Apfelstrudel

Apfelstrudel, often simply called strudel, is a traditional pastry originating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with strong ties to Viennese cuisine. Its history stretches back several centuries, making it a beloved and iconic dessert in Central European countries like Austria, Hungary, and Germany.

The origins of strudel can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, where similar pastries filled with nuts, fruits, and sweetened cheese were popular. It is believed that the technique of stretching dough thinly to create layers was brought to Austria from the Middle East during the Turkish Wars in the 17th century.

However, it was in Vienna, during the Habsburg Empire, that strudel as we know it today began to take shape. Viennese bakers refined the recipe, making the dough even thinner and filling it with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. By the 18th century, strudel had become a staple dessert in Austrian cuisine.

The popularity of Apfelstrudel soared during the 19th century, thanks in part to the influence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife, Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”). Sisi, in particular, was known to have a sweet tooth and was a fan of Apfelstrudel, helping to popularize the pastry both in Austria and beyond.

The recipe for Apfelstrudel typically consists of thin layers of dough stretched to transparency, filled with a mixture of sliced apples, sugar, cinnamon, breadcrumbs, and sometimes raisins and nuts. The strudel is then rolled up and baked until golden and crispy.

Over the years, Apfelstrudel has become a symbol of Austrian culinary tradition and is enjoyed in many variations throughout Europe and beyond. It is often served warm, dusted with powdered sugar, and accompanied by vanilla sauce, whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Today, Apfelstrudel continues to be a beloved dessert, not only in Austria but also in regions with historical ties to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is often served on special occasions, holidays, and at traditional Viennese coffeehouses, where it pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing

For the filling:

  • 4 large apples (such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60g) breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup (60g) chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted

For serving:

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Vanilla sauce, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, warm water, and vegetable oil. Mix until a dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and coat with a little vegetable oil. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, granulated sugar, breadcrumbs, chopped nuts (if using), cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Toss until the apples are evenly coated.
  5. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll out the rested dough into a large rectangle, about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Gently stretch the dough with your hands to make it thinner, being careful not to tear it.
  6. Brush the stretched dough with melted butter, leaving a border of about 1 inch (2.5cm) around the edges. Spread the apple filling evenly over the buttered dough.
  7. Starting from one long side, carefully roll up the dough with the filling into a tight log, using the parchment paper to help lift and roll the strudel. Tuck in the ends to seal.
  8. Transfer the rolled strudel onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush the top with more melted butter.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the strudel is golden brown and crispy.
  10. Remove the strudel from the oven and let it cool slightly before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
  11. Serve slices of Apfelstrudel warm, with vanilla sauce, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream if desired.
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