I remember pryaniki as being the dry, powdery cookies hiding inside the bread box at my parents' house. Their spicy taste and lack of discernible filling seemed unnatural for a cookie, and an affront to the sense of a sugar-deprived 8-year-old. Suffice to say the pryaniki and I did not get along for years. But then chewy, wonderful gingerbread came into my life (again, via G's mom), and I fell in love with the unique taste and texture of these spicy, hard-on-the-outside but chewy-on-the-inside cookies. Add in gorgeous Cinnamon Raisin granola to the mix, and you've got yourself some killer gingerbread granola cookies.
With all the granola, dried raisins and spices that are packed into these babies, I'm not gonna mince words (pun intended - get it?). I'm just going to tell you that when I added butter to warm molasses, and then stirred the whole thing with some beautiful chewy Cinnamon Raisin granola, the smell that took over my house was a revelation. It made the place really feel like the winter holidays (the freshly cut pine branches I had just brought in also had something to do with it). And with all the bad gingerbread cookies that are out there, full of processed sugars and lacking in vitamins, you really need these granola-filled ones in your life, like, yesterday.
The funny thing is, it wasn't until I tasted my first batch of these spicy gingerbread granola cookies that I realized I had just made the world's best pryaniki. I didn't even really realize it right away - at first, the taste was just awfully familiar. The crackly powdered sugar layer coloured the top of my lip white, while I bit off a large piece of granola, cinnamon and gingered-flavoured dough. The bite of black pepper and nutmeg still lingered at the back of my throat when I pondered the sensation. But it was only when I began inexplicable humming an old Russian childhood tune that I realized - I was eating pryaniki!
It turns out that pfeffernusse, which is the recipe these cookies are based on, are a distinct Northern cousin of pryaniki. A quick google search revealed the cookies look nearly identical, and that their ingredient list was awfully similar. Both are served around the Christmas holidays and are considered festive cookies. While ones are rolled in sugar crystals, others are drizzled with a sugar syrup or powdered with confectioner's sugar - but essentially, they are one and the same.
Never one to leave well enough alone, I kept playing around with these cookies, adding eggs and subtracting flour (I finally achieved the golden mean on attempt #3). Somewhere in the middle, I realized that what would make these gingerbread-pryaniki even better was a healthy handful of granola. And then, I had truly attained nirvana.
Believe me when I say that these guys pack a punch, both in flavour and in filling. NaturSource's Cinnamon Raisin granola is a winter-appropriate mix of rolled oats, cashews, raisins, wheat flakes, currants, all manner of seeds and molasses - and it contains a whole 29 grams of whole grains per serving while being low in sodium, fat, and high in fibre. Over the cold months that we are expecting around North America, I have a feeling I'll be reaching out for a full bowl of Cinnamon Raisin granola on a fairly regular basis.
So for your first day of Hanukkah baking project, or for any last-minute Christmas baking, I encourage you to make a batch of my spicy gingerbread granola cookies. Past the crispy exterior of these spicy gingerbread granola cookies hides a chewy middle, filled with raisins, oats, ground ginger, cinnamon and other spices. They freeze beautifully, but will harden beyond recognition if left exposed to air, so make sure you keep them in an airtight container (even a Ziploc bag will do in a pinch). But have no fear - if your cookies harden, it's nothing that a quick dunk in boiling hot Russian tea won't fix. After all, for years that's how I dealt with the supply of stale pryaniki in my mother's bread box.
Happy Hanukkah - and have a Merry almost-Christmas!
On Friday, I will cap off this week of cookies with a seasonally appropriate cookie link round-up. Stay tuned!
P.S. – This is a sponsored post, but all opinions expressed here are my own. I am proud to support a local, family-owned business like NaturSource whose product I truly appreciate, and I thank you for supporting my sponsors.
P.S. – This is a sponsored post, but all opinions expressed here are my own. I am proud to support a local, family-owned business whose product I truly appreciate, and I thank you for supporting my sponsors.
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Spicy gingerbread granola cookies, or my take on Russian Pryaniki
- ⅓ c light molasses
- ⅓ c butter
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 ¼ c all purpose flour
- ½ cup Cinnamon Raisin granola - make sure you get some raisins in there! Otherwise blend oats with raisins at a 2:1 ratio.
- ⅓ c sugar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
- ¼ tsp each cloves nutmeg and black pepper
- In a small saucepan, heat molasses and butter, stir until butter melts; let cool. Stir in beaten egg.
- Mix dry ingredients together, add gradually to molasses mixture. Blend thoroughly.
- Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 375 for 10-12 minutes. While still warm, dust cookies with powdered sugar. Store in airtight container. Makes about 30.