2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 tablespoons water, or more
Toss together the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the oil all over the flour and mix it in, then gradually add the water, in splashes, all the while tossing with the fork. When all the water is incorporated, mix vigorously to bring the dough together. Add more water if the dough seems dry or won't come together.
Scrape the dough onto the work surface and knead with your hands until the clumps have disappeared and the dough is smooth and elastic, three minutes or more.
Press the dough into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Let very cold dough sit at room temperature briefly before rolling. Strudel dough can also be frozen for several months.
You may have heard that strudel dough should be so thin you can read the newspaper through it. That sounds difficult but wait until you work with this dough: it is elastic and strong but quite cooperative, so it is surprisingly easy to extend it to any size and shape you want. Use the basic techniques of rolling and stretching, given below, to make either a large dough circle for the Ricotta Cheesecake or a rectangle for the Autumn Strudel. In fact, your dough may stretch so readily that it will end up thinner than you need, so don't keep going until you can read the newspaper: use a ruler or yardstick and follow the measurements in the recipes.
Begin by rolling the dough: Work on a large, preferably wooden, surface, with at least a yard of clear space. Chilled dough should warm up briefly at room temperature; lightly dust the surface with flour. Press the dough flat with your hands and begin rolling it out from the center: for a circle, roll from the center out in several directions; to start forming a rectangle, roll in one direction and then at a right angle.
Turn the dough: As soon as the dough has started to stretch, pick it up and turn it over. Roll to extend it several more inches (for either shape), then turn it over again. Dust the work surface with flour, if necessary, each time you flip the dough over.
Stretch the dough on the board: When it's about 18-inches (in any direction), the dough is thin enough to start stretching by hand. The easiest way is to do this on the table: lay one hand flat on the dough, near an edge, pressing only lightly and with the other hand grasp the edge and tug it outward to stretch. To enlarge a circle, tug evenly all around. To maintain a rectangular shape, tug the sides and corners of your rectangle. As the dough sheet gets larger, and will stay in place, grasp the edge of the dough with both hands and tug it gently outward. Enlarge the circle evenly all around in this manner.
Stretch the dough while holding it up in the air: This is a slightly more difficult stretch, but faster and more fun! Slide your hands under the dough, palms down, and lift the edge off the work surface. Cup your hands and turn your fingers toward each other, so the edge of the dough is supported by your wrists and extended fingers. Raise the dough completely off the table, letting it hang from your hands so its own weight stretches it, as one does when making a pizza. Carefully move your hands apart to stretch the thicker dough along the edge; gradually shift the dough along your hands to enlarge it evenly.
To stretch a circle in the air, keep shifting the dough on your wrists and hands, stretching it on all sides (360 degrees). To stretch a rectangle, pick up the dough and stretch it along one side, lay it down and pick it up with your hands under another of the 4 sides. Stretch the corners when the sheet is on the work board.
Stretch the dough with gravity: A traditional trick. Pick up the dough sheet-or pull it gently toward you on the work surface-and position it so 1/3 or a bit more of the dough is flat on the edge of the table and the other 2/3 is hanging toward the floor. The friction of the surface should hold the dough in place while gravity stretches the hanging portion down-don't let go until you are confident it won't all slide off. After a couple of minutes, lift and reverse the dough so the other edge stretches downward. (When I was little, my grandmother would leave the dough hanging down while she did other work in the kitchen.)
Mending the dough: Strudel dough may get small tears in it during stretching, but they are easily repaired. When the sheet is the size you want, lay all of it flat on the work table and pinch the edges of the holes together, then gently pat or roll them smooth.