Your Guide to Czech Baked Goods
I always get excited about trying new sweet foods in a new country and I often find the bakeries are the best places to go to get a good overview of traditional sweet foods of a culture.
Having lived in the Czech Republic for over a year now, I have become quite accustomed to Czech bakery treats. However, this wasn’t always the case as to begin with I was a little confused – there seemed to be a lot of the same thing (sweet breads) but cookies and cakes were nowhere to be seen.
There was a good reason for this – unlike New Zealand bakeries, Czech bakeries (and a lot of others around the world) separate their breads from their cakes and sweets.
Thus, there are there are two types of ‘bakeries’ in the Czech Republic: A pekárna and a cukrárna.
- A pekárna is where you will find sweet breads, pastries and donuts (most of which are typical breakfast foods here) and literally means bakery.
- A cukrárna (literally means ‘sweet shop’) is where you will find cakes, desserts and general sweets.
Before realising this, I thought Czech’s idea of sweet food was simply sweet yeast bread – then I walked into a cukrárna and what a relief that was.
Nearly every dessert or sweet bread seems to have a story behind it and most recipes have been passed down from one family to the next, making each unique and special.
So without further a-do, here is a short list of a few ‘must-try’ bakery items to help decipher what you’re staring at next time you find yourself in a pekárna or a cukrárna (or if that’s unlikely, are just simply interested):
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? …
All phallic connotations aside, these ‘tips’ or ‘spikes’ are a beloved dessert among Czechs and come in several variations. The one pictured here is a špička Koňakové which literally translates to ‘cognac tip’. It has a biscuit/cake-like base filled with cognac/eggnog and a chocolate cream and is then dipped in chocolate. You can also buy ones that are filled with a sweet meringue or cream. Not too sweet and fun to eat all the same.
Head to a cukrárna for one of these.
Koláč is my favourite treat to buy from a pekárna and the one close to my home specialise in these yeast breads and are no doubt the best I’ve had yet. They come in various shapes and sizes but are all made from a sweet yeast dough with a variety of toppings such as a sweet poppy seed ‘paste’, tvaroh (similar to cottage cheese), crumble, and plum jam.
Koláč can be eaten anytime of the day but they are most typically eaten for breakfast. It is traditional to serve mini koláč at Czech weddings and giant versions (the size of a large pizza) can be found at any market or festival. Be warned though, to the eye it’s easy to mistake the poppy seed topping as chocolate which is exactly what I did when trying one for the first time. Thankfully, the poppy seed filling was delicious.
As a former part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a lot of the sweet (and savoury) food in the Czech Republic is influenced by Hungary and Austria, hence, the Strudl (which is strudel in Austria and rétes in Hungary) is featured in nearly every pekárna.
The pastry used to make the strudl is so thin that before it’s baked, it should be completely transparent and historians believe that this recipe was inherited from the original Turkish baklava.
I could live off these alone (along with chocolate lamingtons…).
You will find these in the bakery section of any supermarket and of course in all pekárna‘s which makes them too easy to buy and too hard to resist – they are everywhere and they are delicious. Although they are donuts, they seem slightly less bad for you then typical American donuts as they are less sweet (at least that’s what I tell myself).
One of my Czech friends told me that these are often called ‘horse poo’ in Czech because, well that’s what they look like. It turns out however I misunderstood her as I have since been corrected – apparently it’s the other way around – horse poo is often called “koblihy”.
Don’t let that put you off trying one though 😛
Větrník means pinwheel in English which is what these little choux pastries resemble. They are filled with a creamy vanilla custard, cream and a dash of rum then chocolate or a caramel coating is used as a topping.
Apparently these can differ in quality slightly depending on which cukrárna you buy them from (as emphasised in this article), so best look out for a good looking one to avoid disappointment.
I feel like I could go on forever with more yummy treats but perhaps I’ll save them for another day.
I hope you enjoyed this little taste tester of Czech baking.
What’s your favourite Czech treat to eat?
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