Trdelnik (No, it’s not a spelling error!)
Some call it a Trdelnik, and some call it a trdlo. I call it yummy goodness. Never heard of it you say? Well then listen up!
Trdelnik is a traditional cake/sweet pastry most well know for being from Slovakia; specifically the town of Skalika. Apparently there was a Hungarian general who had settled down in Skalika during retirement. In his household, he employed a cook from Transylvania. The cook brought with him from home a recipe for “trdelnik” which was then improved upon by the Hungarian general and turned into what is today known officially as Skalicky Trdelnik.
That still doesn’t tell you what a trdelnik is, you say? Well, keep reading.
I’ll admit, I had no idea what a trdlo (as it came to be known to me) was until 2007 either. In fact, I had to travel halfway across to world before I’d heard of it. Now, I didn’t go to Slovakia – actually, that’s not true. I was in Slovakia, Bratislava, its capital, to be exact, but that’s not where I heard of a trdlo or even saw one with my very own eyes. My first experience with a trdlo was at the Christmas Market in Prague, the Czech Republic.
During the winter of 2007, I took a Christmas market tour through Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary. It was one of the most amazing experiences and it left a lasting impression on me as to what the Christmas spirit is really about. Part of my trip took us to Prague for 2 days to see the city and spend time at the Christmas Markets. That’s when I first saw the trdlo.
Essentially, a trdelnik is dough that is rolled around a stick, called a trdlo, and grilled over an open flame, similar to how you would cook a rotisserie chicken. Once cooked, it is topped with a mixture of sugar and chopped walnuts. The taste of it was delicious. Not to sweet, not to dough-y, just perfect. Nice and hot and flaky and crispy.
Now, you have to understand that I was in Prague only a few short days before Christmas and it was FREEZING. Ok, so I’m a Southern California girl and my definition of freezing may be different from yours, because, admittedly, I think 60 is cold. But believe me, this was cold! As in we passed a digital thermometer on the road that read -7 degrees Celsius. Translation of that into Fahrenheit is 19.4 degrees. Now, don’t tell me that isn’t cold. The first day we were in Prague, we spent a couple of hours outdoors walking around the stalls of the Christmas market looking at all of the home-made knickknacks and Christmas decorations. It was gorgeous but being out in that kind of weather for any length of time was really starting to make me feel cold all the way down to my bones! We finally came upon a stall with all these people surrounding it that had a large sign that was the picture of some sort of a rolled, barrel-looking thing that said “TRDLO” underneath it. I couldn’t figure out why all these people were standing in front of this booth until I saw what they were selling. It wasn’t Christmas ornaments or trinkets, rather, it was a traditional dessert, the trdlo.
All you could see was these bakers taking balls of dough and rolling it out into long strings of dough, almost like you were making a breadstick. They would then press this mixture of sugar and nuts right into the dough, I guess similar to how you’d put the cinnamon sugar mix onto a cinnamon roll you were about to bake. The bakers would then take these long strings of dough and roll them around a large stick, like a rolling pin, just larger. Then, once the stick was loaded up with these rolled up balls of dough, they’d put it over the flame and let it start to cook. It would go around and around in a steady motion and slowly start to get brown on the outside. Once it got nice and hot, and browned on the outside, and soft and flaky on the inside, the bakers would like up the large stick and these goodies would just slide right off into individual trdlo’s. A little more sugar/nut mixture was sprinkled over the hot trdlo and then immediately sold to customers.
When it’s so cold that you can see your breath, and your body is shivering, and it’s starting to snow outside, and then you take a bite of this warm, crispy, flaky, nutty, sugary, pastry-thing, it absolutely feels like heaven. This dessert hit the spot at the right time in the right moment, it was just perfect! And believe me, I couldn’t eat just one of these. Remember, we were in Prague for 2 days. I just had to have some more. Then the next day, I went back and bought some more. Oh, it was good. Really good. And the good news, I’m going back there around Christmastime this year, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to be having me some more trdlo’s. Hopefully, this time around, my husband enjoys it just as much as I do.
So, now you know what a trdelnik, or trdlo, is. Ask me how to pronounce it and I have no idea. But tell me you have one and I definitely know how to say “yum”!