We stood in Prague Central Station, the 3 of us starving after a long afternoon train from Berlin. Our bags were on our backs, and then we saw it out of the corner of our eyes — dough baked over an open fire, spinning on rods, dressed with nuts and cinnamon — the Czech sweet pastry trdelnik.
Trdelnik baking in a store window in Prague.
It was the most amazing smelling baked treat one could imagine. All that was standing in our way was the language, the lack of directions to our hotel, and a cranky 4-year-old.
You can guess what happened next. Well, maybe not. Like all good travelers, we did a little trdelnik research first. We passed by a bunch of street carts and store windows selling the famous Prague pastry.
Finally, we caved in just over the Charles Bridge.
Man, it was worth it. We savored the little pieces of sugary dough all the way up to Prague Castle. The Castle is one of the most architecturally fascinating places I’ve ever seen — so much detail in the gothic carvings.
The largest ancient castle in the world…
Later we walked through Old Town Prague and saw the Astronomical Clock, one of the oldest clocks.The beautiful blue and gold clock was made in 1410 and still works!
And the smells of the pastry were with us wherever we went.
Trdelnik was one of our first introductions to the Czech language and Prague street food. I know it sounds like a Czech “turtleneck,” but a great dessert doesn’t require proper pronunciation.
Even if you aren’t hopping the next train to Prague, you can definitely make this sweet pastry, sometimes called a chimney cake, at home.
To make the Prague pastry called trdelnik, street vendors roll out dough into long snakes then wrap it around the trdlo rod, which is about 3 feet long. They top it with walnuts or cinnamon sugar, then set the rods over the coals to bake the dough and crisp up that yummy coating on the outside.
Make Czech Trdelnik – the Prague Pastry – at Home
I’ve always associated good memories of a place with dessert, so today I’m sharing a trdelnik recipe. It’s one you can make at home in your oven without trdlo roads or a giant BBQ.
Trdelnik is made with a yeast dough, and you’ll want to proof your yeast if like mine it’s been sitting in the back of the fridge for a while. Warm some milk to 100-110 degrees, add a little bit of sugar and the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. If it bubbles, it’s good.
Mix the flour with the sugar, then with a stand mixer, blend in the eggs and softened butter on low speed.
Add the rest of the milk in slowly until it begins to come together and resemble a dough. Take it out of the bowl and knead it on the counter by hand for 5 minutes until smooth.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Separate the dough into 6 pieces and roll out to snakes about 2 feet long. Rub cold butter on the foil-wrapped jars and wrap the dough snakes around the jars.
Baste with egg wash and roll in cinnamon sugar. Best when served immediately with coffee or espresso!
Czech Sweet Pastry
Cinnamon sugar baked treat from the streets of Prague.
|Prep Time: 40 minutes, including dough rest time
|Cook Time: 15 minutes
|1. Warm 1/4 cup milk to 100-110 degrees, about 15-20 seconds in the microwave. Add 1 tsp. sugar and 1 envelope yeast to the milk and stir for a few seconds. Let sit for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
|2. Meanwhile, sift flour and 1/4 cup sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl. Add in yeast mixture, eggs and 1/4 cup softened butter. Blend on low speed with the stand mixer or by hand until fully mixed. Add in the remaining 1/4 cup milk and mix until a dough forms.
|3. Put dough on counter and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
|4. While waiting for dough to rise, wrap six 8-oz. jelly jars with foil. Prepare an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp. water. Mix cinnamon with 1/2 cup sugar on a plate.
|5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When dough is ready, separate into 6 equal balls. Roll out each ball into a snake about 2 feet long. Coat each foil-covered jelly jar with cold butter.
|6. Wrap each piece of rolled out dough around your jelly jar, keeping the rolls tight and together. The dough “snake” should wrap around the jar about 3 times.
|7. Baste the dough-covered jar with the egg wash and sprinkle all over with cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on parchment covered baking sheet, open side down.
|8. Bake the trdelnik for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
|Recipe adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More