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Munich's Oktoberfest & Plum Strudel

Munich Oktoberfest 2013 Katherine Sacks

Last weekend TH and I took a last minute trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Now last minute trips to Munich for Oktoberfest aren’t generally possible—the city gets over 6 million visitors for its 2 week beer fest, so hotels book up fast, usually a year in advance. But we were very lucky to have a friend of a friend offer to host us, and we found last minute bus tickets, so that was that.

Having lived in the slightly more southern towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden, I was really taken with the Bavarian culture. The Oktoberfest parade was so special; more than two hours of bands, costumes, horse-drawn carts, and performers walking trough the main streets of town celebrating their culture. I snapped so many photos. And although we had been told the fest tents would be packed on the first day and we wouldn’t get in, we were lucky to snag a seat and enjoyed our first massive 1 liter stein in the Löwenbräu tent on the first day of Oktoberfest!

Like most of our German friends told us we would find, there were a lot of tourists at Oktoberfest. We sat at one table with  a group of Dutch and some New Zealanders and later met some Americans. Many wore cheap and gaudy costumes. But there were also plenty of older Germans, families, and young Germans all wearing traditional trachten, dirndl, and  lederhosen. And while we may not need to go back soon, we’re both glad we went.

A few days before we left for Munich I was able to put together an apple plum chutney—now sitting in jars, flavors marring together— and I thought about a recipe I’m very surprised I have yet to share on this space, plum strudel. It’s fitting to share now because it comes from Austria and southern Germany and I learned it while working at Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant Spago. At Spago we made strudel nearly everyday and often called it our strudel party. At the restaurant we made huge strudel—we pulled the dough very thin into a large sheet the size of our entire work space—and I loved the feel of the soft dough on the back of my hands. It was one of my favorite things to make.

Pulling strudel is a soothing, calming practice and one I have forgotten for no reason at all other than I haven’t had a reason to make it lately. But these plums give more than enough reason. At Spago we always sprinkled in some almond crumble, adding nice texture and for good reason, the strudel is too soggy without it. I’ve decreased the size of recipe, and subbed in hazelnut meal for the almond, but it still makes more than you’ll need. It’s great for a quick crumble dessert, but if you don’t want to bother, adding a bit of museli or some breadcrumbs are both a decent cheat. Apples are must right about now, and this strudel is more than fine with apples, but really my favorite is plum, with a nice side of sorbet. Enjoy!

Plum Strudel Katherine Sacks

Plum Strudel, adapted loosely from Sherry Yard
Servings: 2 strudel, 6 to 8 pieces each

For the Strudel dough:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more
6 ounces warm water

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Create a well in the center and add the egg, vegetable oil, and water. Using a fork, slowly stir the liquid together, pulling the flour into the liquids. When the mixture becomes shaggy and you can no longer use the fork to mix it, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead together. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, using the heal of your hand to push the dough down, then fold the dough over itself, turning in a clockwise motion and repeat. The dough will be slightly sticky, but avoid adding additional flour and keep kneading until the dough is soft and just slightly tacky to the touch. When done, round the dough into a ball. Coat a bowl with a thin layer of additional oil and place dough into bowl. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to two hours.

For the Hazelnut Crumble:
Servings: 4 cups
150 grams all-purpose flour
150 grams hazelnut meal
150 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
150 grams butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine with a paddle attachment, then add the butter and pulse until a sandy texture is formed. Turn out onto a lined sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes. Stir, breaking up, and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until crumble is golden brown. Cool and store in freezer. Great to use for a quick crumble.

For the strudel:
840 grams sliced plums
150 grams brown sugar
1 lime, zest and juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup Hazelnut Crumble
½ cup melted butter

Place the plums, sugar, lime zest and juice, and cinnamon in a bowl and toss together. Set aside.

Turn oven up to 375°F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.

Cover your workspace with a tablecloth and dust lightly with flour. Cut strudel dough in half, and cover one half. Place the other half on the workspace and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 12-inch square. Place the rolling pin in the center of the dough, and using lightly floured hands, gently start to work the dough outwards, placing the back of your hands under the dough and gently pulling outward in each direction. When you have one side of the dough pulled thin, use the edge of the table to hold it in place (or secure it with another rolling pin). Then move onto the other side. As you work, the object is to create a uniform thin sheet, so look for areas that are less transparent and carefully pull these areas out with the back of your hand. When the dough is pulled out, use kitchen shears or a pairing knife to trim the excess from the sides.

Use a pastry brush to sprinkle melted butter over the strudel dough and sprinkle ¼ of the crumble over it. On one end, place ¼ of the crumble in a thin line, 4 inches from the edge of the dough. Drain the liquid from the plums, and top this line with half of the plums. Fold the sides of the dough on top of the plums, and bring the bottom edge of the dough tightly on top of the plums. Now use the tablecloth to slowly lift the strudel, rolling it so that the filling is completely enclosed. Tuck the strudel as you roll to ensure that you have a tight roll. When you get to the end, cut all but 1-inch of the excess dough and tuck it in to seal. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap if freezing strudel. Or repeat process with the second strudel dough and remaining plums and crumble while the first strudel is baking.

Place the lined baking sheet next to the strudel and carefully place your arm under the strudel and lift it onto the baking sheet. Brush strudel with melted butter and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove strudel from oven, brush with additional butter, and return to oven for 20 to 30 more minutes until golden brown. Brush strudel with butter again and cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

1 Comment so far

  1. Patina

    What a fun thing to do! And don’t forget, you lived, first, in Mannheim, which is practically Heidleberg, which is technically part of Bavaria. So it was meant to happen, hence, all the pieces fell into place. And you ALWAYS had a thing for plums – I have a vivid memory of you, at about age 3, sitting on the floor, in front of the refrigerator, door open, gorging yourself on those littles tiny plums right out of the fruit and veg bin.

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