Monday, 8 October 2012

Ukrainian Gingerbread Man?

Oh, little Gingerbread cookie, I can't hear your singing!  Please come closer! No, closer yet!  Oh, just jump here on this long tongue of mine so I can hear your sweet singing.....

The Ukrainian folk tale has its own little twists and its own folkloric charm.  Whether you call him Medivnyk, Prianyk, or  Kolobok, or Pampushok, or ......the Little Honey Bun Story is a fun story for this fall season.  Reading the story, considering all the beautiful ethnographic messages in the colorful illustrations, and then singing the melodies of the folksong to a loved little person - or maybe a loved grown up?  How much fun is that?

In the traditional Ukrainian folk tale, the little pyrih, or small honey bun, comes alive and escapes from Baba, then from Dido, then from the rabbit, and the bear, but the wolf loves to hear the singing!  Pryanik (or little Kolobok) sings, "I escaped from Baba, I escaped from Dido, and I will run away from you too!" to each of his captors, until the wolf asks him to come closer, closer and then.......

What a delightful way to enjoy time with the children!
Honey has been one of Ukraine's traditional riches for thousands of years.  So using honey to bind a variety of flours (rye), makes for crisp little honey and spice cookies that rise well in the oven and have an extended shelf life.  They have been a traditional part of the Ukrainian palate forever.  The word "pryanosti" refers to them being exotic and spiced! Local tastes like berries (for their color and flavour) and nuts have always played their part too!

Medivnychky gained international accalim early in the 9th century, during medieval times.  Kings and royalty of Kievan Rus' attracted a lot of affluent visitors, while Kiev itself was an early crossroads for international commerce of the day.  Exotic smells, flavours and techniques and imported spices like  cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and citrus fruits (candied peels), nutmeg and peppercorns made for a popular treat! 

Today, medivnychki, prianiki, and kolobok recipes involve cookie presses, they can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, painted with icing, or dusted lightly with sugars!
For a great traditional Ukrainian Tistechko - Medivnyk - Pryanik- try this lovely recipe. Enjoy!!

(Baba used a variant of this lovely and easy recipe.  The last part, adding the last bits of flour to the dough is the best part, everyone can participate and use up the excess energy in the house!)

Mix together 3 eggs, and 1 cup sugar until thick, creamy and light yellow. 
Heat 1 cup honey over a low heat with spices until the honey bubbles at the sides of the pot. Spices to try - 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cardamom.  Next time through, choose different spices!
Combine the dry ingredients, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp soda, 2 cups flour and use a standing mixer to make a stiff dough. 
Wrap the dough ball and chill it in a refrigerator for an hour. 
Prepare the pans with shortening and preheat the oven.
Remove the dough ball.  Gradually add up to 2 more cups flour to make a soft rolling dough, moldable and not sticky. The better the dough is mixed, the higher the cookies will rise.
Roll the dough 1 cm thick and cut out small 4 cm rounds, re-rolling to use up the excess.   
Leave plenty of room between the medivnychki-pryaniki.  You can brush them lightly with egg for a soft glaze at this point.
Bake 10-15 minutes, or until slightly brown at 350 degrees.
Medivnychki burn easily and they will come out of the oven soft, but will crisp up quickly.
Remove, cool on sheets, and dust with icing sugar, or glaze with icing. 
Simple, old fashioned, and delicious!  Enjoy!

Store these cookies in a sealed tin, the flavour will mature with time, but they probably won't last that long.

Pryaniky, pryaniky, ya tebe z'iim!

Perhaps it is time for tistechka z molokom???

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