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The History of Strudel

Strudel is originally from Vienna. It's roots go way back to medieval times, and spanning middle eastern as well as Germanic cultures.



One of the most common desserts that Germany is often identified with is Apfelstrudel or Apple Strudel. Although it really is more of an Austrian specialty and goes back a long time at least to the 17 century. There is an old hand written Strudel recipe in the Vienna Library dating back to 1696.

The word Strudel is a Germanic word for Whirlpool......I can just see someone back then saying ...."Can I please have some of that stuff that looks like", (and they spin their fingers) and say "whirlpool"?

It is undoubtedly the most popular type of Strudel. However you shouldn't limit yourself to just Apfel strudel. There is everything from Nut strudels to Kraut Strudels.

Like with many dishes this one is a fusion of different cultures. The pastry most often used is a thin pastry that was invented most likely by the Turks, although the Greeks often lay claim to it. Good records show Turkish Nomads had an obsession with making layered breads to emulate the nice oven baked yeast breads of other countries. They could fry the flat breads on each side over a campfire then butter or add chopped meat with vegetables and continue the layers.

As early as the 11th century a dictionary of Turkish dialects (Diwan Lughat al-Turk) recorded pleated or folded bread as one meaning of the word Yuvgha which is often related to the word yufka which is often the word for a single sheet of filo.
Over time every chef out did the other by making the pastry thinner and thinner with more layers. The tissue thin filo dough of today was probably developed by the Ottoman Sultan's chefs in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.The idea of the thin dough came up through Turkey into Vienna during the late15th century.

Very probably when Austria was attacked by the Ottomans. You don't usually think of armies leaving dough when they attack, but armies moved much slower then, attacked and sometimes settled for a while then move forward again. It would seem only likely that you would look around and want your favorite foods! By the way the Ottoman's didn't take Vienna. The Turkish and Greek thin dough (Filo) is very different from a Viennese Strudel dough. They are tissue thin and the strudel dough is skin thin. The Filo or Phyllo uses a bit of shortening and  touch of vinegar. During the Austro Hungarian Empire ruled by the Hapsburgs. Strudel dough was made so thin and flavorful in part the Austrian bakers say because of the great hard winter wheat in Hungary that has a high gluten content.


Vienna 1493

This dough was really versatile and could be used to make a very cheap and satisfying dinner with vegetables and scraps by rolling it up Jellyroll style much like in the hard times in the States Tuna pinwheels were invented. Times were very tough then and one of the most common foods in abundance was apples. Probably it was one of the ONLY foods they had to put into the Strudel .

The oldest recipe in the Viennese library is for a milk cream strudel. One of my dad's favorite deserts he remembers growing up at the Strudel fests was Cheese Strudel. It is like a cheese cake filling. This was one of the strudels his mother and the ladies of the German club all got together and made Strudel where they pulled the dough out over the dining room table "skin thin".

Most all information was obtained by The Oxford Companion to Food , and The Penguin Companion to Food by Alan Davidson

The dough has to really develop a lot of gluten and the recipe used an interesting technique where you
throw the dough down on a board on the flour 100 times.

Here is the recipe for Apfel Strudel my dad remembers as a kid.
Make Some Classic Apfelstrudel

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