I mentioned below that Hungary remained a battlefield for decades after 1526, as Ottoman and Habsburg forces swept back and forth over the region fighting for control. The logical question is: when did it all end? When did strudel finally make the leap northward?
Those of you who’ve read the blog for a while may know that the turning of the tide for the Turks occurred in 1683, at the most baking-intensive conflict in the history of man, the Battle of Vienna. From that point onward the Ottoman Empire was either in retreat or stagnating (though it’s important to remember that it endured in some form for almost another 250 years, until just after World War I).
The Habsburgs moved into the conquered territories where they found, among other things, strudel. The dish was shortly adopted by the culture. The first recipe for strudel in German dates to 1696, just a few years prior to the end of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. Sixty or so years later strudel was said to have appeared in the court of the one and only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire, Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina. Whew, that’s a mouthful. Maria Theresa evidently knew a good thing when she saw it, and the dish shortly became very, very popular.
All of which is not to say that strudel was an effete indulgence. Unlike most other Viennese pastry, which was high-end stuff, professionally produced and mostly enjoyed by people with money, strudel was common fare. It appeared in German language cookbooks in the 1830’s, but by that time housewives all throughout Austria and Hungary were making it. Many of them were Jewish, which is part of the reason strudel also remains a fixture of Jewish cooking to this day.