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What is Apple Strudel?

By H.R. Childress
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By Viranty — On Apr 27, 2014

@Krunchyman - I'm not sure what store you buy them at, but the best solution would be to buy them at a bakery. Look at it this way - when you go to a bakery, you don't have to make it at home because they make it for you. Also, you're not buying it from a store because technically speaking, a bakery isn't much of a "store". Everything is fresh, and nothing has been sitting on the counter for hours. I hope this helps.

By Krunchyman — On Apr 27, 2014

As much as I love apple strudel, I always prefer to buy it in the store. Making it at home is way too much of a process, and I never have enough time to finish it. I'm sure they would taste much better homemade though. The ones I buy from the store usually tend to be a bit stale and artificially flavored. Has anyone else had this experience?

By Hazali — On Apr 26, 2014

After reading through this article twice, I can safely say I've never had apple strudel, though it sounds very delicious. It's amazing how many sweets and desserts can be made from apples. From apple pie, to candied apples, to even baked apples, the variety is endless.

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