Art, architecture, history, music, tempting cuisine and coffee houses galore –all aspects of Vienna that make it a cornucopia of delights in any kind of weather. Take, for instance, a bleak and blustery November day, the kind ideal for touring Schönbrunn Palace, former summer home of emperors, now a museum and site for concerts featuring composers such as Richard and Joseph Strauss and Mozart. Follow this with a stroll through the grounds and an invigorating hike up the steep path to the Roman Ruin. Then, when the arctic air attacks your ankles, nips at your nose and leaves fingertips with the first signs of frostbite, come in from the cold and reward yourself with a sweet treat.
If you’re like me, afflicted with a major sweet tooth, resisting the aromas wafting up from the Schönbrunn Palace Café Residenz cellar is impossible. The enticing scent of cinnamon, sugar and yeast snakes through the air and, like the music of a pied piper, seduces and hooks you in an instant.
My ticket for the Strudelshow promised to teach the art of making this Viennese treat, all while enjoying a fresh-baked slice of Apple strudel with Schlag (dollop of whip cream) and a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
In the cellar — a warm, snug room with a barrel-vaulted brick-lined ceiling — tiny tables filled the room. It was Christmas season. A live tree stood near a quietly humming oven. Sheets of ready-to-bake strudels waited their turn in the proofing cabinets.
Miss Dia started the lesson by presenting the ingredients: flour, water, oil, eggs, sugar and yeast for the dough; sliced apples, lemon, oil, sugar, breadcrumbs, cinnamon and raisins for the filling.
As a child, I was fascinated by my mother’s strudel-making skill. On our wooden kitchen table, she rolled and pulled until the dough could serve as a sheer table cloth. That’s what I expected to see from our presenting pastry chef.
Instead, Dia tossed the lump of dough on a pastry-cloth-covered turn-table, gave it a quick spin, pushed the rolling pin down from the mount and flattened it into a circle. With the expertise of a New York pizza maker, Dia flung the elastic dough in the air, stretched it over her fist and turned and tugged until it was almost transparent. She piled the filling to one side of the dough, rolled the sweet concoction into a log and twist-tied the ends. A volunteer added the finishing touch by brushing the swaddled bundle with melted butter.
Convinced that Dia was an old hand at this skill I was surprised to learn she had only started making strudel in this way since August. Growing up in Hungary she had relied on puff pastry. “After two days of constant strudel making anyone can master the art” she told me after the show.
Now, I love to bake but sometimes I can be plain lazy about it. I once learned how to make Croissants from scratch. What a time-consuming process that is. Ever since, when I crave those delicacies, I just go out and buy some. I’m pretty sure that when I decide to tackle strudel at home, I’ll take the easy way out and buy some Pepperidge Farm Pastry Sheets.
Class over, fortified from my sweet fix and with blood again flowing freely through my limbs, it was time to once more brave the bitter afternoon. Outside, a Christmas market held center court. A ring of stalls, jammed with ornaments, candles and toys, glühwein, hot chocolate, pretzels and Kaiserschmarrn waited to tempt me.
Miss Dia’s Tips:
- If you’re pressed for time, or not inclined to work from scratch, you can buy their strudel mix.
- Soak the raisins in rum for about 30 hours.
- Remove all jewelry to prevent tearing the dough.
- If you have problems while making your strudel, you’re invited to call or email the café with your questions.
Click here for their Recipe
See below for a short video presentation