I discovered new Russian sweets in the store the other day! They’re called pryaniki (пряники) and look like this:
Well, of course they’re not new, but I hadn’t noticed them yet until now. Actually, someone already told me about them even before I moved here. She mentioned them when I told her about this very good advice a friend of mine gave me in the form of earrings, right at the time the wait for my Russian visa seemed endless:
The pryaniki looked quite plain and they felt a bit hard on the outside, so I must admit my expectations weren’t really high. But they tasted delicious! They reminded me a little bit of gingerbread, or “speculaas“, a Belgian (and Dutch) specialty.
Pryaniki are very traditional Russian cookies. They’ve already been made since the 9th century! Originally the ingredients consisted of rye flour, honey and berry juice. When trade with the Middle East and India started in the 12th and 13th century, their typical spices were added: cloves, ginger, citrus fruits, pepper, nutmeg, mint, anise, … I got some with mint, I discovered when I had a good look at the package back home. (That’s usually how it goes when I go shopping here; in order not to spend hours and hours in the supermarket I just grab some stuff and analyse packages and ingredients at home. 🙂 ) But mint was a nice surprise! Yum!
Pryaniki come in many shapes and sizes, but the most beautiful ones are made in the city of Tula, south of Moscow. There, they are made in loaf form and stamped with a wooden press to produce an embossed decoration. And they’re often filled with jam:
Picture taken from here
Lovely, isn’t it? As you can see, pryaniki often accompany tea. The strange type of kettle you see on the left is called a ‘samovar’ and is part of the Russian tea tradition. But I’ll tell you more about that in one of my next posts!