Discovering “Czech Churros”

Disclaimer: the food featured in this post is NOT actually called a Czech churro, it’s called trdelnik. In fact, the only thing about this sweet pastry that resembles a churro is the delicious cinnamon-sugar exterior coating. But guess what? I can actually pronounce churro and I cannot pronounce trdelnik. Believe me, I tried and it’s not pronounced like the word looks. But after a few failed pronunciation lesson attempts, the local woman selling me the pastry finally gave a half nod and a weary grimace, then sent me on my way. So I made up an easy to pronounce and remember name for the treat, and trdelnik has been permanently ingrained in my mind as a “Czech churro.” And that’s that. (I now realize I probably should have gone with “Czech cannoli” but it’s too late to turn back now.)

Freshly-made trdelnik is sold at small shops and street kiosks throughout the more tourist-heavy areas of Prague. For those fiending for a fix and desperately seeking the tasty delights, this large sign hovers as the universal bat-signal-style beacon drawing you to the pastry establishments. Be like Batman and follow the signal. You will not regret it.
Trdelnik sign in Prague

I watched a woman make trdelnik from the dough phase to its crispy finish; it was fascinating. The dough is cut into strips, twisted and then wrapped around a cylindrical metal rotisserie-type device over a fire.
Making trdelnik in Prague Making trdelnik in Prague

Some are gas fires, like this one, while others are deliciously smoky-smelling wood fires.
Making trdelnik in Prague

As the dough cooks to a golden brown, cinnamon and sugar is sprinkled on the outside. The fire caramelizes parts of the sugar to give an amazing crunch along the most-cooked portions of the sweet snack. As you can see, when the trdelnik is removed from the rotisserie, it sports a gigantic hole, which prompted me to get silly. I could hear my mom’s voice saying “Don’t play with your food.” But I couldn’t resist.
Peeking through a trdelnik pastry in Prague

And what do you do with a hole in a pastry? Fill it with more sweets, of course! You can get trdelnik filled with Nutella, jam or ice cream, among other things. I stuck with the plain version to fully savor the cinnamon-sugar coating. My Nutella-craving husband, of course, had his slathered with the chocolatey mixture. One bite of his told me I made the right choice because the Nutella-filled trdelnik was too rich for my taste.

Whichever version you choose, be sure to try a “Czech churro” — I mean, trdelnik — in Prague. If you’re like me, you might find it a challenge to eat and it will end up all over your face. Don’t be sorry, the mess is just a sign of you enjoying life to the fullest.

If you really feel the need to qualify the indulgence, go ahead and say you’re simply trying to immerse yourself in Czech culture.

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