and wrap in plastic food wrap. Set aside in a warm place, for 30-60 minutes.
Take off any bracelet, ring or sharp element which could disturb when rolling out the pastry or break it. Choose a warm place, without any draughts that could dry up the pastry quickly. Cover worktop with a floured kitchen cloth.
Rolling out the pastry.
Two people must do it, by hand. As it has been brushed with butter, the pastry is greasy. Sprinkle some flour over the places where you will touch it. Start stretching it with your hands, with slow gentle swirls. Once the pastry is well rolled out, place it carefully over the floured kitchen cloth, which will allow you to work more comfortably. Take the pastry between your fingers and keep stretching it gently, avoiding holes. (If you break it, overlap the edges of the hole and stick together again with your fingers or if the hole is big, take some pastry from the borders and use it as a patch).
Once the pastry looks almost transparent and as thin as a sheet of paper, set it aside and allow to dry a bit before spooning the filling on top.
Tips for the filling
Brush all the surface of the strudel pastry with clarified melted butter.
Sprinkle with crushed cookies, cake crumbs or semolina. This dry element is essential as it will absorb all the humidity of the filling.
Spoon the filling over all the surface or in the middle. If you choose this last option, do not forget to poach the fruit first, or it wonít be well cooked in the oven.
If you spread the fruit over all the surface, do not forget to leave some centimetres around the edges to be able to assemble the strudel correctly and seal it to avoid any leakage.
Place onto a baking tray, with the edges of the pastry looking down.
Brush with clarified melted butter. This will prevent any cracks in the surface of your strudel during the baking.
Bake in a moderate oven for 40-50 minutes.
Serve warm with some natural whipped cream, some English sauce or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.