Bake Off Challenge – Strudel
The Bake Off Challenges are a series of posts I’m doing to celebrate my 100th post. I’ve challenged myself to have a go at making something from, or inspired by, ‘The Great British Bake Off‘ – an English programme in which 12 contestants have to bake something different every week. It will hopefully improve my baking skills and as I go, I’ll spill my guts about how hard these things actually are to make!
I’m slowly getting further and further behind with my bake off challenges, but I am determined that I shall do one more before I head back to uni on Monday. After watching the programme, and being faced with a choice of steamed pudding, strudel or queen of puddings (I’d never heard of this, but it’s a layer of custard, a layer of jam, and topped with a layer of meringue), I was initially going to do a ‘holiday hotpud’. This is a pudding where you mix everything together, put it in a dish, pour boiling water on it, bake and it miraculously separates into a delicious pudding with a thick sauce underneath. But then I thought about how one of the aims of the bake off challenge was to challenge myself, and I thought, ‘Screw it, I’m going to do the strudel’.
For those that don’t watch ‘The Great British Bake Off’, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is about making a strrrrruuudel (which must be said with a rolling of the ‘r’ in an Austrian accent), but let me tell you – not only do you have to make the filling, you have to make the pastry. Easy enough, right? I’ve made pastry before! Not filo pastry. Filo pastry has to be as thin as tissue paper and you have to roll it and stretch it and cry when you tear it right down the middle or catch it with a poorly placed fingernail. It certainly was a challenge!
I decided that I’d like to do a savoury strudel and chose Cathryn’s roasted vegetable couscous and slipcote cheese strudel (following this recipe).
First things first, I chopped up two peppers, two courgettes and an aubergine into 1 inch chunks. Only my mum likes tomatoes, so I left them out and she added some to her meal as a side. I rinsed them, put them into a roasting tray with a splash of oil and seasoned them before placing them in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees C for 25 minutes.
While the vegetables were cooking, I started on the pastry by sieving 12 oz of strong white flour and a pinch of salt to a bowl. In a jug, I measured 6 fl. oz of lukewarm water, 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and 1/2 tsp of cider vinegar. I mixed one beaten egg into the flour and then slowly added the liquid mixture bit by bit until the dough was slightly sticky. I used all of my liquid, but it probably varies on the flour you use (I accidentally used out of date flour, but we’ve eaten it and we seem to still be alive, so it can’t have hurt too much…).
At this point the vegetables were sufficiently roasted, so I tipped them into a bowl and added the juice and zest of a lemon, a handful of chopped parsley and a handful of chopped basil. I thought when I was doing it that it was a lot of lemon, but I went with it. In the end though, it was VERY lemon-y, so I would go easy on the lemon if I were you.
Back to the pastry and it was ready to be kneaded. I switched between normal kneading and Paul Hollywood’s ‘twist and flick’ method. It was ok, but dough is actually pretty heavy and I nearly broke my thumb every time I accidentally dropped the dough on it…
After my arm felt like it might drop off and the 15 minutes were up, I placed the dough in a floured bowl with cling film on the top for 30 minutes to rise.
As the dough was ‘doughing’, I poured 5 fl. oz of boiling water over 4 1/2 oz of couscous and 1 tbsp of vegetable bouillon. I then covered the bowl and left for 5 minutes before mixing in all the roasted vegetables.
At this point, the dough was ready to be rolled out. I generously floured a clean tablecloth (actually, it was a bed sheet that we used for tablecloths at Heather’s wedding, but same thing!) and put the dough in the centre. Then it was just a case of using a rolling pin to get it as thin as possible before using our hands to stretch it out. We worked out a pretty good technique actually, where my mum lifted a side of the pastry as I rolled it out to stop it creasing or ripping.
Once it was as thin as we dared to roll it (at which point I could see my hand through the dough in the middle), I cut off the thick edges and spread melted butter over it before adding the filling and sprinkling over feta cheese.
Next came the crucial task of rolling the pastry up. This was the point where everything could go horrible wrong and, to be honest, I was kind of expecting it to! It actually worked really well, just by using the tablecloth/bed sheet to roll it all up to reduce the risk of tearing the pastry.
AND IT WAS STRUDEL SHAPED!!!
All that was left to do was place it onto a lined baking tray in a U shape and glaze it with butter before placing it in the oven (still at 220 degrees C) for ten minutes.
After the ten minutes were up, I lowered the temperature to 200 degrees C and gave it another coat of melted butter. I repeated the glazing every ten minutes until it had been in the oven for a total of one hour. To be honest, I think the amount of butter was quite extravagant and slightly unnecessary, and if I did it again I’d just give it two or three coats.
The finished strrrrruuuuuuudel:
I was SO pleased with how the pastry turned out – it actually flaked, people! However, the filling – not so good. I don’t particularly like aubergine or (as I found out when I ate it) feta, plus the one possible redeeming feature, which was the couscous, was overbearingly lemony. Patch found the same thing and neither of us finished our portions. My mum, however LOVED it. It’s exactly the kind of filling she likes and she ate her piece AND polished off mine and Patch’s leftovers! Shocking, I know.
So if you feel the urge to make a strudel, go for it! It takes quite a long time, but it’s actually really fun to make. I really want to try making another one, but I think I’ll go for a sweet one next time. You can’t usually go wrong with sweet strudels in my opinion. I guess we’ll find out!