Method

Mix together 5 lbs treacle, 1 lb Russian butter, and lbs fine sugar. Set on the fire and bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. When it has come to a full boil, immediately add 3 zolotniki ground cinnamon and 1 zolotnik cloves and pour into a large earthenware pot. Add 3–4 zolotniki potash, dissolved in a wineglass of warm water. Pour in gradually while stirring so that the mixture does not overflow, because foam will rise up from the potash. Stir until the foam subsides. Gradually add 5 lbs fine wheat flour and knead thoroughly or beat with a spatula for at least an hour, until the dough whitens. Set aside in a [heated] room for 3–4 days, stirring the dough each day. On the fourth day, turn the dough out onto a table, knead it, roll it out with a rolling pin, and cut into shapes, such as stars, horses, cockerels, or deer. Transfer the figures to a baking sheet dusted with flour, arranging them close to each other. Bake in the oven and remove them after they have risen and browned.

First cut out paper patterns of deer, horses, etc. Press the patterns into the dough and cut out the figures. These gingerbreads are frosted, if desired, with white icing, or they are gilded,* if they are intended for the Christmas tree.

*The gilding is another clue to the ancestry of these cakes. Plain gold leaf (without the paper backing) was used to decorate both sweet and savory banquet dishes in medieval England and France and is still used for garnishing on grand occasions in India. Gilding may be done more simply (and inexpensively!) by painting the dough with egg yolk to give it a golden color after baking, but Molokhovets probably cut out gilded paper in the same shape as the figures and stuck it on with a thin sugar icing. Gingerbread figures decorated in this manner are still sold in Germany and Scandinavia at Christmas.

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