As promised, a cherry strudel was my project this week, using up some remaining local Lapin cherries which were competing for attention with five pounds of blueberries in the fridge. My first exposure to authentic strudel was on Day 3 of pastry school, when we watched in dumb-struck awe as our expert German pastry instructor stretched a handful of strudel dough into a tissue paper thin sheet which covered the workbench (about 2.5 feet by 5 feet) without a single rip or tear.
Admittedly, my strudel skills are rudimentary and this cherry and peach strudel is not traditional Austrian apple strudel; however, I was determined to practice my strudel dough stretching abilities using local summer fruit. When working with strudel dough, the goal is to pull and stretch the dough as thin as humanly possible without tearing it. How thin? Thin enough to read a newspaper through it. Using gravity to gently thin the dough by its own weight is then followed by gentle pulling and stretching action with the palm of your hand. A flour dusted linen or tea towel works well to help roll up the fruit filled strudel without having to handle the fragile dough directly.
I did make a few mistakes. Although my strudel dough was hole-free, I think I was too cautious and could have stretched it even thinner. Too much fruit and not enough length of dough also produced fewer layers and thus, a less flaky strudel than I had hoped for. Finally, I underbaked it for fear of overcooking the fruit and so the strudel was not as crisp as it could be. But we ate it anyways!