Guten Tag meine Freunde, and welcome to another episode of The Great British Baking Show: Walton Edition! This week our bakers roll up their sleeves and their doughs to create their very best Austrian pastry as we celebrate Strudel Week!
Full disclosure: before this competition I had never had strudel. I’ve seen pictures but that’s as far as my experience went. So not only did I not know what to expect, I unfortunately had no specific goal to aim for. I thought strudels were supposed to look like the pic above, but it turns out there are all kinds of strudels with all kinds of appearances. Let’s see what our intrepid bakers came up with!
This is Mandy’s Glazed Apfelstrudel. While she produced a fine filling, Mandy was unhappy with the pastry component of her dish. She is correct in her criticism that the dough turned unusually tough when baked; it was difficult to cut. But I think it’s better to focus on her decision to use a glaze instead of the powdered sugar coating, because that choice was brilliant.
In every other way besides the topping, Mandy made a traditional apfelstrudel. The glaze, however, was a change that I thoroughly enjoyed. While gleaming, snow white powdered sugar may have looked impressive on the tables of the Habsburgs of centuries past, it is old hat these days. I don’t think that tradition alone is a valid reason to keep the powdered topping when the glaze is SO much tastier. I was extremely happy with my strudel, but if I were to choose one way to improve it, I would glaze it. The flavor was a pronounced improvement over traditional powdered sugar. This should be the way we do strudels going forward.
I chose to make a lattice topped Peach & Blueberry Strudel. Starting with dried blueberries, I rehydrated them in cranberry juice cocktail to give the strudel a little tang. Most of the lattice topped strudel recipes I found call for puff pastry, which worked very well in my strudel. The light crunch of puff pastry is a perfect textural accompaniment to the soft fruit filling.
Mark was kind enough to compliment my inclusion of caster sugar on the top of the strudel, but the truth is it was just common granulated sugar that happened to be a bit finer than usual. It does look nice on top, though, and provided a very pleasant candy contrast to the buttery pastry. I may not have gotten the win this week, but I was so pleased with my strudel that I made another one, as well as a peach & cranberry one, for Easter. I’m proud to say that, even on my family’s dessert heavy Easter table, they were both eaten in their entirety. I can’t ask for a better culinary compliment than that.
Remember that time Mark made something so awful it traumatized everyone at the table? Well, SPOILER ALERT, he did it again. This is Mark’s Necrotic Horse Penis Strudel. In the images above it has been mercifully covered by powdered sugar and blueberries. But when Mark first unveiled it in all its wrinkly, uncut nakedness, it was… upsetting. I think I can speak for the other Sci-Fi Guys when I say that no one expected Mark to assault our senses with a malignant phallic nightmare, particularly one of such unwelcome proportions. This thing was huge. I didn’t capture a picture of it unadorned. I was too busy staring at it in wide eyed horror.
I’m not a religious man, but just looking at this thing felt like a sin. It was big. It was hefty. It had a thin, translucent outer skin and an unsettling girth. Its very shape suggested things… unholy, organic, filthy things. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the kitchen fell silent when Mark uncovered this perversion. We were aghast. Even Mark, creator of monstrosities, stared at it in renewed disgust. No fucking way was I going to let any part of this thing near my mouth. It was vulgar.
In case you think I’m being too hard on Mark, please see the text I received from him above. He knows what he did. You will also see, above, the parts of the strudel left over after Mark circumcised it. The pockets of cheesecake at its core were flavorful enough, but the substance I can only describe as “undifferentiated indigo dickmeat” surrounding it was just a mash of parbaked dough. The taste of blueberries was nowhere to be found. By God, this thing was horrible. Not its flavor, but its very presence. I felt like I needed a shower just having been at the table with it. I’m so glad I watched Mark throw it away. Maybe now the night terrors will stop.
This is Dan’s Blackberry Lemon Strudel. We think. We also think it won.
Look, we did this bake a long time ago and we’ve kinda forgotten who was this week’s Star Baker. And we also seem to have forgotten what the hell this strudel was. So, even though there appears to be some form of applesque, pear-like vegetation in this strudel, we’re calling it Blackberry Lemon. Because Dan said so.
I do remember Dan being very unhappy with his strudel’s appearance. Yeah, it looks rough. I also remember him making too much filling, so instead of wasting it, he made a pie with it. Smart move; exactly what a professional baker would probably have done to avoid costly waste. I don’t remember eating this, but Dan is a solid baker, so I’m betting it was good. And because none of us really remembers winning, we’re going to say Dan won this one. Congratulations, Dan, for being this week’s Star Baker! You really earned this one (probably) for (what I’m sure was) your top notch strudel!
Join us next time as our valiant bakers pit themselves against modern, mechanized food manufacturers in Imitations Week: Snack Cakes! Until next time, bon appétit!