Authentic strudel is a very sweet pastry made from thinly rolled dough with a sweet filling. The most popular and well-known strudel is made with an apple filling, although almost any fruit can be used. One form is made with Topfen cheese. Vegetables such as eggplant and cabbage are also used in some strudels. The strudel dough is made with high-gluten flour and a small amount of butter. It is then rolled flat before adding the filling, and then it is folded or rolled into shape before baking.
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It is believed that strudel was first developed during the Byzantine Empire, circa 330 A.D. to 1453 A.D. This area was also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. It incorporated all of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of North Africa. The pastry is most associated with Austrian cuisine, but the name strudel is German in origin. Strudel became popular as a dish during the Hapsburg Empire, which included Austria, Prussia and most middle European countries from 1804 to 1867. In 2003, the state of Texas named strudel the official state pastry.
Strudel is served as a dessert, a side dish and a breakfast food. As a dessert, it is often served at wedding receptions and other celebrations. Vegetable strudels are most often served as side dishes with the main meal. Pillsbury produces a toaster strudel that can be heated in a toaster.
While strudels are best known for their European origins, forms of strudels can be found all over the world. The Pennsylvania Dutch and other immigrants brought strudel to the Americas, and the pastry is now considered a world cuisine served in almost every country.
Depending on the filling, strudels can range from around 100 calories a slice to more than 300. Dessert strudels are often dusted with confectioner's sugar or drizzled with a thin icing, bringing their calorie count higher than a simple vegetable strudel, which has little or no sugar.
Because of the thin dough of a strudel, it is often confused with baklava. Strudels can be identified by their fruit, vegetable or cheese filling. Traditional strudels are not made with phyllo dough, which is of Middle Eastern origin, although many cooks simplify the preparation of strudel using the prepared sheets of dough.