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Making StrudelI don't make pastries. Even if I did, I don't think I could ever match the skills of the pastry chefs at the Strudel House in Budapest.

On a recent visit, I participated in a short hands-on session working (or trying to work) strudel dough.

First, our small contingent watched a professional work with a piece of dough that initially looked like a fat round plate. He stretched the dough into a thin, unbroken sheet that covered an entire tabletop of at least three feet by six feet, maybe more.

We could see there were no holes because the pastry handler set it on the table, sealed it lightly around the sides with air trapped inside to create a dome of sorts. Also, it was so thin we could read a newspaper through it.

The pastry chef topped half the dough with uncooked apples (adding cinnamon, sugar and bread crumbs) and the other half with cheese. He rolled the whole sheet into one long fruit- and cheese-filled tube, cut it into manageable pieces and baked the lot. The strudels are baked at 220C (about 430F) for 12 minutes, we were told.

The chef then laid out another thick plate-sized piece of dough. Two of us, working with a hostess, attempted to do what the professional had done. We stretched the rubbery dough to the dimensions of the table, but sadly, ours had a few holes and the chef wouldn't use it. Proudly, though, we could read a paper through it.

The hostess said Hungarian strudel differs from the Austrian variety in that dough in the Hungarian version is thinner, like the dough used in Turkish baklava.

The restaurant, which makes 15 to 20 strudels a day, also fills some with chicken paprikash, salmon and vegetables.

Our lunch opened with a chicken paprikash strudel and concluded with pieces of the fruit and cheese strudels that were rolled before our eyes. Delish.

-- Nadine Godwin 

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