What is a strudel?
The term “strudel” refers to a pastry made from rolled dough with different fillings, which is very common in Central Europe, Bohemia, and, in Italy, in the territory of Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Veneto. The most common recipe is a sweet one, filled with apples, pine nuts, and raisins.
History of strudels
The first mention of strudels dates back to the eighth century B.C., in the Assyrian area, and a few centuries later, similar sweets were also found in Greece in the third century B.C. Apples were missing, but there were fillings of dried fruit and nuts wrapped in a layer of pasta. The recipe has changed over time and diversified into various preparations: baklava, güllaç, börek.
It can therefore be assumed that the strudel has Turkish origins and derives from different recipes and different ancient places, even if the dessert that is closest to it is certainly baklava, a Byzantine dessert made up of a phyllo dough wrapper with a filling of sugar syrup and dried fruit.
The Ottoman Empire popularized the recipe until, for the first time, baklava took the rolled shape and different fillings, including fresh fruit-based ones. When Hungary was again annexed to the Austrian Empire, this dessert also spread to that part of Europe, inextricably linked to the name strudel, by which it is known today.
The apple-based filling is almost contemporary and is linked to the large production of this fruit in those areas. Not surprisingly, it was this filling that took over in Italy, despite the many other variants in Central Europe, thanks to large crops of apples from Trentino-Alto Adige.
Variations of strudels
The first thing that differentiates one strudel from another is definitely the dough. There are different types:
- Pulled dough/strudel dough/crazy dough: a simple mixture of flour, water, vinegar, and very little oil or, in the Viennese variant, with butter instead of oil. This dough is rolled out — “pulled,” in fact — as thin as possible, in order to give greater prominence to the filling. It should be so transparent that one could read a newspaper placed under it.
- Puff pastry: two types of dough (one based on water and one based on butter) superimposed and then rolled out and folded, then rolled out and folded again, until you get the classic pastry we all know, with the various flaky layers.
- Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust pastry): composed of flour, sugar, and fat (generally butter).
- Shortcrust pastry with ricotta: a very light shortcrust pastry, low in fat.
- Leavened dough: composed of yeast, flour, and liquid (usually milk). It is similar to brioche dough and is especially suitable for ricotta strudel (Topfenstrudel).
In addition to the different types of dough, we also find a great variation of fillings.
For sweet strudels, in addition to the famous apple strudel with pine nuts, raisins, and cinnamon (typically made with Golden Delicious apples), we can find apricot and ricotta, cherry and hazelnut, pear and chocolate, pear and ginger, currant and ricotta, and grape, mascarpone, and rhubarb.
For savory strudels, you can taste the classics with stuffed vegetables and cheese, asparagus and prosciutto, fish steak, lamb fillet, or sauerkraut and sausage. A salty strudel can be served both as an appetizer and as a main course.
Now that you know about the origins and various types of strudels, it is time for the recipe. This pear, hazelnut, and chocolate strudel is prepared with pulled dough, or crazy dough, with a delicious filling that has nothing to envy from its progenitor apple strudel.
Pear, hazelnut and chocolate strudel
For the dough:
- 200 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 75 milliliters lukewarm water
- 50 grams melted butter
For the filling:
- 600 grams Williams pears 3-4 pears
- 160 grams sugar
- 80 grams dark chocolate finely chopped
- 50 grams chopped hazelnuts
- 40 grams breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 50 grams melted butter
- powdered sugar to decorate
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter and let it cool for a few minutes.
- Put the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the melted butter and mix. Slowly add the lukewarm water. Work the dough by hand or with a mixer until you get a compact and elastic dough.
- Bring water to a boil in a saucepan, then discard the water. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and put it in the hot pot. Cover with a lid and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling. Wash, peel, and cut the pears into cubes. Add the sugar, cinnamon, chopped chocolate, breadcrumbs, and chopped hazelnuts and mix.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper, to a thickness of 3-4 mm.
- Spread the filling over the entire surface, excluding the edges. Roll up the dough, using the underlying sheet of baking paper. In this way, a spiral of dough will also remain inside the strudel.
- Before closing the last flap, brush the underside with melted butter and then close the roll to help it remain sealed.
- Brush the entire surface with melted butter and bake for about 50 minutes. After 30 minutes, brush the surface again with the remaining melted butter and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
- Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.