Strudel aux pommes

Some days you just need comfort food — so why not make an apple strudel? This delightfully flaky dessert has been popular in France since it was introduced at Versailles by Marie-Antoinette, who came here from her native Austria after marrying the future Louis XVI. It is exceptionally easy to make these days thanks to the availability of filo dough, which eliminates the painstaking step of stretching out kneaded dough until it is paper thin.

Strudel aux pommes / Apple strudel

Marie-Antoinette would have enjoyed other types of strudel when growing up in Vienna. Strudels filled with soft cheese, sour cherries and poppy seeds were all popular at the time. The pastry, defined by its rolled-up shape (strudel translates as ‘whirlpool’), can also be filled with meat or vegetables. It is said to derive from Turkey’s baklava, which entered Austria during the Ottoman occupation. It has many cousins, among them savory cheese pies like Greece’s tiropita, itself a variety of southeast Europe’s borek (watch this space).

You may be wondering whether strudel was what Marie-Antoinette had in mind when, upon being told that the peasants had no bread, she said ‘Let them eat cake’ — words reputed to have helped spark the French Revolution. Although whether she actually said this is far from sure, what is certain is that the phrase has nothing to do with strudel. In French it’s ‘qu’ils mangent de la brioche‘ (rough translation: ‘let them eat egg bread’).

Things didn’t end well, of course, for Marie-Antoinette, who lived a life of opulence and splendor only to be arrested, imprisoned and finally guillotined in public at the Place de la Révolution, today’s Place de la Concorde. Such are the risks of power when it is abused — glitz and wealth offer no protection. As we endure this bleak January, with or without strudel, we can take comfort in imagining that this may still hold true today.

Happy cooking.

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8 Responses to Strudel aux pommes

  1. Dahiana Barasz says:

    Reading the history behind the strudel has made me question the origin. I would’ve assumed from the name that it would be German and not French…

    • Meg says:

      Hi Dahiana. You’re absolutely right! The word ‘strudel’, pronounced ‘SHTROO-dul’ in German, came to France via Austria, where German is spoken. The word translates as ‘whirlpool’ or ‘eddy’, reflecting the fact that the strudel dough is wrapped around the filling and looks like a spiral when sliced. Cheers, Meg

  2. Thank you, Meg, I feel better just reading about apple struedel. When I make it it will restore me I am certain. March on!

  3. Claire says:

    Reading between the lines, I so understand what you mean. I couldn’t agree more with you. . . and can only hope that “abused power” and the tacky “glitz” on parade will meet its just reward. This is surely a bleak day for all of us.

  4. Benny Ventura says:

    Good one, Meg. Definitely watching this space for future borek, which I remember fondly from Starry Grad (Bulgarian?) restaurant in Milwaukee.

    We’ll be toasting the Everyday French Chef tomorrow when we host a pre-womens’ March brunch, because you don’t want to be storming the Winter Palace on an empty stomach.

  5. Caroll Drazen says:

    Yes this is indeed a day to contemplate the abuse of power – and the strudel recipe offers a warm feeling of comfortable escape. Will try it soon. Merci bien.

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