She who dares... bakes Strudel

My hair is in plaits, my pinafore is on and my cowbell is at the ready - yes, this month's challenge is Strudel. Just call me Heidi. Well, not quite. Courtney and Linda gave us plenty of room for creativity in this challenge so I decided to depart from traditional apple and make an eastern inspired pistachio, apricot and date strudel instead. Yum.

The main challenge was to make the super thin strudel pastry dough which is one of the only pastry doughs I've ever made which doesn't contain butter (practically diet food).

The trick is to stretch it out on a floured cloth and not to panic when you see holes appearing in the dough like a pair of old tights. Given the elasticity of the dough, it was actually easier to manipulate than I feared and I soon had my (somewhat laddered) sheet ready to fill.

The apple strudel recipe given looked delicious but in the spirit of adventure I decided to make a pistachio and rosewater frangipane to fill the pastry log. I started by soaking dried dates and apricots in a little rum and hot water to soften them. Once soft, I popped them in the blender to make a coarse puree.

To make the frangipane, I creamed butter, pistachios, egg, a little flour and a few drops of rosewater. Delicious.

I spread the fruit puree and the frangipane over the dough and used the cloth to make a rather uninspiring looking sausage:

Which I then shaped into an even less appetising looking horseshoe and baked for 30 minutes.

The strudel dough was crisp and flakey but it was definitely just a shell for the more flavoursome filling. I'm not sure whether the pastry turned out as it should have done - it was fine but it didn't really ring my cowbell! I was very happy with the filling though. The mixture of pistachios, dried fruit and rosewater was moist, fragrant and delicious. I would definitely try this filling in a tart, perhaps with figs as well...

As ever, it was a pleasure to learn how to make something new and I urge you to check out the original recipe here and see the other DBers' work here. If you are tempted to try the filling I made, the ingredients are as follows:

250g dried apricots/dried dates soaked in a little boiling water with rum if you please
150g shelled pistachios
1 large egg
100g caster sugar
1tsp rosewater
2 tbsp plain flour
70g softened butter
  1. Grind the pistachios with half of the sugar in a food processor until they are in fine crumbs.

  2. In a food mixer (or with a wooden spoon) beat the butter until it is soft. Add the remaining sugar and cream until fluffy.

  3. Add the egg and mix it in well. Add the rosewater (you may want to add more to taste).

  4. Stir in the pistachios and flour until you have a chunky paste.

  5. Meanwhile puree your dried fruit.

  6. Spread the dried fruit paste onto the pastry and top with the pistachio frangipane.

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 Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

PS. Klaus the Austrian goat was not impressed with the departure from the traditional!


First Asparagus

On Sunday I cycled down to the farmers' market and bought my first bunch of 2009 asparagus - yay. There's something so heartening about those green spikes and the nearly summer sensation that they evoke.

Together with the beautiful speckled eggs I picked up:

(free range chickens are clearly more creative), some leftover poached salmon and a little melted butter, it was the perfect Spring lunch.

In case you were wondering, the beautiful green plate is part of a 1940's dinner service that I got for a bargainous £20 at a local auction house. I love bargains.

Cushy post

When I started this blog I intended for it to be a celebration of all things homey and not just food. I have always thought I would love to be an interior designer but as my Mum told me in my youth, I can't draw, so perhaps its for the best that I chose soul-destroying corporate law instead. As a child, I spent many happy evenings dragging the furniture around my bedroom to create a new look and in my teens I painted, re-carpeted and accessorised my room while my Mum was on holiday. I'm not sure why I've never posted about the various homey projects I've undertaken, the paper crafts I've made and the things I have sewn (badly), but it's time to change.

I think the problem is that I hate tagging along with the "trendy" and what with all the recession and credit crunch malarkey it seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry is extolling the virtues of 'Make Do and Mend' and asking us all to make the most of our houses as homes rather than investment vehicles. I know that this makes sense, but am I the only one who gets a little piddled off when every newspaper supplement is preaching the things you have practised for years?!

I made these cushions a few weeks ago after having the cushion fillers languishing in my craft cupboard for the last few months. Embarrassingly after the rant above, I was finally inspired to make the covers after watching Kirsty Allsop's 'Homemade Home' but never mind. In true economy chic, all the fabric was leftover from various other projects and the ribbon on the two solid coloured cushions was cut off a blouse that I no longer wore. Gosh I am so on trend.

Check out some of my favourite creative blogs here, here and here.