Ukrainian Gingerbread (Medivnychky) Recipe

Gingerbread 1

Since I posted a collection of gingerbread spice blends I figured that I might as well complete the gingerbread theme this week by sharing one of my favorite recipes with you. To experiment with my dry perfume blends, I tried quite a few recipes for gingerbread, from medieval renditions to modern versions. Yet, when I baked these crisp Ukrainian cookies, even my gingerbread wary family was curious. Unlike most other gingerbread recipes, these cookies are not particularly sweet, which makes them equally appropriate for either evening tea with jam or a glass of red wine with cheese. Moreover, the relatively simple dough makes the flavor of the spices stand out clearly and provides a good foil for experimenting with different dry perfume blends.

Literally, medivnychky means little honey cakes in Ukrainian, and it is exactly what they are—crisp cookies with a heady fragrance of honey and spices. Mixing flour into hot honey is a common technique in Russian and Ukrainian gingerbread recipes. It makes cookies rise well in the oven and prolongs their shelf life. The nuts in the recipe can be varied depending on what you have on hand. This time, I used pecans, but almonds, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts are equally delicious. You can even try flavoring this gingerbread with pistachios and cardamom (1/2 tsp) for a Middle Eastern flavor.

Gingerbread collage2

Ukrainian Gingerbread Cookies (Medivnychky)

Makes about 2 dozen

300g (2c) all-purpose flour
150g (1/2c) honey
100g (1/2c) sugar
2 eggs
150g (1 1/2c) finely chopped or ground nuts
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon or any other gingerbread spices

Note on measurement and flour: I weigh the ingredients when baking, but for this recipe, I converted the measures into the volume equivalents. Since flour tends to vary dramatically depending on its strength and absorbency, it is best to start with a smaller amount (1 ½ cups, in this case.) This recipe is quite forgiving, and you can always add more flour to achieve soft, easy-to-roll out dough.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix honey with gingerbread spices and heat it on low flame till it becomes liquid and little bubbles start appearing near the edges. This takes about 5-7min. Remove from the heat.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Pour in the hot spiced honey. Mix well with a wooden spoon or a mixer. Not all of the flour will be mixed in with the honey, but it is ok. Immediately add sugar, baking soda, eggs and mix thoroughly (5-7min by mixer). The better the dough is mixed, the higher the gingerbread will rise. Add nuts and mix them in. Add more flour if needed. The dough should be soft, easy to mold, not very sticky. Sprinkle it with flour and turn out onto a floured surface.

Roll out to ¼” thick, sprinkling with flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the table. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the cookies a little apart on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets. Brush with beaten egg to give them a pretty glaze.

Bake for 7-15min (depending on the shape and your oven) until richly colored. Gingerbread burns easily, so it is best to watch it very attentively. They will be soft when hot, but they will turn crisp once they cool down. Stored in an airtight container, they will last for several weeks. Or so the recipe says. Mine stick around for a week at most before I find the cookie jar to be completely empty.

Source: this recipe comes from a marvelous book by a Ukrainian cookbook writer Daria Tsvek called Sweet Baking (Solodke Pechivo) published in 1986. It is a collection of modern and traditional Ukrainian baking recipes. It seems to be out of print, so I cherish my old copy.

Photography © Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved.

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28 Comments

  • Ines: It really does sound simple and yummy. I will definitely try this. 🙂 Thank you. December 23, 2010 at 3:57am Reply

  • aotearoa: …glass of red wine and cheese and some of these. I can smell the picture above! Thank you Victoria December 23, 2010 at 4:11am Reply

  • hongkongmom: this sound like a must…for both coffee and wine, and i love that they are pareve (We can serve them with either meat or dairy meals December 23, 2010 at 4:29am Reply

  • Olfactoria: Oh, dear, hungry again…:)
    Thank you, I printed this out for further reference. December 23, 2010 at 4:33am Reply

  • Marina: Today I had breakfast before coming here…it didn’t help! And love the first photo! December 23, 2010 at 8:31am Reply

  • rosarita: I have always enjoyed your writing so much and I have especially enjoyed all the mouth watering descriptions this week! I will bake these later today. Thank you! December 23, 2010 at 9:07am Reply

  • Victoria: It is very easy, especially since you can adjust the consistency of dough. You can make it softer and than just make little balls out of it, which will spread into delicious, puffy buttons. December 23, 2010 at 9:13am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! I really like cookies with lots of nuts, and these ones match so nicely with wine and cheese. December 23, 2010 at 9:14am Reply

  • Victoria: Most of the old Russian and Ukrainian gingerbread recipes did not even contain eggs originally, which made them suitable for the Lenten meals, when no meat or dairy are allowed. In the traditional Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches, such days make up almost half of the year!
    And the absence of butter really makes all of the flavors stand out clearly. December 23, 2010 at 9:18am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that you can try them at some point and let me know about the results!
    Writing recipes down so that they are understandable is hard, as I am discovering. No wonder, my grandmother always gets annoyed when I am asking for specific quantities of this or that. She simply does not think along these lines. 🙂 December 23, 2010 at 9:20am Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, Marina… 🙂 Thank you. I actually had fun with trying to take that picture with the fireplace in the background. December 23, 2010 at 9:22am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much! I have really enjoyed writing the posts this week, especially since thinking about spices, gingerbread and all of the holiday scents put me in a very festive mood. This is a start of a long holiday period for us, which ends around Jan 14th (Russian Old Style New Year.)
    It is really quite an easy dough, but if you need further help, please do not hesitate to email me! December 23, 2010 at 9:25am Reply

  • Britta: How lovely! I will have to try these. Thank you for posting! We have something called Lebkuchen (Leben – Life and Kuchen – Cake) in Germany. The recipe is medieval and the city of Nuernberg is famous for it. Honey, Spices, Nuts are important ingredients… December 23, 2010 at 9:36am Reply

  • Olfactoria: My mother is exactly the same! When I ask for specifics she gets all vague and annoyed, cooking and baking for her is more of an art, than anything that can be replicated by the uninitiated relying on exact data 😉 December 23, 2010 at 10:03am Reply

  • Victoria: Your mention of Lebkuchen made me hungry! I find it to be fascinating, from its flavors to its history. It used to be very popular in the old imperial Russia. Every single cookbook I own that was published in the 19th-early 20th c contains at least one recipe for Lebkuchen.
    Now, I really want to make some. 🙂 December 23, 2010 at 10:05am Reply

  • Victoria: Baking is the trickiest, since not only is it more exact, our ingredients differ so much (American eggs are larger than Ukrainian, flour here has more protein, etc.) So, I no longer press her too much for details, but instead try to learn when I visit by taking notes and photos. She now also tries to measure ingredients for me, so that she can share recipes over the phone. She even invested in a set of measuring cups and spoons! 🙂
    My mother-in-law is easy in this respect. She used to teach cooking classes once she retired (she is a fabulous cook and quite renowned in her community for her food,) so she knows how the recipe needs to be communicated. December 23, 2010 at 10:13am Reply

  • dee: oh. my. goodness. These look and sound divine.

    I know what I’m doing this afternoon…

    🙂 December 23, 2010 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: D, please let me know if you try them. I hope that you will like them. 🙂 December 23, 2010 at 5:35pm Reply

  • carole macleod: I want to try these! The concept of using honey in this manner sounds delicious, and your instructions seem very straightforward. Does it matter what sort of honey is used? And what about solid versus liquid? I usually use a scale for ingredients, so I think it’s probably ok to use either.

    Merry Christmas, and thank you for so many years of beautiful reviews!

    Carole December 23, 2010 at 9:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Carole, I also use metric, which is so much more foolproof for baking. Plus, it feels more convenient to use a bowl and a scale, rather than measuring cups and spoons.Anyway, you can use any type of honey, as long as it is aromatic (something delicate like acacia honey would get lost there.) Since you will be heating it up, solid is ok. Just be sure that it melts completely. I used buckwheat honey in the cookies in my pictures, which is why they are that dark. In Ukraine, that's a very popular type of honey.

    Happy holidays to you too! I wish you a wonderful start of this holiday season! 🙂 December 24, 2010 at 3:18am Reply

  • Vinery: Dear Victoria, It was your wonderful blog that originally made me aware of the diverse world of perfumes–thank you so much. This is the first time I have commented although I have been an enthusiatic reader for 4+ years.

    I made your cookies yesterday, but using Australian Golden Syrup, as I didn’t want to bake with the Tasmanial Leatherwood honey that is so perfect for spreading on toast. The cookies are great–and fat free–so good for those watching fat intake.

    Thanks again for your insightful reviews, and great recipes. I hope you and yours enjoy the holiday season. December 25, 2010 at 12:40am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much for your comment and for reading me for such a long period of time. Sometimes I forget that the blog is more than 5 years old. Where did the time go?

    I am very happy to hear that the cookies turned out well. You’ve inspired me to try Golden Syrup instead of honey, since I love its caramel flavor very much. I also would feel rather guilty baking with such a precious ingredient as the leatherwood honey! Better just eat it raw and enjoy all of its complexity and nuances.

    Happy holidays to you too! December 25, 2010 at 2:48am Reply

  • Yelena: You have captured the perfect cup of tea and accompanying flavors. The cookies look fantastic- I hope there is some time for me to bake them. December 26, 2010 at 1:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: Lena, thank you! I hope that you will like them. For I, baking them would be a piece of cake. After his layered extravaganza for Thanksgiving, I think that there is no dessert he cannot master. 🙂 December 26, 2010 at 4:07pm Reply

  • Olga Bodnar Talyn: Victoria, My mother has not made these in years! Thank you for the memory and have a wonderful coming Ukrainian Christmas as will I!

    Olga December 30, 2010 at 7:50pm Reply

  • Victoria: Olga, Happy New Year! I also wish you a wonderful Ukrainian Christmas. I am very much looking forward to it. Going to make more medivnichki or maybe a large honey cake. Still trying to decide! December 30, 2010 at 11:25pm Reply

  • Tim: Hey Victoria this sounds delicious!

    I was wondering, do you have the original measurements somewhere in weight? October 2, 2012 at 3:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tim, they are listed in the recipe. October 2, 2012 at 4:35pm Reply

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