Russia: Pryanik

Russian honeybread has been made since the 9th century, at which time they were made with rye-flour, honey and berry-juice. Over time, some other natural indigenous ingredients like local roots were added to flavor these cookies. When trade first began with the Middle East and India (12th-13th centuries) these sweet recipes were kicked up with a variety of spices – popularly with cloves, ginger, citrus fruits, pepper, nutmeg, badian, mint, anise, ginger and many others and hence these cookies were referred to as “pryanosti” meaning they were well-spiced.

Today pryanik are available in many flavors, shapes and styles. They are commonly seen as pressed cookies or painted cookies – the latter of which are painted with white, rose or chocolate icing or are decorated with berries, nuts or candied citrus peel. They can also be filled with jam, sandwich-style.

The myriad styles of pryanik are generally always served with tea and coffee, and they have that wonderful spiciness of a gingerbread cookie, perfect for when the weather is getting colder (I guess since I live in New Orleans, our coldest weather probably never approaches that of Moscow in the summer, but I still enjoy cold-weather treats!)


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

1. Sift the flour, baking soda and spices into a medium bowl.

2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and thick.

3. Heat the honey in a small saucepan over low heat until it liquifies. Stir the honey and vanilla into the beaten egg mixture.

4. Mix in the dry ingredients to form a stiff dough.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Butter two cookie sheets. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Use your favorite cookie cutter to make cookies, and whatever size your cookies are, use that as a guide for how far apart to place them, expecting them to double in size.

7. With a pastry brush, give the cookies just a little honey on top.

8. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until just golden, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking.

9. Cool on the sheets until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks to finish cooling.

10. In a bowl, add 1-2 tbs water to the confectioners’ sugar and whisk together to form a paste. Decorate your cookies when they’ve cooled and enjoy.

TIPS: These cookies are great with different spices, and I even have tried adding cayenne, so feel free to be creative. Toppings also vary throughout Russia so try adding your favorite nuts or berries if you are so inclined. I also *highly* recommend taking out about 2-3 cookies when they’re only halfway baked, putting them in a bowl with apricot jam and cool whip, and not telling anyone else about it – it was heaven.

Recipe, photos and post courtesy of our guest contributor, Adrienne, with special thanks to her Russian friend, Constantin.


Anonymous said...

This is definitely a Russian treat, and I have had many varieties of them over the years. But the traditional Prianiki does not come in the shape of the picture. The traditional one is rounded, and thick, and comes coated in sugar, not drizzled like an American cookie. I do not know where you got the recipe from, but the picture should reflect the traditional version.

Anonymous said...

I love the flavor of this cookie, but I seem to have trouble with the toughness of it. I don't know what i'm doing wrong but it seem's really dry like i've added to much flour. But I follow the recipe to the "T".