As a child I went through different sweet phases with quite an obsessive persistence. There were times, if not years, when I bought a scrumptious short crust ring topped with gianduja cream and chocolate at least once or twice a week from my hometown’s confectionery, it’s a decadent treat called Nougatring in German. When I fell in love with a cinnamony cherry crumble cake from a French bakery as a young teenager I bought a piece of it every day after school. For months I wanted nothing more than this buttery pleasure, it felt like the best culinary discovery of my young life. Luckily, I was always quite tall and didn’t have to worry much about the effect of my obsessions on my weight, my culinary enjoyment was always greater than my vanity!
I remember that my family, especially my mother and aunts, used to tell me that I should enjoy it to the fullest as with age, I wouldn’t be able to eat these amounts without repentance. They were so right! I simply can’t eat so many sweets anymore, a fact which I regret, especially when I have to refuse a piece of tempting cake, this would have never happened in my early years! The only thing that didn’t change is my excitement for these treats and my complete misjudgment of the amount of cake that two people can actually eat. I prefer my baked sweets well sized, you never know if an unexpected guest may appear at the door step. The same happened to me a few days ago when I decided to make a traditional German poppy seed cake. This was another one of my childhood favourites, soft and spongy yeast dough wrapped around a juicy poppy seed and raisin filling. In the North Rhine Westphalia area where I grew up, this rich strudel is topped with sweet and buttery crumbles which is simply amazing in combination with the seeds and pastry. When I prepared all the ingredients on the kitchen counter I remembered how much I used to love this cake and decided to make a huge strudel, ignoring the fact that my partner isn’t too fond of poppy seeds or yeast cakes for that matter. I didn’t expect guests either but I had a rustic picture of a huge strudel in mind, with impressive proportions.
I got what I asked for! The strudel woke up all the culinary memories of my childhood and tasted exactly how I wanted it to be, even my partner liked it a lot, but still, after 2 big slices we just looked at each other and thought “what are we going to do with this massive strudel?”. Luckily, I can always rely on my family. My aunt Ursula came for a quick visit, she is as much a fan of this cake as I am. She replaced her dinner with two slices of my strudel monster and she looked very happy when I offered her to take half of it home. The lesson is, a cake can never be too big, there will always be friends and family who enjoy it as much as the baker does!
German Poppy Seed Strudel with Cinnamon Crumbles
For a huge strudel for about 10 people you need
For the yeast dough
plain flour 480g / 17 ounces
sugar 80g / 3 ounces
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounces)
a pinch of salt
butter, melted, 80g / 3 ounces plus 1 tablespoon to brush the strudel
milk 175ml / 6 ounces
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Mix the milk with the melted butter (the mixture should be lukewarm) and add to the dry flour-mixture. Mix with the dough hooks of the mixer for a few minutes, the dough will be quite moist. Dust the kitchen counter with a little flour and continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have a soft and elastic dough ball (if the dough sticks to your fingers add more flour). Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rise in the warm oven (35°C / 95°F) for 70 minutes (top/ bottom heat and not fan-assisted!).
For the poppy seed filling
milk 420ml / 14 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
cinnamon 2 leveled teaspoons
orange zest 2 teaspoons
poppy seeds, cracked, 250g / 9 ounces
raisins 80g / 3 ounces
In a sauce pan, bring the milk, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest to the boil. Stir in the poppy seeds and let the mixture cook on lowest heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. When the filling is thick and the milk is soaked, add the raisins, mix and let it cool.
For the crumbles
Prepare the crumbles shortly before baking the strudel.
plain flour 100g / 3.5 ounces (plus more if the crumbles are too sticky)
sugar 60g / 2 ounces
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
butter, melted, 60g / 2 ounces (plus more if the crumbles are too fine)
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the melted butter and mix quickly with the hooks of your mixer, stop as soon as the mixtures crumbles. If it doesn’t form crumbles, add a little more flour and sugar, if the crumbles are too fine add a bit more melted butter.
Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F (top/ bottom heat).
Take the dough out of the bowl, punch it down and knead for 1 minute.
Dust a piece of parchment paper (big enough to cover a baking sheet) with a little flour. Roll out the dough on the parchment paper until it’s roughly 35 x 35cm / 14 x 14″. Spread the poppy seed filling on it evenly, leave a rim of 1 – 2cm / 1/2 – 1″. Roll the dough up tightly, gently pull off the parchment paper while rolling the dough. The fold should be at the bottom. Close the sides well, cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 15 minutes (on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper).
Brush the strudel with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Prepare the crumbles, spread them over the strudel and gently push them into the yeast dough. Bake for 50 minutes or until the yeast dough is golden brown.