A Schnitzel and Strudel Cooking Class in Vienna, Austria
Updated: Dec 31, 2019
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During our stay in Vienna, we were lucky enough to have two family members visit us (with code names “Susanna Marjorie Jane IV” and “Sir N”). We wanted to make sure they had a true Austrian experience and in terms of food, there is nothing more Austrian than schnitzel and strudel.
We found a cooking class “experience” on Airbnb for ~$80 USD per person which included cooking instruction, food, and some wonderful company.
On Wednesday afternoon at 3 PM, our group of four arrived hungry and ready to roll up our sleeves and get messy! We had read from the review that our host, Lena, lives in an apartment previously owned by her grandparents in a historic building and we were absolutely game.
As visitors to the city, we wouldn’t have many opportunities to see how Viennese people actually live, but this would at least offer a glimpse. Lena greeted us, offered us some coffee, and we promptly got down to business.
Lena had printed out a pamphlet of the recipes so that each of us could take home a copy. We read through them as a group so we’d all be familiar, despite the fact that we would be dividing and conquering the meal.
Next came the assignments:
Eddie and Megan: Apple Strudel (We were told this would be the most time-consuming so it required two people. And we like dessert...)
Susanna: Old Viennese Potato Soup
Sir N: Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Potato Salad
Then, once these dishes were prepared, we would all came together for the entire reason we were there… the schnitzel!
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The eat-in kitchen in the apartment would probably be considered average size by American standards but there was plenty of counter space for the four of us to be preparing different dishes while Lena floated and made sure everyone was doing things properly.
We weighed our ingredients on a scale instead of measuring them by volume (yes, even produce).
We learned that mustard and other condiments are often sold in large tubes rather than jars or bottles.
We used sunflower oil in place of canola or vegetable oil as is common in the US.
The temperature in the kitchen was really starting to heat up once the potatoes began to boil on the stove top. As if it wasn’t already obvious to our group, there clearly was no air conditioning in the apartment. And the weather that day was 85+ F (29+ C) so that didn’t help! The only reprieve was when we had a minute to go stand near the one small window in the kitchen. We noticed Lena was careful to keep the door leading from the kitchen to the rest of the apartment SHUT so as to not heat it as well. Ergo, we were basically in an oven.
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To make matters worse, Sir N was suffering from a debilitating combo of allergies and/or a cold (we’re still not sure) so he had to take frequent breaks to go blow his nose. He swears he must’ve washed his hands 50 times. We all felt bad for him but he still had to pull his weight! (sounds harsh, yes, and we are only half joking ;)
Once the dough for the apple strudel had been mixed, we were instructed to knead it for at least 10 minutes. (whew! Apparently this class came with a workout at no extra charge.) Lena showed us how the pros do it using the “heel” of your hand and alternating left and right to get the job done in half the time. It was equal parts mesmerizing and addicting.
Sir N wrapped up the potato and cucumber salads and set them on the table.
Susanna finished up her assigned dish, a lovely potato soup that smelled heavenly. And yes, soup was still on the menu despite the hot weather. When we asked Lena about it, she just shrugged and said “we don’t really have seasonal foods” as if it was a crazy idea.
The dough for the strudel was put in the fridge to cool while we peeled and chopped over 10 apples (not sure of the exact count since the recipe was in grams). When we brought the dough back out, we split it in half to make two strudels so that each couple try their hand at it. We noticed the dough was incredibly elastic. Not joking in the slightest. It was so stretchy! We also learned that the dough is important to the recipe (it must be flaky in the end) but is more of a vehicle for the filling and doesn’t have much flavor on its own. No complaints here! Cinnamon + rum + apple concoction, here we come!
Lena explained to us that while veal schnitzel (“wiener schnitzel”) is the original, she prefers chicken schnitzel as that is what her grandmother always made. To us, ANY type of meat “schnitzeled” will do. We thin-sliced the chicken breasts and proceeded to dip each in flour, then egg, and finally breadcrumbs. We fried each piece in sunflower oil before being layered on a plate with paper towels between to soak up the excess oil. (‘cuz ya know...the crispier the better.)
We put the strudel in the oven to bake and set the table for five. Silverware, plates, bowls, and water glasses. The soup was first course and tasted delicious! It was so simple yet tasted delicious, which Megan thinks was mostly due to the celery root and porcini mushrooms. Susanna earned a 10/10 on her assigned dish for sure!
The schnitzel is crispy and oh-so-tender. It reminded us of fried chicken but with less breading and not nearly as greasy. This was the first time we had had schnitzel with lingonberry sauce and we all agreed it was beginning to feel more like a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Again, no complaints.
The potato and cucumber salads were strong on the apple cider vinegar by design, which made it a great pairing with the schnitzel.
Finally, our strudel was done baking. None of us could manage another bite because we were so full, but you can’t leave without having strudel! It would be rude, right? Lena sliced up the strudel and served one slice on a plate with fresh whipped cream (hold the sugar) for each of us. It was flaky (check), sweet (check) and the perfect dessert for the meal. The bottom crust was a little difficult to cut through with a fork, but Lena assured us it softens up the longer you let it sit making day 2 strudel even better than fresh-baked.
At this point, we were all feeling overly-full yet content. We helped clear the table and load the dishwasher. We gathered our things and thanked Lena for hosting our group. We rollllllled out of the apartment, down the stairs, and out onto the street. “What now?” our glances seemed to say. And the looks on our faces? Well... we all looked like we need a nap. Three hours in a stiflingly-hot kitchen and a ton of delicious food had done us in in the best possible way.
Overall, we thought the cooking class was a great success! There was no way we could’ve had such an authentic experience otherwise. Restaurants just aren’t the same as a home-cooked meal anyway. (And now the mystery of the schnitzel prep is solved! Hint: it’s really, really fine breadcrumbs. Now Sir N will be able to sleep at night.)
If you haven’t ever booked an Experience through Airbnb, we highly recommend it. If you read the reviews and choose wisely, you can have a much more authentic experience than other tourists not willing to venture off the beaten path.
Eddie + Megan
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