A strudel is a type of layered pastry with a sweet filling inside. It became well known and gained popularity in the 18th century through the Habsburg Empire. Strudel is most often associated with Austrian cuisine, but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire.
The oldest Strudel recipe is from 1696, a handwritten recipe at the Viennese City Library, Wiener Stadtbibliothek. The pastry has its origins in the similar Byzantine Empire or Middle Eastern pastries (see baklava and Turkish cuisine).
Strudel is a loanword in English from German.The word itself derives from the German word Strudel, which in Middle High German literally means "whirlpool" or "eddy".
In Hungary it is known as rétes, in Slovenia as štrudelj or zavitek.
The best-known kinds of Strudel are Apfelstrudel (German for strudel with apple) and Topfenstrudel (with sweet soft quark cheese, in German Topfen cheese).
Traditional Austrian Strudel pastry is different from strudels served in other parts of the world that are often made from filo or puff pastry. The traditional Strudel pastry dough is very elastic. It is made from flour with a high gluten content, egg, water and butter with no sugar added. The dough is worked vigorously, rested and then rolled out and stretched by hand very thinly.
Pertaining to anecdotes, purists say, it should be so thin that a newspaper can be read through it. A legend has it that the Austrian Emperor's perfectionist cook decreed that it should be possible to read a love letter through it. The thin dough is laid out on a tea towel and the filling is spread on it. The dough with the filling on top is rolled up carefully with the help of the towel and baked in the oven.
Strudel had been part of Israeli cuisine since the arrival of numerous immigrants from Central Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Since the introduction of email, the at sign (@) became known as "strudel" in colloquial Hebrew.