If you’ve been to Prague, you’ve probably seen them. It’s hard not to. They’re scattered all over the city center and there’s always at least one to be found at every Christmas and Easter market. Stands selling trdelník are a Prague icon.
Trdelník or trdlo is a round, hollow pastry made from basic sweet yeast dough. Strips of the dough are wrapped around a metal rod and baked over hot wood coals. This typically happens right in front of you, so you can watch the process while you wait your turn in line. The finished pastry is then rolled in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, crushed nuts, and vanilla. It can be dipped in chocolate.
Trdelník is usually presented as a traditional old Bohemian pastry, making it sound like a Czech invention. It is not originally Czech though. The pastry was first made by Hungarians in Transylvania (Romania) and later brought to the town of Skalica in Slovakia. Skalický trdelník even holds the European Union’s PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) denomination. The Hungarian kürtöskalács (chimney cake) is just as much an icon in Hungary as trdelník is in the Czech Republic. In fact, you’ll find a similar pastry in many European countries – Sweden, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, and elsewhere.
Even though Czechs can’t claim the original trdelník, they have found a way of making it their own. In recent years, a new version of trdelník appeared in Prague. It is sweeter and much richer in calories. The secret of this Czech invention that became an instant hit is to simply close it up on one end to make a cone and then fill it with ice cream, Nutella, strawberries and whipped cream, or apple strudel filling.
If you feel like a snack or dessert as you stroll along the streets of Prague, remember to look for trdelník!