Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Strudel Me This

I apologize in advance for the grain-iness of the photos, but it was necessary to take them with my cell phone camera if I wanted any visual documentation of this month's challenge....they're not so bad. ;-)

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 cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

It's funny...anytime I think a challenge is going to be a walk in the park, I tend to get a run for my money. I walked into this thinking, No biggie. Whip up some dough; roll; fill with delicious goodies. However, the intricacies of working with gluten show you just how much of a chemistry project baking can be.

The dough came together with very few ingredients, but then had to be kneaded. I kneaded it for about 5 minutes, per the recommendation of several other bakers who had already completed their challenge. I know the success of rising flour has a lot to do with how long, temperature, humidity, etc., but I am still a rookie when it comes to knowing how to balance the elements.

In retrospect, I think my dough could've used a little more lovin' before I started it rising. I had some trouble stretching it thin. It wanted to spring back into its original shape, and not lay flat. This required me to press out the dough which made it stick to the surface I had it on. The surface may have had something to do with my problems as well. I used wax paper, thinking it would be a fine replacement for parchment paper, but it seems wax has less of a non-stick quality to it than parchment. My first attempt at rolling one of these babies up was a flop.

It wouldn't come off the wax paper for anything. Would've been eating wax covered strudel if it hadn't been for the cushion I allowed myself, making an extra batch of dough.

The tablecloth covered with flour perhaps may have been best. That was pure laziness, thinking I would have to do a load of laundry if I pulled out the tablecloth. :-p

I stuck with (no pun intended, hehe!) the wax paper but tripled or quadrupled the amount of flour I layed down. My note to self:

Flour worked like a charm. Here is my traditional apple strudel (sans walnuts) just going into the oven.

Came out looking like this...

I had trouble stretching that dough to an even layer, so there were a few holes in the end.

My second was a strawberry cream cheese strudel. I used about a pint of strawberries, sliced and mixed with about 1/4 c. of sugar and 1 t. of lemon juice. I softened the cream cheese with 1/2 t. vanilla extract and 1/4 c. of sugar (confectioners is preferable with cream cheese, but I used white since we were out). I spread the cream cheese on one end of the dough and placed the strawberries on top of the cheese, then rolled.

This one rolled up quite nicely, but ended up making a huge mess in the oven with its juices. Boo. (Yeah, actually had the smoke alarm going off at one point...)

All in all, a fun, creative challenge for me. (The best kind!) Each challenge I learn a little more about ingredients and techniques. So, even if I walk away with the final product looking a bit less than stellar, I can at least say I gained some valuable tip(s) to help me next time. :-)

The final product: Align Center

Strawberry cream cheese

I would like to try the strudel dough with a savory filling, and I have in mind some other delicious sweet fillings as the fruits become ripe this peaches!!! Mmmm.....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Huevos Rancheros

My sister-in-law used to work at this ritzy restaurant called Toast. It serves all good things in the name of breakfast: made-to-order omelettes, cinnamon rolls the size of your head, stuffed French toast, eggs any way your heart desires, and, of course, the best toast this side of the Mississippi (which is quite a few states, I might add).

We continue to frequent Toast mainly because of our friend, Sarah's, obsession with their huevos rancheros. I don't think I've ever been there with her, and she hasn't ordered it. Whenever she is in town, it is an imperative that we meet one morning at the restaurant for breakfast so that she can have her fix of her beloved dish. I have yet to try the dish because it is so rich and unappetizing to my early morning tummy. One of these days I'm going to work up the nerve though, because I am certain I'm missing out on something fairly spectacular, spectacular.

Until that time, I have created my own huevos rancheros dish to hold me over. It is a very simple dish to make and quite healthy for you, full of protein (something I can never get enough of).

Start off with a corn tortilla. Warm it up a little with some oil in a frying pan over low heat. You want it to be a little crispy. Place it on your serving plate. Add a couple spoonfuls of warmed black beans and a fried egg. Next comes a bit of salsa, homemade, or I like Pace's medium chunky on just about everything Mexican. Sprinkle on a bit of either cheddar or jack cheese. A generous helping of guacamole sits on top, crowned by a dollop of sour cream.