Honey Cookies - Russian Honey Pryaniki (Домашние пряники медовые) are a classic Eastern European honey treat. Everybody has memories of freshly baked cookies from their childhood, this recipe is mine! I especially love making these around the holidays, they're my New Years and Christmas cookies.
There were 2 types of cookies that I specifically remember my mom baking, usually in huge amounts! These Honey Cookies or Russian Pryaniki were my favorite. She would spend the whole day baking these in large batches for us to eat. When company came over, there was always honey cookies on the table. The other cookie my mom baked was a Russian Sugar Cookie (Сахарное печенье) which is delicious warm out of the oven. Either of these recipes go perfectly with a cup of milk or tea.
Are Pryaniki like Gingerbread Cookies?
No, not always! There are many different Pryaniki recipes out there, and many of the English language recipes seem to make them like Gingerbread. So traditional Russian Honey Cookies or Pryaniki, then get confused as Russian gingerbread.
This is inaccurate, as ginger and spices are optional to these honey cookies, and aren't always made that way. We have always made them with just plain honey, no spices required, an old traditional recipe. I don't know if in the olden days, spices may have been hard to find and expensive, but there was always honey in Russia! It's a simple rustic honey cookie recipe.
Russian Honey in Pryaniki
This isn't a honey cookie recipe that uses a bit of honey with sugar as the filler. This recipe uses a whopping ONE AND A HALF CUPS of honey, packing these cookies with flavor! Russians love honey, and it's been part of our food culture for centuries from mead in ancient Russia. The Russian bear eats honey, and the Russian word for bear is medved, which translates to honey eater. I don't think Russians could imagine life without either!
Every region of the world has their famous honeys with flavors. Russia is the same with the tasty Bashkir honey, which influences the taste of these honey cookies. Google Bashkir Honey, it's incredible. Now that I live in Australia, I love the many flavors of Australian honey. The eucalyptus honey adds so much flavor, and I highly recommend, as Russian honey is hard to find.
Sour Cream in Cookies
Along with honey, Russians love Sour Cream and we put it into everything! Why wouldn't we, as it's considered something that we invented, we call it Smetana. I have a homemade Smetana recipe, which is fantastic. The stuff you buy in store isn't real smetana or sour cream, but just thickened with thickeners, but I'll get off my soap box. Try the real thing!
How to Make Honey Cookies
Although it's an easy recipe, you need to plan ahead when making Pryaniki, as it's usually a 2 day process. The honey cookie dough is so incredibly sticky and soft, it needs to firm up overnight in the fridge. I make the dough on a Friday night, refrigerate until Saturday, and spend the morning baking fresh cookies. If you are in a rush, then you can refrigerate the dough for 4-5 hours before using.
You can make this recipe using a whisk and a wooden spoon, however I use a KitchenAid Mixmaster. It's much easier to mix, especially after you add the flour. Hit the easy button!
The honey dough is incredibly sticky. It will stick to everything, including the baking paper on the cookie sheet. Using a tablespoon, scoop out some dough and roll into a ball using your hands. Remember to flour your hands, as I said, the dough is sticky!
Depending on the size of the cookie balls, I usually get 12 honey cookies on a large baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 350°F/180°C and bake for 13-15 minutes.
When you take them out of the oven, leave them on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. You need these to completely cool before you add the glaze.
Icing Sugar Glaze for Honey Cookies
There are a few different methods to ice these Honey Cookies. Firstly, let me clarify that Icing Sugar is the same thing as Powdered Sugar or Confectioners Sugar. They key to a nice glaze is to use an electric mixer to make a silky consistency.
The egg whites will whip up beautifully with the icing sugar. When making extra glaze, it's a 1:1 ratio for 1 cup of icing sugar with 1 egg white. After icing them, they will need to set on a cooling rack so the extra glaze slides off and it dries neatly.
The first method is to fully dip them into the icing sugar mixture. This method uses the most icing glaze, and you might need to double glaze that you prepare. You can also just dip to top of the cookie into the glaze, but traditionally the whole cookie should be covered.
The second method is to use a pastry brush to paint each Honey Cookie, allow to dry and paint the underside. This obviously takes the longest, and I don't have that much patience! Sometimes I just paint the top of the cookie, and as it sets, by this time the kids are usually eating the cookies.
And finally, the third method is to place all your cookies in a large bowl, pour the icing mixture over them and mix using your hands. This is the quickest and most practical way (although maybe not as pretty). This is how I remember my babushka making these cookies. She had 13 kids, and it was a fast and economical way to glaze the cookies.
I suggest trying all 3 methods to see which works best for you. Make a few 'pretty' Honey Cookies to serve for company. When you have enough and are tired, throw the rest into a bowl to finish quicker. The taste isn't affected in either method. I usually use the first method and dip them into a bowl of icing sugar mixture.
Some versions of this Honey Cookie Pryaniki are made with a peppermint glaze, or have added spices. But not this traditional recipe. The hero of this recipe is honey, and the sweet glaze complements the flavor and seals in the freshness of the cookie.
- Use baking paper, even if you have a non-stick pan. It's very sticky stuff!
- Try it with Australian honey for a more interesting honey flavor
- Use a KitchenAid Mixmaster or equivalent to save time, and your mixing muscles
- Completely cool the cookies before cover with icing glaze
- If concerned about raw egg whites, buy pasteurized egg whites. 3 egg whites is about 3.5oz or 100 grams
- Don't place the cookie balls too close to each other, so they don't touch each other as they bake. They will spread in the heat of the oven.
Russian Pryaniki or Honey Pryaniki Cookies are a simple rustic cookie, passed down from generation to generation. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 1 ½ cups honey
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ pound of softened/melted butter (115 grams)
- 6 cups of flour
- 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Icing Sugar Glaze
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 3 egg whites
- Whisk together the eggs and the sugar.
- Add the sour cream, honey and softened butter and mix.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder together and add the flour mixture slowly to the honey mixture until fully incorporated together.
- Refrigerate overnight to allow the dough to firm up together. If in a rush, refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours.
- Using a tablespoon, spoon out a tablespoon size piece of dough into your lightly floured hands. Roll each piece into a ball and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and bake for 13-15 minutes.
- Finish baking and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
- In a bowl, whisk together the icing sugar and egg whites together. There are 3 ways to proceed, choose the one method which suits you best!
Icing Dip Method
- Dip the cookies fully into the glaze and place on a baking rack to drip dry the excess icing sugar until fully dry. You will need extra icing glaze if using this method.
Icing Brush Method
- Using a pastry brush, brush the top side until completely covered in the icing sugar glaze. When it dries, brush the underside of the cookie. I rarely return to ice the underside of the cookies!
Icing Bowl Method
- Place the cookies in a large mixing bowl, then add the icing sugar mixture on top of them. Using your hands, mix it all together coating each cookie. This doesn't look as pretty as the other methods, but very practical and quick.