Чтобы почувствовать сладость русской жизни не нужно отправляться в долгое путешествие по городам и деревням необъятной страны (it is not necessary to set off for a long journey through cities and villages of our vast country to get a feeling of the sweet Russian life). Simply get into a train that will take you in few hours from Moscow to Tula, offering you the opportunity of a brief look at each station on its way. When arriving in Tula, make sure you’ll find one of those “open Russian table”.
Tea party is the last and most important moment in every Russian dinner, and an excellent occasion to talk with your friends, попивая чай вприкуску с баранками, мёдом и, конечно, пряником (sipping a nice cup of tea with sweet bread rings, honey and of course, gingerbread).
If you never had a chance to find out what a real Russian treat is, you must try the sweet, beautiful and deliciously flavoured Tula gingerbread. However, the production of Tula gingerbread is not the only one to be famous. С давних времён в России готовят московские, городецкие, вяземские пряники (since ancient times in Russia, gingerbread are made in Moscow, Gorodets, Vyazma).
Вязьма – старый русский город, родина самого легендарного рецепта пряника (Vyazma is an old Russian city, the birthplace of the legendary recipe of honey-cake). The recipe is legendary because many modern chefs have tried and still try to discover the secret of this ancient Russian dessert, but so far without success. The original recipe was lost along the way at the turn of the Russian history of the 20th century. This is what happened…
The preparation of Vyazma honey-cake began in the 18th century, but it was not until the 19th century that a chef finally found out the recipe that will give the honey-cake such a fame. At that time, eight bakery successfully worked in town. One of them, the bakery of the merchants’ family Sabelnikov, became famous all the way to Europe and the reputation of its honey-cakes was known in many Western countries.
The bakery was opened in 1811, and the recipes were jealously kept within the family members and were passed from generation to generation. Although Vyazma cakes were much more expensive than those of Tula or Moscow, people would not hesitate to buy them, because no other delicacy could compete with them. Вяземские пряники “таяли во рту” (Vyazma honey-cakes simply “melted in your mouth”).
The main ingredient to prepare gingerbread was honey. It was used in Vyazma cake in large quantity. The cakes were baked on special boards with ornaments which determined the size, the shape and the pattern of the design. Начинка готовилась из малинового или сливового варенья (filling for this cakes was prepared with raspberry or plum jam).
The Vyazma honey-cake was appreciated by ordinary and nobles alike, and even the Tsar himself. So one day, the bakers of Vyazma set a record by cooking a cake weighing 16 kg. Этот пряник послужил подарком русскому императору в день юбилея царской семьи Романовых – в 1913 году страна отмечала трёхсотлетие царствующего дома (this cake was served to the Emperor of Russia on the anniversary of the royal family of Romanov, as in 1913, the country celebrated the tercentenary of the royal family).
Unfortunately, with the decline of the imperial Russia, the wonderful Vyazma honey-cake came to an end, the factory actually closed after the revolution. Последним человеком, который знал все тайны приготовления легендарного пряника, был пекарь Прохор (the last person to know the secrets for baking the legendary honey-cake was the baker Prokhor), who had worked for many years for the Sabelnikov family.
In 1978, after the death of an old resident of Vyazma, the hope that the secret will be disclosed aroused. Indeed, they found in an old trunk belonging to him four honey-cake recipes. Chefs immediately tried them, but with no success. Возможно, тот человек, который их писал, специально упустил одну важную деталь, без которой никогда не получить пряник, тающий во рту (perhaps the person who wrote them, forgot one important detail on purpose, without which it is impossible to get a cake melting in your mouth).
Today, bakers continue their experiments in search of the unique taste of the Vyazma honey-cake…