It all started not in Tula, but in Europe: the predecessor of the Tula gingerbread has been known since the 13th century. This sweetness was presented at Christmas, and was made from honey dough with almonds, spices, citron and sugar icing. The first written mention of the Tula gingerbread is dated 1685, but, according to historians, in Russia, this spicy cookie appeared about a century earlier – in the era of the Great Geographical Discoveries. Gingerbread was then made in almost all Russian cities and villages.
However, it was in Tula that the process was brought to perfection and practically elevated into art. Already in the 17th century, dozens of craftsmen prepared gingerbread throughout the city. The dessert was popular, and because of the high competition, each gingerbread tried to make its products tastier and more beautiful than others. Sweets were sold for every taste: custard, honey, creamy, fruit, mint and even mustard. And the unique shape of the gingerbread was given with the help of wooden structures.
Tula gingerbread: the history of the famous delicacy
The dough was immersed in a mold and pressed until they got an ornament imprint – until now, gingerbread with patterns are called printed. They depicted local sights, sketches from life and pictures-amulets. Each pastry chef had his own gingerbread forms, and a knowledgeable person could recognize the master just by looking at the product.
The most famous gingerbread in the Tula province was the merchant Vasily Grechikhin. He was appreciated both in Russia and abroad. He presented a two-pound gingerbread of his own production at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889 – and received the Grand Prix.
And 11 years later, having returned to France for an exhibition, he organized a sweets trade near the Eiffel Tower – in a pavilion entirely made of gingerbread. For the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, the merchant released delicacies, each of which he packed in a chest with a lock. And later, at his factory, they made a gingerbread with the image of the map of Tula.
Before printed gingerbread, masters baked small, round, filled, but without patterns. Their modern counterparts are sold in any grocery store.
Rebirth of a legend
The gingerbread cookies did not write down their recipes: keeping x in mind is the best way to protect against theft. After the Second World War, the secrets of the gingerbread business were forgotten for some time. Knowledge died at the front along with the masters.
Modern gingerbread production in the city revived in the mid-1950s. The country’s leadership instructed the enterprises of the Tula food industry to organize the production of traditional gingerbread for the opening of the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition. The work was in full swing: they were looking for keepers of old recipes, restored baking equipment. At the Tula Arms Factory they made wooden molds for gingerbread. The first successful batch left the production line only six months later – and went for a sample to the USSR Ministry of Food Industry. Its head, Vasily Zotov, handed over some of the gingerbread to Anastas Mikoyan, deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, and he handed over to Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee. Tula gingerbread was rated at the highest level: flour and butter were additionally allocated from the state reserve.
According to GOST 1954, Tula gingerbread cookies were only rectangular in shape. The approximate dimensions are 140 x 70 x 18 mm. The jam filling was allowed to be replaced with premium jam. The surface is glazed, with the inscription “Tula”. They were made from first grade flour, without molasses, with the addition of butter and natural honey.
Moreover the production of gingerbread in Tula is flourishing today. The most famous factories in Russia are Staraya Tula, Yasnaya Polyana and Honey Traditions. But spicy cookies are also baked in other factories. More than 20 years ago, the Tula Gingerbread Museum was opened, dedicated to the history of the city’s symbol. And since 2016, in August, Tula has been celebrating its own holiday – Gingerbread Day.