Strudels exist in every culture. After all, a strudel is nothing more than a sweet or savory filling wrapped in a flaky dough or a yeast-raised dough and then baked. Eastern Europeans are strudel makers extraordinaire. The dough ingredients vary by region and nationality. Some call for only flour, water, salt, and oil. Others use eggs, butter and vinegar (helps relax the gluten formation that would otherwise toughen the pastry), and yet others are made with yeast. Some require the filling to be... spread on top of the entire surface of the dough and yet others call for just the first third of the dough to be spread with filling. And some people stretch their dough twice! And some say the dough should be dried first before filling and rolling so the leaves of pastry don't stick together. Others say the dough becomes too brittle.
Here are some of the most popular Eastern European sweet and savory strudel doughs and fillings. Feel free to mix and match the doughs and fillings that appeal to you and work best for you. Don't be discouraged if your first attempts at hand stretching strudel dough result in tears or a less than flaky product. As with all things, it takes a little practice and patience. Don't give up! This is one skill you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren. Besides, the failures are just as delicious as the perfect ones.
For an easier time of it, you can roll the dough with a rolling pin or make a more forgiving yeast-raised dough, or use purchased filo dough, which produces a very acceptable result. If you find traditional filo sheets too difficult to work with, try kore, which is partially baked filo dough. The sheets are thicker, less fragile and don't dry out so quickly. You will only need two leaves of kore to make each strudel because of its thickness versus three to four of traditional filo dough.
01 of 05
Klara Cvitanovich of Drago's Seafood Restaurant in New Orleans used to make her pita or pastry dough by hand, but now with filo dough so readily available, she uses purchased filo dough with good results. You won't find her strudel on the menu of her family's restaurant, but this strudel and fritule and krostule are the desserts she serves for holidays.
02 of 05
The dark Morello cherry is the traditional variety of cherry used in Eastern European cooking, but if fresh aren't readily available, jarred sour cherries can be used in this Croatian sour cherry strudel recipe (fil za strudlu s tresnjama ili visnjama). Barring that, the fire-engine red Montmorency cherries, known as pie cherries, are a very acceptable substitute. If you don't have the inclination to stretch your own strudel dough, #7 filo dough (thicker than #4 which is used for... baklava) can be used.
03 of 05
The filling for this savory Croatian cabbage strudel is made with onion and bacon and can be served as an appetizer when cut into small pieces, or as a side dish or main course. Of course, the bacon can be omitted for fasting days and instead of butter, oil would be used.
04 of 05
The dough for this Hungarian strudel uses an egg, sour cream, and vinegar. Strudel dough recipes vary from country to country, region to region and family to family. What are standard operating procedures for one cook, would be unthinkable for another. Find a recipe you're comfortable with and which produces the result you like and stick with it.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
This Polish strudel recipe is made with a yeast dough and is often known simply as an almond roll. It is filled with canned almond paste which speeds up the process. Years ago (and still today), the almond filling was made from scratch. Polish makowiec or poppyseed strudel or roll is similar to this recipe in that the dough is yeast risen and it is rolled, not hand stretched.