THE RUSSIAN FOOD NETWORK

Project form

Please fill out the form below, print it, and turn it in, in hard copy, on the due date you selected on the signed up sheet.  The Russian Food Network Event as a follow up to your Russian cooking experience will take place on December 2 during class time, in the Whitman Commons.  Please duplicate your recipe and bring it in for the event. 

Recipe: Russian Gingerbread (Pryaniki

2 tablespoons butter                                                Glaze:

½ cup honey                                                               ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 egg                                                                              2 tablespoons freshly

1 ¾ to 2 cups flour                                                    squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon each: ground Cardamom

                     Ginger

                      Mace

                      Cinnamon

2 tablespoons crushed blanched almonds

½ cup thick jam (plum is especially good)

Cream the butter and honey, then beat in the egg. Stir in the baking soda, spices and almonds, mixing well. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured board roll the dough out 1/8 inch thick Cut out the rounds with a 2 ½ - inch cookie cutter. Spread a generous teaspoon of jam on half of the rounds. Top each jam-covered round with a plain round, sealing the edges with your fingers, them crimping them decoratively. Place on a greased baking sheet. 

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking for 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool on a rack.

To prepare the glaze, mix together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. Pour over the cooled cookies.

Yield: 18 cookies 

A synopsis of your research on the recipe and the area where the recipe originated:

These are the oldest Russian sweet and have undergone many changes, especially in their texture and spicing, since their original form. As with most old dishes, each district – even family – has their own recipe. However, the most classic version is a cake-like spicy gingerbread still made in the city of Tula. The cookies are often frosted or filled with jam, and have been known to (somehow) survive long enough to wind up in the Leningrad Ethnographic Museum.

(All from the cookbook information included with the recipe copy)

Your description of the experience of preparing and the tasting the recipe (any ingredients you needed to substitute, any changes you made to the recipe… does it remind you of something you tasted before?  What would you serve to accompany it? Etc.

Finding the ingredients was not a problem; the only items we did not have at home were cardamom and the blanched almonds. I substituted slivered almonds, and spent about ten minuets figuring out how to effectively pulverize them. As it turns out, nut-cutters, cutting boards, and knifes, work quite well to reduce almonds to small pieces. They do not, however, pulverize them. For such a thing, I recommend a mortar and pestle. Slight measuring discrepancies with the spices did not result in either an explosion or inedible cookies.

During the rolling out of the dough, make sure that the surface it is being rolled on is covered with flour, as well as the outside of the dough and the rolling pin. I recommend rolling the dough out in small amounts – less time for it to run out of flour and glue itself to the counter. The top of a Mason jar lid worked quite well as a cookie cutter, and resulted in a yield of 12 cookies. One point: make sure that you spread the jam out. This results (probably) in a more even taste, a better surface for the (runny but delicious) glaze, and cookies that do not represent stereotypical UFOs. For the glaze: spoon it on after the cookies have cooled enough to allow the glaze to set. 

I have very little experience with gingerbreads of any type, but the dough’s taste reminded me greatly of cardamom bread. The jelly center was very similar to Mardigras Puski’s. I agree that Plum jelly was especially good. As a cookie, which functions quite well on it’s own in my experience, I wouldn’t serve anything with these. However, they would probably blend nicely with most types of tea (especially ginger), coffee, or milk.

Like a wine recommendation to accompany a dish, make a recommendation of a reading from Russian literature that would accompany the making or the tasting of the dish you prepared.  Perhaps the reading would suit the mood of the dish, its spiciness or its sweetness… perhaps there was a mention of one of the ingredients or the dish itself in the reading… etc.  You may select from the stories read or presented in class, or some other Russian work with which you are familiar.

I have several recommendations for this recipe, though only one is literary. First, listening to Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky during the original preparing of the dough may be beneficial to your mood, especially if you have reached the pulverizing of the almonds during the Dance of the Adolescents. I also recommend Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain as an interesting piece to alleviate some of the tedium and frustration of rolling and cutting the dough before baking the cookies. My only literary recommendation (is it really safe to read while cooking?) is to read Diary of a Madman (Gogol) while these cookies are baking. After all, it is always nice to know someone else is more insane than yourself, and by that point you will have probably experienced the full sticking ability of the dough.