Basic Strudel Dough
From “The Art of Fine Baking” by Paula Peck:
“Following an idea of James Beard’s, we once brushed thinly stretched strudel dough all over with melted butter and then carefully folded it into a small rectangle, brushing on additional butter before each fold. After chilling the dough very well, we rolled it out, cut it into shapes and baked them. They rose wonderfully well, bearing out the theory that strudel and puff paste are closely related.
Both pastries are crisp, light, and flaky after they are baked. Both are created from alternate layers of dough and fat, and in both pastries it is the fat that keeps the layers of dough from sticking together. In making puff paste, however, the dough and butter, after they are combined, are treated as one, while the strudel, the dough is first stretched paper-thin, then brushed all over with melted butter before being filled and folded.
Bread flour makes the best strudel because of its high gluten content. The dough itself is much softer than puff-paste dough. It must be worked, beaten, and slapped against the table until it no longer sticks to hand or table. This will give it enough elasticity so that it can be stretched and pulled to tissue-paper thinness.
Homemade Strudel will remain crisp for several days after it has been baked. It is at its best when served slightly warm. Baked strudel can be frozen for a few weeks but should be reheated before serving. Unbaked dessert strudels should not be frozen because many uncooked fillings do not freeze well.”
1 ½ cups flour (preferably bread flour)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons peanut oil
¼ to ½ cup warm water
Place flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Add salt, lemon juice, egg whites, and peanut oil. Using hands, work ingredients together, adding enough water to make a very soft, sticky dough. Knead and beat well, slapping dough against table top or pulling it against bowl, whichever you find easier. If kneading on table, keep spatula handy to push dough together when it spreads too far. When dough has been beaten at least 15 minutes and is very elastic and smooth, place it in an oiled bowl. Brush top with oil. Cover bowl with a plate, place in a pan of medium-hot water, and let dough become luke warm. Turn dough in bowl once or twice. Warming will take 10-15 minutes.
Cover table top with a pastry clot or thin towel large enough to hang over the sides. Rub flour into the cloth, particularly in the center. Place dough on cloth. Sprinkle heavily with flour. Roll out thin to the size of a large handkerchief. Brush all over with oil.
Dip your fists into flour. Then by working fists under dough (palms down), stretch dough, working from center out, until it is as thin as tissue paper, If it should begin to dry in spots before it is thin enough, brush with oil. If holes appear, ignore them. When dough is evenly stretched it may hang over edges of table. Let it dry about 10 minutes. Do not allow it to become brittle.
After it has dried slightly, pull or cut off thick edges. Brush with butter and follow instructions for the selected filling.