Between redesigns and volunteering I was beginning to think I wouldn’t get the chance to create this month’s Daring Baker challenge. As I searched for time and innovation, I was left with nothing. No rum, no raisin, not even a cooking apple in the house to play into this month’s strudel recipe even uncreatively and by the book. Not until I found myself here on posting day, on my way to a rainy field trip with my son’s nursery school to a farm, did I feel inspired.
We braved the teaming rain, three year old tempers, got our knickers wet and fingers pruned, yet still, not a true complaint could be heard. Perhaps it was the fuzzy, yellow, hours old chicks or the just born, floppy eared darling of a bunny kit or maybe even the honey tasting that did it for some. For me? It was a farmer brave enough to tackle the thickest mud in a downpour to reveal the field of glowing green spears of mid-spring.
Fields of asparagus. Dedicated dirt.
The plots of soil, as we were told by that old farmer, were zealous in their commitment to grow nothing other than the fantastic feathery ferns for upward of 20 years to come.
Of course a spear in my house is lucky to last more than just a day, and so went the wonder of what to do in a Daring challenge.
The dough was surprisingly and delightfully easy to handle and stretch and those tender green stalks, well, they were just barely sautéd for flavour before rolling them along with fresh ricotta to create a tasty meal to celebrate a memorable day.
…And as luck would have it, I saved just a little room on the end to roll up dessert.
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.
ASPARAGUS + FRESH RICOTTA 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 salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is 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 table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.
Bunch of Asparagus, about 20-22 pencil width spears
Zest of one Lemon
1 Clove Garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Butter, divided
Pinch of salt+pepper
3/4 Cup Fresh Ricotta
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Rinse the asparagus well and snap the ends where they naturally break.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add the garlic, being careful not to burn it.
Add the asparagus, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the butter, salt (I used an Alderwood smoked variety, but you can use what’s on hand) and freshly ground pepper.
Sauté for about 3 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green.
Remove from the heat.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and carefully brush over the stretched dough.
Meanwhile, combine the two cheeses, and equally divide into four portions to evenly spoon onto the widest side of the dough leaving a few inches between each portion.
Top the cheese with about five spears of the asparagus, then evenly and tightly roll the dough up and around, repeating so there is about 4 rotation layers of dough.
Use a pizza cutter to cut between each piece to create four individual servings.
Place the strudels, seam side down on to a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes in the top 3/4 of the oven until golden and crisp.
Cool slightly and serve.