Sunday, May 31, 2009

Daring Baker’s challenge: Apple Cherry Strudel

DB Strudel (10) v1

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge brought back many memories of my dear maternal grandmother. It was fascinating for a little girl like me to watch my ‘Baba’ as she miraculously transformed a small ball of dough into a thin sheet of pastry that draped the entire kitchen table, including a generous vertical on all sides that headed towards the floor!

At the time, of course, I could only imagine that I would be making my own strudel dough one day. As an adult, I always believed it to be too delicate a process that required a lot of experience and skill…NOT! It is so easy to make and much tastier than the purchased frozen fillo sheets. I think I’m even going to convince my sister, Vesna, who regularly makes apple strudel, to give it a try.

My ‘Baba’s’ strudel filling was made of apples that were grated and not chopped. When apples are grated and combined with sugar and cinnamon, they release a lot of their juices. This sweet, cinnamon-y apple juice is the best byproduct of all, and it’s that which my siblings and I fought over! Today, I savored the sweet juice once again, and privately toasted my Baba and thanked Linda and Courtney for choosing apple strudel for this month’s DB challenge.

DBKitchen logo

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 Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and the rest of the ingredients in a medium size bowl. Mix together with a spoon until combined. If it is dry, add a little more water.

2. Transfer to a work surface and knead by hand, using a sparse amount of flour, if necessary. Knead for about 5 minutes, and pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly oil it on all sides with olive oil. Transfer it to a plate. Cover the ball with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes, the longer the better.

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with a table cloth, dust it with flour and rub the flour into the fabric. Put your dough in the middle and pat it out as much as you can. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. The weight of the dough and gravity will help stretch it as it hangs. Use the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it as well.

4. When the dough becomes too large to hold, put it on the table cloth. Continue to gently stretch the dough as you walk around the table. If it tears, keep on going – it won’t be noticeable when it’s rolled up. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough using the backs of your hands. You will have a thick edge that may hang over the edge of the table.

When the dough measures about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough can sit for a few minutes while you make the filling, but do not let it dry out. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease parchment lightly with a little melted butter.

Apple and Cherry filling (my version)

  • 1/2 cup plain crumbs, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Combine crumbs, walnuts and brown sugar in a small bowl. Using a spoon, sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of melted butter on dough and spread it gently with your fingers. Sprinkle the crumb/nut mixture on dough, as shown below.

DB Strudel4

  • 4 Granny Smith apples, or any other tart apple
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cherries, pitted and halved

Peel the apples and grate them using the coarse side of a grater. Place them in a bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Let apples sit for about 10 minutes so that the juices are released. Using your hands, squeeze grated apples gently, leaving most of the apple juice in the bowl. Transfer apple to another bowl. Add cherries and combine.

The delicious apple juice is in the glass

DB Strudel (4)-crop v1

Spread the apple filling along one long edge of the dough. Grasp the tablecloth with both hands and lift it up so that the dough and filling roll up to the other end. At this point you can curve the roll into a U-shape and place it on the baking sheet, or cut it into two long rolls and place them side by side on the baking sheet. Brush the top and sides of the roll with the remaining melted butter. Bake at 400°F (200°C) for about 20-30 minutes or until nicely browned.

DB Strudel (7)-crop v1

Cool on rack for about 30 minutes. To finish, sprinkle some confectioner’s sugar on top of strudel through a sieve.

Very flaky!

DB Strudel (17)-crop v1


Thursday, May 21, 2009

TWD Fresh mango (bread) muffins

TWD Mango cupcakes2

I was intrigued when I first found out that Fresh Mango Bread was the TWD (Tuesdays with Dorie) recipe for this week. I’ve made many banana, apple, cranberry, blueberry, carrot and even a zucchini bread, but mangos in a loaf never crossed my mind.

When I read the recipe, I suspected that the subtle flavor of one diced mango would not be very prominent in the bread, so I looked for ways to make it more mango-ey. And as my family already knows, in true Dragana fashion, I just had to put my twist to it: the raisins had to go – they’re way too pedestrian! What I found were delicious, sweet and intensely flavored dried mango pieces. To 1/2 cup of chopped dried mango, I added just enough rum to cover them. Later, I added 3 tablespoons of the soaking rum to the batter (I’m never in favor of discarding good liquor!). I reduced both the sugar to 3/4 cup and the ginger to 1 teaspoon – after all, it’s all about the mangoes, right? I came away with 12 moist and tasty individual muffins.


Thanks to Kelly at Baking with the Boys for selecting this recipe. You can find the original recipe on her blog. After the TWD chocolate onslaught in April, this was a refreshing change. Topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream, diced crystallized ginger, freshly grated lime zest and a chunk of dried mango, these muffins are a winner! Just ask Carolina!

TWD Mango cupcakes1


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fresh pear cake

fresh pear cake1

Sometimes my eyes are just too hungry!   And when my eyes are hungry, I buy too much.  I am a lover of all fruit, tutti fruiti!   You name it – there’s not a fig, berry, stone fruit, pome, citrus, tropical, melon, seed-in or seedless piece of fruit that I’ve tried whose flesh and nectar doesn’t excite me!  Be it fresh, stewed, in a tart or pie, creamed, sorbeted, preserved, jammed, compoted, frozen or flambéed – if it’s fruit, count me in! 

So it was with the pears recently.  I found myself with a cornucopia in the fruit bowl, ripe and ready to be eaten.  Juicy and aromatic, but too many for the two of us, they were a perfect excuse for me to kick into baking gear!   

Pears and ginger are in combination with cinnamon and pecans in this cake.  I prefer my ginger fresh and always have a piece in the refrigerator.  I grate it using a handy zester called a microplane.  Peel the ginger and press firmly as you grate to cut the fibers.  This moist cake is easy to make and remains fresh for several days.

Fresh Pear Cake

Adapted from Allrecipes

  • 4 cups peeled, cored and diced pears (about 3-4)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided use
  • 2 –3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 2 ¾  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Combine the pears, 1/2 cup sugar and ginger in a large bowl and let stand for an hour.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in another bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Spray a 10 inch Bundt pan with non-stick baking spray.

Beat eggs and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) until pale and creamy.  Add oil and blend in slowly.  On low speed, blend in the flour mixture until most of the flour is mixed in.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Add the pears and pecans and stir on slow speed until just incorporated into the batter.  Do not overbeat.

Pour batter into Bundt pan.  Bake at 325°F, checking after 50 minutes.  When a skewer comes out clean, remove cake from oven and cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Invert cake on a large plate and slide it back onto the rack to cool completely.  Sprinkle the top with confectioner’s (icing) sugar, using a sieve to distribute it evenly.

fresh pear cake2

Enjoy a slice with a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of cold milk!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo!

linda landeros

Hola, dear friends!  Today many Americans of Hispanic heritage commemorate the victory of a small, ill-equipped Mexican army over a much larger and more sophisticated French militia at the Battle of Puebla.  The Batalla de Puebla took place on May 5, 1862.  Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day (that being September 16, 1821).  It is not widely celebrated in Mexico but is a regional holiday limited to the state of Puebla.

The Darling Bakers are also celebrating Cinco de Mayo today!  Here’s how the holiday came to be:  darling baker Napoleon III was determined to collect a loan and expand his empire.  His troops landed near the coast of Veracruz and proceeded to march towards Mexico City.  Abraham Lincoln, sympathetic to the Mexican cause, could offer no assistance because he was involved in his own war, the American Civil War.  In Puebla, General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin and his small militia were able to stop and defeat the French.  It was a sweet victory for a troubled country.

But that was not the end of the French!  Napoleon sent 30,000 (yes, thirty thousand!) more troops who eventually took over Mexico City.  His cousin, Archduke Maximillian of Austria became the ruler.  After the American Civil War, Lincoln provided more military assistance and Maximillian was executed in 1867.  That, in a nutshell is the story behind CDM.

That’s Linda Landeros in the picture above.  Landeros is a dance instructor and performer with many dance companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The colors in her dress express the spirit and vitality of the Mexican people.  In the US, particularly in the border states, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with music, folklore dancing, art and of course food!

One of my favorite Mexican foods is grilled corn with a chili lime sauce.  I first came across it outside a local Hispanic grocery store called Fiesta.  The aroma of roasted corn wafted through the parking lot, leading me to a mobile kitchen where the vendor was slicing the kernels off the cob and into a styrofoam cup.  He topped it off with a delicious, spicy and creamy sauce.  My daughter and I just can’t resist this kind of street food!

Mexican grilled corn1 I broiled these in their husks.

Mexican grilled corn2

Quesedillas are also a favorite.  These are filled with crabmeat, roasted poblano pepper, roasted sweet red pepper, avocado, caramelized red onion, corn, cilantro, chili powder and Monterrey jack cheese.  I served them with my Cilantro Crema – sour cream, lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro. 

Crab quesedillas

This is how I like my cerveza:  ice cold and in an ‘O’ with lime.  Believe it or not, that’s the entire 12oz. bottle in there!


Lime suspended in a golden brew:


Mangos flameados comes from Diana Kennedy’s classic book The Cuisines of Mexico.  It’s a Mexican take on Bananas Foster crossed with crepes Suzette!  I served it with vanilla ice cream.   Mmmm….

Mango flammeado

These Mexican Nutella cookies are perfect with a cup of coffee.  You can serve them plain or with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Mexican nutella1

I leave you with a bite!   Adios!

Mexican nutella2