This post is another ode to the serendipity of travel.
At Food Truck Square, in Krakow’s Kazmierz district in Poland last week, a scintillating aroma made my head turn. And like a zombie in a trance, my feet blindly took me to that heavenly smell of freshly baked goods, cinnamon, and spice. It was familiar, yet unidentifiable.
I opened my eyes and saw a truck with signs in English reading “Chimney Cake: Life is too short to eat bad cakes.” Jim stood next to me, and he looked stunned. After a pause he said, “Laura, I think this is … trdelnik.”
Trdelnik was an elusive baked good that Jim and I first encountered but never actually tasted while traveling in the Czech Republic five years ago. The smell lingered around a closed shop on one of Prague’s medieval cobbled alleyways. Several times we came very close to obtaining trdelnik, but in the end something always got in the way and we left the country deprived from its bread-y goodness.
The scent was so inviting and my desire to try it so strong, that I devoted an entire journal entry to it. Trdelnik almost immediately took on a status of epic proportions — it became the pastry that got away, until now; back in Krakow, I looked at Jim, and said, “I think you’re right. Let’s get some.”
I got a trdelnik, or chimney cake, lined with plum jam and walnuts. Jim got one lined with Nutella. After waiting five years, we finally got to taste trdelnik, and it was well worth the wait.
What it is: Trdelnik is a traditional baked pastry from Transylvannia, and is currently found through eastern Europe specifically in the Czech Republic and Hungary (in Hungary it’s called Kürtőskalács).
Trdelnik is a pastry dough that is rolled out in a long strip, than wound around a metal or wood rolling pin that doubles as a fire spit. The dough is rolled out a little bit so it thins and creates a singular cylinder. It’s then slathered with butter and sugar and placed over smoldering coals (or an electric heating device), and rotated until it cooks with a lightly crispy and caramelized exterior. It’s taken of the spit and then rolled in cinnamon, spices, cocoa, etc before sliding off the rolling pin/spit. The variation we tried — which is less common — included lining the interior of the pastry with Nutella, jams, or other sweet spreads.
— Laura Rowley