AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, you know, there's just not enough dough. Earlier this week, we had a story about baking bread, and today, it's about making strudel. That's right - a treat you can sing about.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "THE SOUND OF MUSIC")
JULIE ANDREWS: (As Maria) (Singing) Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels.
CORNISH: And we'll get to the schnitzel with noodles some other time. We promise. Sasa Woodruff is a radio producer in LA, and she has long been obsessed with strudel - a certain kind of strudel - pulled strudel. It's what her Slovakian grandmother used to make.
SASA WOODRUFF, BYLINE: She died when I was four, so I only know about it from my mom. Babi would pull and coax a ball of dough on the backs of her hands, until it stretched so thin that she could pull it over an entire ping-pong table, covered with a flowered tablecloth. She made the strudel for my parents' wedding. And two years later, my mom tried making it for their anniversary. Despite being an accomplished baker, mom's dough turned out so badly that she threw it at the walls and on the floor. For me, this strudel's the link to the past. As I started asking and searching the Internet, I also found it's a skill that's slipping away.
JULIA VRABLOVA: This recipe is kind of forgotten.
WOODRUFF: That's 28-year-old Julia Vrablova. I met her this summer when I went to Slovakia to take a Slovak language course. Julia was one of my instructors, and on a whim, I asked if she knew anyone who knew how to make this tahana strudla, as the native says. Julia casually said, she could make it. What? Everyone told me I'd have to track down an old babka in a small village. I thought Julia was far too young. But she explained that though her family never made pulled strudel, she was obsessed with baking.
VRABLOVA: It's not so easy to prepare a dough, so people buy it, or they make something that reminds this kind of strudel, but it's not pulled strudel anymore.
WOODRUFF: The ingredients are simple - high-gluten flours, so the dough can get super stretchy, water, oil, salt and a little vinegar. Julia kneads the dough, explaining it has to be worked for 30 minutes.
VRABLOVA: Maybe you can see how I'm sweating. (Laughter).
WOODRUFF: Other pastry doughs will get tough if the dough is overworked, but strudel dough was just the opposite. It's about activating the gluten - kneading it and often hitting it - so the dough can be pulled into a thin layer without tearing.
VRABLOVA: You can really play with the dough because it's not sticky at all.
WOODRUFF: Julia grabs a piece of dough and stretches it.
VRABLOVA: I'm trying to find out if the dough is elastic enough because we want to spread it. It should be transparent as a paper.
WOODRUFF: And some say, you should be able to read a love letter or a newspaper through it. On a flowered tablecloth, Julia rolls out the dough, then picks it up and starts stretching it on the backs of her hands, sort of like pizza dough. Then she places it back on the table and gently coaxes is it until it's thinner than a wafer. Never mind the tears. They'll be rolled up into apples and poppy seeds and brushed with melted butter.
VRABLOVA: A real nice coating.
WOODRUFF: After about 45 minutes in the oven, the tops are golden brown, and we cut up the rolled pastries.
VRABLOVA: It's crunchy. It's nice.
WOODRUFF: As we bit into the flaky, buttery layers, I finally knew enough to start practicing the strudel my babina made. And hopefully, I won't end throwing it at the walls. For NPR News, I'm Sasa Woodruff.
CORNISH: Want to try pulled strudel yourself? Well, measurements, ingredients and instructions are on our Found Recipes page at npr.org.
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