Strudel doesn’t necessarily have to be a dessert. Just as with pancakes, I prefer the savory variety. There are a million different ways to fill a strudel. This spinach strudel is a popular vegetarian version.
The word strudel refers to the shape of the pastry. The thin pastry gets wrapped around the filling by rolling it up. It is the traditional hand-pulled strudel dough that I use for my recipe.
However, strudel can also be made with different kinds of dough. Puff pastry, filo, and quark-oil dough are popular varieties in Germany. There’s also a popular strudel called “Brätstrudel” in Southern German cuisine that has German pancakes as the pastry for wrapping. It’s really just the shape that classifies a food as strudel. The word strudel literally translates into English as “swirl” or “whirlpool”.
Strudel is a specialty of Austrian cuisine and is traditionally made with hand-pulled strudel dough. The Austrians learned how to prepare this thin dough from the Turks who learned how to prepare filo dough from the Arabs. That’s why recipes often list filo dough as an alternative for strudel dough.
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Be confident with the strudel dough
A lot of recipes on the internet make you prepare a huge amount of dough for one strudel. If you would pull it out thinly enough you would have way too much dough for the specified amount of filling. I’m not a fan of many dough layers around my filling so that for this recipe you will only need 2.65 ounces (75 g) of all-purpose flour.
Now, there is a risk with this. If you’ve never pulled strudel dough before you might want to prepare a double batch of dough. If your dough tears apart, there won’t be a second chance. And if you can’t pull it out thin enough, you won’t be able to fit your filling inside the strudel.
You need to pull out the strudel dough as if pulling a pizza by hand. You rotate the dough between your knuckles. The dough I use is pretty dry because I think it is easier to work with a drier and sturdier dough than with a soft dough that is more fragile. You need to remain patient when stretching out the dough. Slow and steady wins the race. You pull it thinner and thinner – bit by bit – until it is transparent. If you can’t read the newspaper through it, it isn’t thin enough.
Bake and serve your spinach strudel
Strudel doesn’t usually get brushed with egg wash prior to baking. Instead, you should generously brush it with butter before baking. The crust gets crispy that way but it won’t be shiny. It’s pretty easy to see when your strudel is done. The crust will turn lightly golden brown once cooked.
It’s best to let the strudel rest for 5 minutes before cutting. That way the filling has some time to relax and set. You can also cut the strudel cold and then simply reheat it for a short time in the oven to crisp up the crust again.
75 g (2.65 ounces) strong bread or all-purpose flour (type 450 or 550)
38 g (1.35 ounces) water
6 g (0.21 ounces) canola oil
a small pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 pound (450 g) fresh spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3.5 ounces (100 g) feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt (3.5 % fat)
1 teaspoon sugar
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
black pepper, to taste
spicy paprika powder, to taste
salt, to taste
For brushing the strudel:
1 tablespoon melted butter
Prepare the strudel dough:
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dough. For such a small amount of dough, it’s best to knead it by hand. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes. You need to develop a strong gluten network so that the dough won’t tear when you pull it out. Generously oil the surface of your kneaded dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
Prepare the filling:
Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for 30 seconds until just wilted. Quickly cool it down in ice water. Then drain the spinach and squeeze out all the excess moisture. Make sure that your spinach is relatively dry so that your crust won’t get soggy.
Heat the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic cloves and sweat for 3-4 minutes until the onion turns translucent. Add the onion and garlic to the spinach along with the feta cheese and yogurt. Add the sugar, nutmeg, black pepper, and spicy paprika powder. Mix well and season the filling with just a small amount of salt to taste.
Assemble your strudel:
Preheat your oven to 430 °F (220 °C) on the convection setting.
You will need a large work surface covered with kitchen towels to stretch out the dough. Lightly flour the kitchen towels, then take your dough and roll it out with a rolling pin as thin as possible. Pick up the dough with your knuckles and rotate it around in a circular motion as if stretching out pizza dough. The dough needs to be stretched out as thin as paper. It needs to be transparent. You should be able to read a newspaper through it. Stop stretching out your dough just before it is about to break. Place it back on your kitchen towels and stretch the sides with your hands to shape it into a rectangle.
Generously spread out the filling on top of your dough in one even layer. Roll the dough into one large roll as if making cinnamon rolls. You do that by lifting the dough from the back with your kitchen towel. Lightly wet the edge pieces of the dough with water to seal your strudel. Carefully pick it up with your hands and transfer the strudel to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Generously brush the strudel with melted butter before baking.
Bake your strudel:
Bake your strudel in the middle rack of your pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden and crisp. It will take a long time for the crust to develop because at first, the moisture from the filling will steam the crust before it can crisp-up.
Take your baked strudel out of the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. It’s best to let cool it down on a wire rack. The crust will lose some of its crispiness while the strudel rests. If that’s an issue for you, then you can place the individual pieces back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up again. This strudel is best eaten hot.