A strudel is a type of sweet layered pastry that became well known and gained popularity in the Habsburg Empire. The word itself derives from the German word Strudel, which literally means "eddy" or "whirlpool". It is most often associated with Austrian cuisine, but is also a traditional pastry in the whole area formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire (for example, in Hungary known as Rétes, in Slovenia as štrudelj and Slovakia known as štrúdľa or závin). Traditional strudel pastry is different from strudels served in other parts of the world that are often made from filo or puff pastry. The best-known kinds are Apfelstrudel (with apple) and Topfenstrudel (with Topfen soft cheese), while others include Weichselstrudel (sour cherry strudel) and Mohnstrudel (poppy seed strudel) or raisins. There are also savoury strudels incorporating spinach and sauerkraut. Strudel pastry is very elastic. It is made from flour with a high gluten content, little fat (butter) and no sugar. The pastry is rolled out and stretched very thinly. Purists say it should be so thin that a newspaper can be read through it. A legend has it that the Emperor's cook decreed that it should be possible to read a love letter through it. The pastry is laid out on a tea towel and filled. Then it is rolled up carefully with the help of the towel and baked in the oven.
It probably has its origins in Byzantine Empire or Middle Eastern pastries (see baklava and Turkish cuisine), and is related to the Balkan Burek. It is very popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other ex-Yugoslav republics.
In 2003, the strudel was named an official pastry of Texas (along with the sopaipilla).