Today is Christmas in Russia. I wish wonderful and magical day to all Orthodox Christians!
Pryaniki were ones of the favorite treats in Rus’ (old name of Russia). The name was given for it’s spicy aroma and taste. They are similar to gingerbread cookies, but often made more thick.
Pryanik was the symbol of holiday, because ingredients weren’t cheap and used daily. It’s been baked for the Christmas, Easter, weddings and birthdays. There were quite a lot ceremonies and traditions about pryaniki.
In 9th century, first pryaniki were called “honey bread”, they were baked from rye flour with honey and berry juice, honey contained the half of all mixture. Later wild flowers and spices were added in a pastry.
In 7-8th centuries, when exotic spices were brought from India and Middle East to Russia, pryanik was named “pryanik”. Spices for pryaniki were called “dry perfume”, among which black pepper, orange and lemon zest, mint, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, anise and clove were most used and favorite.
In 17-19th centuries, baking of pryaniki was widely-spread craft. In every area people baked their special pryaniki according to traditional recipes; preparation’s secrets were passed on from one generation to another.
For the pastry:
100-120 ml honey
1 tbsp butter
1/3 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp spice mix*
1 tbsp cognac, brandy or vodka (optionally)
For the frosting:
1 egg white
150g icing sugar (powedered sugar)
1/3 tsp powdered coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/6 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of cardamom
a pinch of clove
a pinch of allspice
Honey and water heat in a pot (turn the heat off before the mixture begin to simmer). Take the pot away from the heat, add half of the flour (sifted) and mix intensively until smooth.
Cool the mixture until room temperature.
Then add the egg, cognac, spices, soda and the remaining sifted flour. Mix the pastry well during 15 minutes; it should be soft and tender.
Roll out the pastry in 5-6 mm/2 inch sheet and cut out any shape you like.
Bake in preheated 200C/400F oven for 15-18 minutes.
While the pryaniki are cooling, prepare the frosting. Beat well egg white, add sugar and beat again untill smooth. Put the ready frosting in a bag and decorate the pryaniki.
Enjoy with a cup of hot tea or a glass of milk. 🙂
Keep the pryaniki in a box, it can be stored during long time.