Pick a filling, any filling! Cherry, apple…whatever says “Memorial Day” to you. What people will remember is the crust – flaky and delicious, and decorated with flags and flowers, with a star in the center to let steam out.
To have a generous portion of pie crust to work with (think thick, rustic crust and lots of dough to make shapes out of) I doubled my usual recipe.
A double recipe of pie crust will give you nice thick deep dish crusts, and plenty of extra dough for decorating..
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups shortening (chilled)
½ cup cold milk
2 tablespoons vodka (or vinegar, if you prefer)
Prepare your pie filling of choice.
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.
Cut shortening into the mixture (using a pastry blender or your fingertips) until there are no lumps bigger than a pea.
Combine milk and vodka and add to the dry ingredients all at once.
Use a fork or rubber spatula to lightly combine. Separate into two balls..
Between two sheets of floured parchment, flatten one of the balls of dough and roll out to a size at least 2 inches bigger all the way around than your pie pan. Add a little flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the parchment. Remove top parchment and, using your pie pan as a guide, cut out a circle approximately 1 inch bigger around than the pie pan. Set aside the scraps for decorations.
Slide a flat baking sheet under the bottom parchment and place your pie pan upside down in the center of the dough. With one hand under the baking sheet and one on the top of the pie pan, flip it over. Remove the baking sheet and gently peel back the parchment. Ease dough into the pan. Place in the refrigerator.
Roll the second ball of dough the same size as the first, between sheets of floured parchment. Remove the top parchment and cut the circle of dough, saving the scraps, Using a cookie cutter, cut a star shape out of the middle. Slide a baking sheet under the bottom parchment and refrigerate while you work on the decorations.
Combine all scraps and roll out thinly between parchment.
Cut out 8 rectangles for flags. With a toothpick make guidelines for stripes and a large square in the upper left hand corner, poked with the toothpick for "stars". With a large sharp knife, cut thin strips to make stripes. Lay them on the rectangles, letting them fall over the edge, and press gently. Trim the excess dough from the sides.
Make roses: Roll a small strip of dough to make the center. Cut round circles and overlap them around the center, pinching the outer edges to make them thin so they'll curl down a bit. Shape with your fingers. Holding the flower right below the petals, pinch off the excess dough from the bottom so the flowers will set neatly on the crust. Make 8 roses.
Heat oven to 375 F.
Remove crusts from the refrigerator.
Fill the bottom crust and cover with the top, keeping the star centered. Crimp the edges.
Arrange flags and roses around the outer edge.
Place a baking sheet under the pie and bake approximately 40 minutes, or until the top crust is a rich golden brown.
Mark lines with toothpick. Add thin strips of dough – let it fall of the sides for now.
Trim the edges.
I neglected to get rose-in-progress photos. But it’s easy, honest! Just roll a little strip of dough for a center. Cut small circles and overlap – pinching the dough on the top to thin it and make it curl nicely. Use your inner artist! Hold the rose loosely in one hand with fingers under the blossom, and pinch off the extra dough so it will sit pretty.
Arrange flags and flowers.
At this point, you could brush the pie with an egg wash, or sprinkle it with sugar – or even colored sugar. You could even paint the stars and stripes with food color. I wanted rustic, so I left it alone.
And of course, you are the kitchen artist here. Make all stars, one large flag, or sculpt an eagle. Use canned pie filling or make your own. Whatever you do, it will be wonderful! Have a good Memorial Day.
Undecided whether to give readers a recipe that made a whopping 6 dozen tea cakes, or cut the recipe in half and end up with leftover coconut-lime mixture, I came up with the following options:
Make a ton of tea cakes. (Hey, they’re small. And light. And irresistible.)
Make a half batch and use the leftover coconut and lime mixture on a salad or vegetables.
Make a half batch and use the leftover mixture to make a kick-ass cocktail!
I’m pretty sure you know which route I took.
Waste not, want not, right?
So…the recipe will give you approximately 3 dozen dainty, soft, refreshing tea cakes. (Definitely more cake than cookie.) You can double it easily if you’d like, but then you won’t be able to make yourself a Tempting Tropical Fizz. Your call!
Making these cookies will require a couple of special ingredients and a little advance preparation. You will need to thoroughly chill a can of coconut milk so that you can pour out the separated liquid and keep the solids. Try to find coconut milk that is high in fat. If it doesn’t say so on the front, compare the nutritional information on all of your options to pick the one that has a higher fat content. Here’s what you’re looking for:
I used lavender sugar in this recipe. I keep a jar of sugar mixed with culinary lavender in my pantry at all times, so my sugar was very flavorful and I just sifted out the lavender buds. (I mix sugar and lavender buds in a mason jar – 1 heaping tablespoon of buds per cup of sugar – and let it sit at least one week.) If you don’t happen to have lavender sugar sitting around, you can blend together one cup of sugar (if you’re doubling the recipe) and two teaspoons of culinary lavender in a blender until the lavender pieces are very fine.
(If you’d like more information about where to buy lavender and how to use it, please visit Sweet Lavender, a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest.)
You’ll find that the subtle flavor of lavender and lime isn’t overwhelming at all; it’s a wonderful combination.
Makes 3 dozen tea cakes. This recipe will actually only use half of the coconut milk and lime mixture. (See instructions.) Double the rest of the recipe to avoid leftover mixture, or refrigerate it for another use.
1 can (13.5 oz) CHILLED coconut milk...preferably a brand with a higher fat content.
zest and juice from 2 small limes (approximately 2 tablespoons juice).
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup lavender sugar *see instructions
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla ( I used clear vanilla for this, but that's optional)
2½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
* To make lavender sugar, either start a week ahead of time and combine ½ cup sugar with 2 teaspoons culinary lavender in an airtight container (sift out the lavender buds before using) OR for immediate use, combine ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon culinary lavender in a blender and blend until the lavender is ground into small particles.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
Drain liquid from thoroughly chilled, canned coconut milk, and reserve for another use if desired. Place coconut solids in a small bowl.
Add lime zest and juice to coconut solids and stir well. Place in refrigerator.
In a large bowl, cream butter and lavender sugar together well.
Add egg, egg white, and vanilla. Mix well.
Remove coconut mixture from the refrigerator and give it a stir. Measure out ½ cup of the mixture and put the rest away for another use.
Add ½ cup of coconut mixture to the bowl, stirring until combined.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low just until incorporated. Batter will be thick and sticky.
Dough can be scooped using a small cookie scoop or level tablespoon, or you can pipe it with a pastry bag and rosette tip. (The cakes won't hold the shape well, but you will still see design on the top of the baked cakes if you pipe them.)
Bake for 10 minutes or until the bottom of the cookies is turning a golden brown. The top will not brown.
Remove to a cooling rack, and when the cakes are just barely warm, shake them gently in powdered sugar.
Somewhere between batter and dough. It’s soft and sticky!
You can scoop…
Or pipe. Don’t expect them to hold the rosette shape, but there will be design on the top of the baked cakes.
Only the bottoms should turn golden brown.
Dust with powdered sugar. (See the shape? These were piped.)
Sooooo, ready for that cocktail yet?
TEMPTING TROPICAL FIZZ
Drop a heaping spoonful of the coconut milk and lime mixture into a glass. Add 1 pineapple slice and about 1/4 cup of pineapple juice (or more to taste). Add clear rum to taste, and top with sparkling mineral water. Give it a quick stir – it should be quite frothy!
I used approximately equal amounts of all 4 ingredients, which made a tart, refreshing drink. If you’d like it to be sweeter, add more pineapple juice or a little simple syrup.
While traditional strudel is fun and challenging to make (all that stretching), by far my favorite strudel to eat is kind of a cross between pie and strudel. The dough is made from “rough puff pastry”, (which is a quick and easy version of the much more complicated puff pastry dough) instead of classic strudel dough.
Compared to store bought puff pastry, rough puff pastry doesn’t puff quite as high, nor does it shatter as easily when you cut or bite into it. I rolled my dough out very thin, which also reduced the puffiness, so it was the perfect dough to use for this recipe.
I wanted flaky, I wanted delicate, and I wanted just the right crust-to-filling ratio. Easy was a very nice bonus!
If you’re feeling motivated and want to play with stretchy dough, try my companion post, Classic Apple Strudel.
I’ve never been crazy about hot apples, especially when they’re in a sticky sauce like a traditional apple pie. I will, however, fight you for the last slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie, because it’s so mellow and creamy – especially when it’s warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
That was the flavor and texture I was shooting for, and was exactly what I got…on my very first try! I added some boozy, rum-soaked raisins and finely chopped pecans, and was thrilled with the results. The normally unflappable Mr. Rowdy was enthused – extremely enthused. He may have even thrown a “WOW WOW WOW!” in there as he inhaled half of the finished product.
If you want to serve this for breakfast, go ahead and make the dough the night before. Wrapped snugly in plastic, it will be waiting for you to roll it out, fill, and bake. (Let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or it will be a real bear to roll out!)
If you’d like to go for the glory and have even more layers, you can make 4-layer folds by folding each short end into the middle and the folding them together.
For more layers, you can fold ends to meet in the middle…
This strudel is made with a quick and easy homemade puff pastry. Filled with apples, sour cream, rum-soaked raisins, and toasted pecans, it will become a family favorite! Serves 8-10.
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
⅔ cup very cold water
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup rum (or use apple juice, if desired)
3 large Granny Smith apples
⅔ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon (more to taste) cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup toasted pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs
Cut 1 cup cold butter into pieces approximately 1-inch square.
Place flour on work surface, stir in the salt, and drop the butter onto the flour.
With a bench scraper or metal spatula, chop the butter and flour together until combined. Don't overwork the mixture - you want to see chunks of butter larger than peas.
Begin drizzling the water over the mixture with one hand, while flipping and tossing it with the other. Again, don't over do it! It should be a crumbly mess at this point.Use your metal utensil to form the dough into a rough rectangle about 5"x 8".
Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Make filling while the dough chills.
Place raisins in small pan with rum over medium heat. When rum is just beginning to bubble, Remove from heat and let sit uncovered.
Peel and core apples. Cut into eighths and slice thinly crosswise, making small thin pieces. You should have approximately 4 cups.
In a large bowl, combine apples, raisins (including the excess rum) and remaining filling ingredients. Stir until apples are coated.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Using the previous instructions, roll and fold two more times.
On a floured surface, roll dough as thinly as possible. Aim for 14"x20", with the long side facing you. Don't worry if your measurements aren't exact, but do make sure there's enough flour under the dough to keep it movable.
Brush the surface lightly with melted butter, using a paper towel or pastry brush.
Beginning 2 inches inside the long edge facing you, distribute the bread crumbs in a thick line all the way across, leaving an inch of plain dough on each side.
Pile the apple mixture evenly over the bread crumbs. (The crumbs will help soak up extra moisture.) If your apples were really juicy, you may need to use your judgment and remove a little of the juice from the bowl.
With your scraper or spatula, lift the long edge to cover as much of the apples as possible. Roll the strudel, using the scraper to lift under the dough and inch it along.
Pinch the ends well. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment paper, and use the paper to lift the strudel onto a baking sheet. Curve into a half-circle if needed to fit into the pan.
Brush with melted butter and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Bake strudel for approximately 40 minutes, or until rich golden brown.
Remove to a rack and mark the pieces with a serrated knife, just through the top. This will allow a little of the steam to escape and keep it crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Roughly chop together. Don’t blend in the butter – chunks are what make it flaky!
First fold is pretty rough. If it’s pretty, you overworked it. It WILL come together!
Second fold is a little better
After five folds and a cold nap, fold a couple more times and then roll it out nice and thin
Use a scraper or spatula to help roll the dough
Pinch the ends and shape it to fit the pan
Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting
Oh, man. You are going to love, love, love this! Eat it while it’s warm, or soon thereafter; it gets a little soft by the second day. Since there is sour cream in the filling, make sure any leftover strudel gets wrapped and put in the fridge.
I’ll leave you with a quote from S.J. Perelman:
“I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietitian will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans.” I’ll buy that!
Are you ready to do this? There will be no frozen puff pastry for this recipe – no sir! We’re going to pull our hair back, put our big white voluminous aprons on, and do it the old-fashioned way today!
I’m warning you, though…I’m going to get pretty wordy, because I learned a lot, failed a lot, and have some ‘splainin’ to do.
The other day, my husband came into the kitchen while I was running the mixer and asked me what I was making. I looked him right in the eye but didn’t say a word. He just whispered: “noooooo”. Poor man. Uh huh – another strudel. Obsessive, stubborn, tenacious – whatever you want to call me, I simply refuse to let a blob of dough get the best of me.
After being inspired by an apple strudel video on Facebook, I immediately began looking at recipes and videos. I had never made strudel before; in fact, I’m not sure I had even eaten a piece of strudel. But…I had to do this. I was compelled to do this…because it just looked like so much fun.
(Cue the creepy music that always starts when the girl heads down to the basement because she heard a noise, and even though everyone in the room is screaming: “Don’t do it!”, she does anyhow because she just has to. Yeah, that.)
Seriously, I had a blast stretching the dough and fully expected the beautiful, fragrant, finished pastry to melt in my mouth, but it was…well…kind of tough on the bottom and more like a shell on the top.
I assumed a strudel would be light and flaky, like those frozen toaster strudels. Mine? Not so much.
So I tried:
nuts instead of breadcrumbs when rolling it up.
more butter brushed onto the dough.
butter instead of oil in the dough.
throwing the dough against the counter 100 times as suggested to activate the gluten strands.
chilling the rolled strudel before baking.
A richer dough, using milk and eggs
I tried higher temps, lower temps, letting the dough rest longer before stretching. I finally achieved a modest amount of flakiness (whew) and an enthusiastic response from my guinea pigs book club with the version I’m going to post, but I’ve come to a conclusion: the problem wasn’t with the dough, it was with my expectations. After asking around, I think I highly overestimated how light and delicate strudel should be. I mean, this dough has been mixed, pounded on the counter, and stretched within an inch of its life. It’s gotta be pretty tough to withstand that, right?
Don’t get me wrong, it really is good – very good. If you want to have the fun of stretching out this dough and making a traditional dish, and can promise me you aren’t expecting puff pastry, this recipe is for you!
(Oh, and if you have your heart set on a very light pastry, check out my companion post, Sour Cream Apple Strudel . The dough has a lot more butter in it, and is made with a “rough puff pastry” dough, similar to puff pastry but a little more restrained. You will just miss out on the dough stretching fun.)
A random hint:
You know that moment when you sniff the air and say to yourself: “what am I smelling?” and then you remember you left raisins and rum on the burner and forgot about them? NO?? Well…I do. I suggest you watch the raisins until you see the liquid begin to bubble – then remove the pan and set it aside until completely cool. Because you don’t want to see (or smell) this:
Burnt raisins and wasted rum.
Since I have a nice, sturdy Bosch mixer that can really work the dough, I skipped the recommendations for hand kneading and throwing the dough onto the counter to activate the gluten strands. I figured it got enough of a workout. If you are doing this by hand though, or just want to get your aggression out by manhandling the dough, knock yourself out! It’s kind of fun.
I can’t really credit one recipe – my version is a conglomeration of many that I found. In fact, I tried so many variations that my recipe notes look like THIS!! And this is just the first page. My final conclusion was that the simpler recipes (no egg, no milk) worked better for me, and melted butter in place of the oil gave me the nicest pastry.
Clear as mud
To make an old fashioned strudel, you’ll need a table or kitchen island that you can maneuver around (at least 2’x3′) and a large piece of clean cotton fabric. A sheet works well. You are going to be stretching a tiny ball of dough into a surprisingly large, paper-thin sheet of dough, and the best way to do this is on fabric. When you’re ready to roll it, the fabric will be your best friend. Trust me.
I also tried a different filling just for fun, combining blueberries, lemon, and apples. I’ll share that recipe at the bottom of the post if you’re interested. That’s the strudel the gals at my book club tested and liked. Here’s a mouthwatering photo of it:
The most important thing I learned during my immersion into all things strudel was this: don’t make a strudel when you’re in a hurry or feeling pressured. Fast, jerky movements create holes in the dough, and while a few holes aren’t a big deal (they won’t show when the strudel is rolled up) it’s better to go to your happy place and take your sweet time. The act of stretching the dough should be a pleasurable experience, not something to be rushed through.
This classic strudel is filled with tender apples, rum-soaked raisins, and nuts. Serves 10.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
⅔ cup room temperature water
oil to coat dough
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup rum (or apple juice)
5 cups of peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith Apples
1 small lemon (juice and zest)
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
1½ cup breadcrumbs* (See Instructions)
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup finely chopped or ground walnuts (optional)
In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, butter, and vinegar. Slowly pour in while stirring, until well mixed.
Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand for 8 minutes. Dough should be soft and elastic, and slightly tacky. Repeatedly throw the dough against a hard surface for a minute or so to help the gluten develop. Form into a ball, generously coat with oil, and cover with plastic. Allow dough to rest (very important) for 1 hour.
Once dough has rested, combine the chopped apples with lemon in a large bowl and set aside. Cover a table with a clean cotton sheet or tablecloth, and sprinkle with flour. Rub the flour into the fabric. Place dough on cloth and form into a rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out as thinly as you can.
Using your hands, begin stretching the dough. Work slowly, lifting edges and pulling. Slide your hands under the dough and coax it thinner and thinner. Two people can make this go a lot easier, with both reaching into the middle from opposite sides and easing the dough outwards. The goal is to get a paper thin dough, approximately 24"x30", but I stop when the dough seems consistently thin and small holes are beginning to develop.
Trim the thick edges away with a pizza cutter or scissors, and brush the top of the dough with melted butter. The easiest way I've found is to use a paper towel to lightly spread the butter.
Sprinkle with 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs and ½ cup finely chopped nuts. (Nuts are optional.)
With one of the short sides facing you, pour the remaining bread crumbs from one side to the other, leaving about 2 inches of plain dough closest to you (to help begin the rolling process) and about 1 inch of plain dough on either side .
Add remaining filling ingredients to the apples and spoon evenly over the breadcrumbs.
Using the cloth, lift the plain dough edge over the apples and roll to the end. Roll the strudel onto a piece of parchment, and use this to lift it onto a baking sheet. You may need to give it a curved shape to fit the pan.
Pinch the ends firmly and tuck under the strudel. Brush generously with butter, and put in the refrigerator to chill for 45 minutes. This will let the butter firm up, helping to create flaky layers.
Heat oven to 400 F. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the pastry is a rich golden brown.
Score the top where the strudel will be cut, to allow some of the steam to escape, and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Cool until just warm, and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
*Breadcrumbs: You can use commercial crumbs, but for more taste, crumble 2 cups of stale bread and toss with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. Crush into fine crumbs.
The dough is so soft and stretchy after its little nap!
Dough, ready to roll and stretch!
Use a rolling pin to get it as thin as you can before you start stretching. Make sure to rub flour into the cotton fabric on the table.
Roll dough out on floured fabric.
Start stretching. Move slowly but don’t be afraid of the dough! I like to use the palms of my hands and sort of “tickle” the dough from the center outwards. You’ll find what works for you. Two people, one on each side of the dough, can really get the job done.
Stretch it very thin!
Regardless of the size, I stop when I start seeing little holes. Just trim to remove thick edges and get ready to roll!
Ready to fill and roll.
Butter the dough gently. A pastry brush is too rough, so I use a piece of paper towel. You can just sprinkle it on too, if you’d like. It’s not critical to cover every inch of the dough – just do the best you can.
I use a paper towel to spread the butter. You can just sprinkle it on if you prefer.
Now mix together the filling. I chop or slice my apples before rolling, and toss them with the lemon to keep them from browning, but don’t add the sugar until the last minute or you’ll end up with a whole lot of juice.
Mix together the filling ingredients just before rolling.
The butter and the crumbs help define the layers. I tried doing without this step, and it was definitely not as flaky.
Buttered dough, sprinkled with breadcrumbs & nuts. Apple filling is arranged on bed of breadcrumbs.
The cloth will help you roll the strudel. this part’s so easy; once you get it started, it just rolls itself!
Use the cloth to lift and roll the strudel.
Coat it with melted butter and put it back in the fridge for 45 minutes. You can skip this step, but chilling the butter between the layers really helps the texture.
Brush the strudel with melted butter
Once baked, score through the top with a serrated blade to release extra steam. Don’t cut the strudel until it has cooled a bit. It will soften slightly, which is what you want.
Score the baked strudel and let it cool a bit before cutting
And now, as if this post wasn’t long enough, I’ll give you instructions for making the blueberry apple filling.
For a thickening agent I used Agar (or agar-agar). If you’ve never used it before, I think you’ll be surprised by how easy and dependable it is.. It produces a slightly gelatin-like result, with no taste or funny texture. Agar is available through most health-food stores and Asian markets, or can be purchased online.
BLUEBERRY APPLE FILLING
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agar powder (not flakes)
2 cups finely chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
*In a large pan over medium-low heat, stir together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Heat, stirring often, until berries begin to release juice. Raise heat to medium and bring to a low boil. Sprinkle with agar powder and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
*Remove from heat and stir in apples.
*Once mixture has cooled, stir in the walnuts. Place in the refrigerator until thickened and use as you would apple filling.
NOTE: Don’t be alarmed if it gets very thick and gelatin-like. It will soften and melt once it’s baked in your streudel dough!
Remember that baking should be an adventure. New ideas, new techniques, and new experiences – that’s what it’s all about!