Imagine a golden, cylindrical pastry reminiscent of a cinnamon roll, that is, if the cinnamon roll was roasted on a spit over an open flame and then twirled through a mixture of sugar and ground nuts or cinnamon. Got that in mind? Then you’ve got a trdelnik.
A specialty of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this yeasted dough treat can be found in bakeries, at food stalls and street carts. In Prague no outdoor market is complete without at least one trdelnik stand.
Hearty yet surprisingly light in consistency, trdelnik makes for a delightful breakfast, afternoon snack or dessert. A longtime fan, I’ve eaten it for lunch and, on one desperate night, as dinner.
Because I don’t own an outdoor spit or tabletop rotisserie, my first stab at trdelnik was with my kitchen range. Since I didn’t think to buy a trdelnik form in the Czech Republic, I had to figure out a way to help the pastry keep its round shape. I couldn’t wrap the dough around water glasses, place them upright on a baking sheet and then slide them into a hot oven. The glasses would shatter, ruining the dough and my oven.
I considered pressing strips of dough onto a rolling pin and suspending that over a shallow baking dish. However, my rolling pins are wooden and would likely scorch, if not catch on fire. Aluminum soup cans covered in aluminum foil and sitting upright in a baking dish? That I did try, with mixed results. If I didn’t make the dough strips long enough, so that the ends overlapped, the trdelnik unraveled as it baked.
Ultimately, I found that an outdoor grill, coupled with the foil wrapped cans and long, metal kebob skewers, provided the most authentic and consistent means of creating trdelnik. So, unless someone gives me with a rotisserie or, at the very least, a proper trdelnik form, I’ll be firing up the grill for my next batch of this sweet.
NOTE: In the following recipe, I provide instructions for both baking and grilling/roasting this Czech sweet.
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1 pound (approximately 3 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 egg whites, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon water
Put the yeast in a small bowl and pour the warm milk over it. Set aside.
In large bowl mix together the flour, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (reserve the tablespoon for the topping), cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and then set aside.
In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and 1 egg white, butter and vanilla extract.
Pour the proofed yeast and egg mixture into the well and stir together. Using your hands or a stand mixer’s dough hook, knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes, until soft and well-combined. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, remove the metal grates and preheat the grill on medium-high.
Cover 2 to 6 empty, clean aluminum cans with tin foil and then grease the foil with butter. (NOTE: If you’re making your trdelnik on a grill, you’ll need to punch out a hole in the center of each can so that you can thread the kebob skewer through there. Once you’ve done that, cover the cans with foil.)
In a small bowl mix together the remaining egg white and 1 teaspoon water.
On a plate mix together the 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, granulated sugar and chopped almonds.
Uncover the dough and separate it into 6 equal-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out and then cut the first dough ball into 1/2-inch wide and at least 6-inch long strips. Wrap these strips around the greased cans, making sure that the ends of the dough overlap each other. The end result should resemble the picture below.
Repeat the rolling, cutting and wrapping with the remaining dough balls. If you don’t have more than 2 cans on hand, you’ll just make one batch of trdelniks and then repeat the above steps.
If you’re baking these in the oven, place the dough-encased cans upright in a shallow baking dish, leaving about 2 inches between each trdelnik. Bake for 10 minutes.
If you’re making these on the grill, thread the kebob skewers through the cans and place the skewers over the charcoal. Cook uncovered, rotating frequently, for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes remove the trdelnik from the oven or grill, brush the egg wash over each and then roll the trdelnik in the sugar-nut mixture. Return to the oven or grill and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Remember that, if you’re using a grill, keep rotating those skewers so that the trdelnik doesn’t burn. Remove, roll in the sugar mixture again and serve warm.