In Russia, you don’t use a “stick and carrot” to promote desired behavior; the equivalent saying is using a “whip and pryanik,” a glazed spice cookie served with tea. Run-of-the-mill versions of the baked good are plain and round, but an ornately decorated pryanik from the city of Tula, south of Moscow, makes an especially sweet incentive.
Tula pryaniks have been prized since the 17th century for their intricate designs, which are printed on the dough using carved stamps. According to Nadezhda Trachuk, the director of the city’s pryanik museum, the cookies got their complexity from craftsmen working in the local weapons industry. “Gunsmiths had skills that allowed them to make wooden presses for spice cakes in their spare time,” she told Russia Beyond. “Gradually, those presses became more and more elaborate.”
Your average Tula pryanik may be a single-serving handheld rectangle or a pie-sized round to be cut and shared at teatime. Either way, it will typically be filled with jam or with sweetened condensed milk. The dough is flavored with honey, cinnamon, and sometimes other spices such as anise, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, or ginger. Common designs stamped on a Tula pryanik include the city’s coat of arms and a message declaring that it’s a “gift from Tula.”
Need to Know
If you can't make it all the way to Tula, you may be able to find a Tula pryanik in your local Russian grocery store. The Russian town of Gorodets, north of Nizhny Novgorod, is also known for its decorated pryaniks.
Where to Try It
Pryanik Museumul.Oktyabrskaya, d.45-b, Tula, 300002, Russia
The museum features many beautiful examples of pryaniks, including a 110-pound version that depicts the Tula Kremlin. There's also a shop for hungry visitors. For further information: http://www.oldtula.ru/museum.
Look for Tula pryaniks in the packaged baked goods aisle. The box will read тульский пряник.