Warm Cheese Strudel with Vanilla Custard
Here is one of the most typically Viennese of all strudels. It puts new meaning to the phrase “comfort food.” Milchrahmstrudel starts with cheese strudels briefly baked to set the pastry, the surrounded by custard baked in the pan to create a warm dessert with an incredible interplay of crisp and creamy textures. Mrs. Bleuel of the Berghotel Tulbingerkogel in Mauerback bei Wien, nestled in the Vienna Woods, shared her distinctive recipe with me. She stirs milk and eggs into a portion of the cheese filing to create the royale, and serves a vanilla sauce on the side. This wonderful dessert doesn’t easily lend itself to today’s “make-ahead” mentality, as it was originally a hearty supper dish. I make it for good friends who love to watch me fill and roll the strudels in front of them just before we sit down to dinner. For that reason, I make this with store-bought filo.
Cheese Filling
  • 1 1/4cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6large eggs, separated
  • 1/2cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3cup golden raisins
  • 2tablespoons chopped candied citron(optional)
  • 1 2/3cups sour cream
  • 1pound farmer’s cheese, rubbed through a wire sieve
  • 2cups cheese filling(see above)
  • 2cups whole milk
  • 2large eggs
  • softened butter, for the baking dish
  • Eight 12 X 17-inch sheets filo dough, thawed
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Vanilla Sauce
  • 2tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2cups whole milk
  • 1/2cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise(or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Lightly butter a 10 X 15- inch glass baking dish.
  2. To make the cheese filling: In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer on high speed, beat the sugar and butter until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. One at a time, beat in the egg yolks. Beat in the flour, raisins, and citron, if using. Stir in the sour cream, then the farmer’s cheese.
  3. In a medium bowl, using very clean beaters on low speed, beat the egg whites until foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites form soft peaks. Stir about one-fourth of the whites into the cheese mixture, then fold in the rest. Set aside.
  4. To make the custard: In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the Cheese Filling with the milk and eggs.
  5. You will be making two strudels, placing them side by side in the dish. To make the first strudel, place one filo sheet on a large kitchen towel (at least 24 inches square), with the long side running horizontally. Using a soft pastry brush, drizzle and spread with some of the melted butter. Overlap and “shingle” with three sheets, buttering each sheet as it is laid down, to make a 17-inch square. About 1 inch from the bottom, spread half of the cheese filling in a thick log, leaving a 1 inch border at the sides. Using the towel as an aide, roll up the strudel. (The next step requires some nerve, but you will be surprised at the strudel’s strength and flexibility.) Lift the strudel and transfer to the dish, placing the strudel about 1 inch from the edge of the dish. Tuck in the ends of the dough to fit the dish. Brush with melted butter. Repeat with the remaining four filo sheets, filling, and melted butter, positioning the second strudel about 1 inch from the other side of the dish.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Pour the reserved custard around (not over) the strudels. Bake until the strudel dough is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the vanilla sauce: Sprinkle the cornstarch over 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl and whisk to dissolve. Add the sugar and egg yolks and whisk well. Bring the remaining 2 cups of the milk and the vanilla bean just to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over low heat. Remove the bean, scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, and discard the bean. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the milk. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, whisking often. 3 minutes. If using vanilla extract, stir it in now. Strain through a wire sieve into a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
  8. Remove the strudels from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Serve warm, with the custard clinging to the strudel, and some vanilla sauce spooned on the side.
Recipe Notes

Make Ahead: The filling (without the egg whites) and the custard can be prepared, covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Just before filling the strudel, beat the whites, fold them in, and proceed with making the custard. The vanilla sauce can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.  Reheat very gently over low heat until warm The strudel should be served warm, without reheating, although leftovers are delicious.