A generation ago, translucent strudel dough, worked and stretched until it covered the kitchen table, was part of the repertoire of accomplished home bakers. Today, few cooks attempt it, although some still do for the satisfaction of making strudel completely from scratch. Many of the recipes that may have formerly called for homemade strudel pastry, like those in this section, now substitute packaged phyllo dough.
Commercially prepared phyllo is readily available in supermarket freezer cases. To use, defrost overnight in the refrigerator or as directed on the package. Always keep sheets of dough that are out on the counter lightly covered with plastic wrap until you use them so they won’t dry out. For the same reason, use a generous amount of melted butter or margarine between layers.
Whether shaped into bundles or triangles for appetizers, layered or rolled and filled with sweet or savory ingredients, the uses for phyllo are seemingly endless.
Brushing Sheet of Phyllo for Strudel
Set a piece of thawed phyllo pastry on a clean, lightly floured bed sheet (the sheet helps when rolling extra-long strudel). With a wide pastry brush, cover the phyllo with a generous amount of butter.
Adding More Strudel Layers
Cover the buttered phyllo with another layer. Butter one third of one long edge of the phyllo layers. Set a sheet of dough on this buttered strip so that it overlaps the first pair (you will create one long rectangle). Repeat process until you have a rectangle of phyllo layers that is approximately 18x40 inches.
Rolling up Strudel
Spoon a 4-inch-wide strip of filling along one short end of the stacked phyllo sheets, several inches in from one edge. To roll up the strudel, lift up the edge of the sheet nearest the filling to start the strudel rolling; continue lifting until dough is completely wrapped around filling.
Making the Flag Fold
Cut stacked phyllo sheets lengthwise into 6 strips. Fold the end of a well-buttered strip over a spoonful of filling at a 45-degree angle. Fold up, then fold again at a 45-degree angle. Continue to the end of the strip, folding as for a flag.