Apple strudel is a dessert pastry from Austria. Traditionally, the main ingredients include apples, cinnamon, raisins, and sugar, which are mixed and spread on a paper-thin dough and baked. The city of Vienna in particular is famous for its apple strudel. The US state of Texas claims strudel as one of its state pastries, probably because of the many communities of German immigrants who settled in cities such as Fredericksburg.
It is suggested that strudel owes its beginnings to a Turkish pastry called baklava. The Turks introduced this pastry to the region of Austria and Hungary in the mid-15th century. A pastry that was brought to Spain and France may also have influenced strudel, especially Austrian strudel varieties. "Milk-cream-strudel" existed in the Austrian-Hungarian empire by the late 17th century. The name strudel probably came from a word for a whirlpool or vortex, based on the spiral shape of early strudels.
Many varieties of strudel were developed throughout eastern European cuisines, but Austria and Bavaria are famous for the apple strudel. Vienna and Salzburg, in particular, have their own special versions of the strudel for which they are famous. Every variety of apple strudel has several common components, however.
Strudel dough is a basic, unsweetened pastry dough made with high-gluten flour, water, oil, and salt. Melted butter may be substituted for the oil, and sometimes milk is used in place of water. Some versions also include eggs.
The defining characteristic of strudel dough is that it should be stretched very thin — literally almost paper-thin and transparent. To accomplish this, the dough is kneaded after mixing to develop the gluten. It is then left to rest for a while so it will stretch more easily. An experienced baker can then place the dough on a large flat surface and roll and stretch it into a large thin sheet. Many modern strudel recipes call for prepared phyllo or puff pastry dough to eliminate this laborious process.
Apples are, of course, the star ingredient in an apple strudel. Tart, firm baking apples usually work best for strudel. They are chopped and mixed with other filling ingredients, such as cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and toasted breadcrumbs. Nuts and rum are sometimes added as well.
Filling ingredients are either mixed together and then spread on the dough or layered onto the dough separately. The edges of the strudel dough are tucked over the filling, and the strudel is rolled up into a many-layered log. Melted butter or oil is brushed over the top of the pastry and it is baked. Apple strudel is best when consumed freshly baked, and is often eaten with whipped cream or ice cream.