Topfenstrudel is a classic Austrian dessert. It features flaky, paper-thin layers of hand-stretched dough wrapped around a creamy filling of fresh farmer cheese flavored with lemon and vanilla and finished with sweet raisins.
1 ¼cups scooped and leveled, minus 1 tablespoon(150 grams) all-purpose flour,plus more for dusting
3tablespoonssunflower oil or other neutral vegetable oil
⅓cup(80 ml) water
2cups(450 grams) quark or farmer cheese
⅓cup plus 1 tablespoon(80 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon(preferably organic)
½teaspoonpure vanilla extract
½cup(75 grams) raisins
5tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon(75 grams) unsalted butter,melted
Confectioners' sugar,for dusting
First, make the dough. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl. Pour the oil into the flour mixture, and then slowly add the water, using your index finger to stir. The mixture will be very wet.
Continue to stir with your fingers, and as soon as the dough has come together, dump it out onto a work surface (you may lightly flour it if needed, but once you get started with kneading, you won’t need to add more) and start kneading the dough.
Knead for 10 minutes (set a timer; the time will pass faster than you think). At the end of the kneading, the dough should be soft, supple, and silky to the touch. Form it into a ball and place it on the work surface. Invert the bowl over the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Place quark, eggs, granulated sugar, semolina, salt, lemon zest, and vanilla in a bowl and whisk or stir until smooth. If your quark is a bit more firm/dry like Russian tvarog, you may place the ingredients in a food processor instead and puree until smooth (to ensure it's not lumpy with curds). Then stir in the raisins and set aside.
Assembly and Baking:
Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
On your work surface, spread out a clean cotton or linen kitchen towel that measures at least 16-by-24-inches (40-by-60-cm). The long side of the towel should be horizontal and the short side vertical. This is how you want the dough to be positioned later when you fill it.
Sprinkle flour lightly over the towel. Place the dough in the middle of the towel and roll it out several times in both directions with a rolling pin until it’s about 10-by-13-inches (25-by-33-cm). Then ball your hands to loose fists, put them under the rolled-out dough, and gently start stretching out the dough using the back of your hands. Alternate with pulling on the dough gently with your fingers to continue stretching the dough. This takes patience and some confidence. You don’t want the dough to rip, but you do need to stretch out the dough with some assertiveness. If it does rip, press the dough together again around the rip.
Continue stretching out the dough evenly until it measures 16-by-24-inches (40-by-60-cm) and is thin enough that you can see the pattern of the towel through it. Make sure you pull the edges of the dough as thin as you can, too. The dough should be uniformly thin all over.
Brush the dough evenly all over with some of the melted butter. Spread the quark filling onto about ¼ or ⅓ of the dough on either of the short sides, leaving about a 2-inch (5 cm) border on that side as well as the top and bottom.
Gently pull the border strip of dough up and over the filling, using the towel to help lift it. Pull the top and bottom edges of dough up and over the filling as well. Working carefully, use the towel to roll up the strudel all the way.
Carefully transfer the strudel to the baking sheet (use the towel if necessary), making sure the seam is on the bottom. Using the parchment paper as a sling, drag the strudel to the edge of the baking sheet so the long side of the strudel is up against the long side of the baking sheet with some of the parchment paper between it and the baking sheet.
Place an inverted pan such as a loaf pan or a small rectangular pan (mine is 8-inches wide and works perfectly) on the other side of the strudel. Leave some parchment paper between the strudel and the other pan to keep it from sticking. The strudel should now be penned in on both sides. This will help it retain its shape and not flatten out too much while it bakes. Brush the strudel gently and evenly with more of the melted butter all over.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the strudel for 15 minutes; remove from the oven and brush the strudel thoroughly all over with more of the melted butter. Rotate and bake for another 15 minutes; remove again and brush liberally with the remaining butter. Rotate again and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. When ready, the strudel should be crisp to the touch, starting to flake, and a deep golden brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and put it on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Trim the ends with a serrated knife, then slice into 6 equal pieces. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve just slightly warm or at room temperature. Strudel is best the day it is made, but can be kept 1 additional day at room temperature, lightly wrapped in foil. Before serving, crisp up leftover strudel in a 350°F (180°C) oven for a few minutes.
If you are a bit short on quark (farmer cheese) you can make up the difference with some sour cream. I've done this before and it works great and adds a slight tanginess to the filling. Just weigh or measure out the missing amount with sour cream until you have enough total.