Iće i piće

NO 8, June 2008


Gingerbreads from Stari Grad

Veljko Barbieri

Photos: Damir Fabijanić

Vienna has its custard slices and strudels, Zagreb and Zagorje their sweet boiled cheese strudels, Salzburg its Mozart-kugel, Dubrovnik and Barcelona their rožata or crème catalane, Makarska its Makarana torta, Venice and Split sweet rafiola and a whole range of carnival cookies, Sicily marzipan, Switzerland chocolate, and other cities too pride themselves on their sweetmeats and desserts, contributing to their cultural identity and gastronomic importance. But still, among all this menagerie of sweets and desserts you will hardly find another city or an island that is defined and directly symbolised by such an ancient pastry, as the paprenjaks, or paprenjoks, as they are locally named, this honey-filled and spiced breath of ancient times, define Star Grad, historical heart of the island of Hvar.

Although their origins overlap with the gingerbreads of antiquity and the Middle Ages and with a multitude of other similar brittle spiced cookies, it is not surprising that in the original island etymological form of paprenjok they are first mentioned by Petar Hektorović and then, ever since, in this way or that, by a large number of other very diverse actors on this packed urban stage, each of them having marked their destiny.

Via the complex composition of this ancient cake or biscuit we can literally discover the way in which, coming to us from time immemorial it has bridged the sometimes unbridgeable gap separating us from the forgotten and lost flavours and tastes that the current age can only with difficulty revive when it addresses its own past. In their dense culinary style through the honey, spices, saffron, flour, prošek and olive oil, in these paprenjaks the authentic history of Stari Grad and the island of Hvar, ancient and Renaissance historical facts and data, events and personal experiences are intermingled. A whole gallery of gingerbreads marked with the personalities of Stari Grad who come to live on the great table of time and fates, like hot gingerbreads taken out of the depths of some prehistoric bread oven.

The paprenjak, then, the way only a few rare cooks prepare them today, in particular Vedrana Tudor, narrates to us its own sweet eclogue, as was done once by Petar Hektorović, Hvar poet. It is no easy task, for delving into the essence of the paprenjak, we peer into the being of the city, then from the ancient grid of Stari Grad streets into the being of its dwellers and the already forgotten customs and fates, just as the little horses, the palms, the hearts, cups, flowers, fishes and amphorae under the skilled hands of the cooks are transferred from history to a destiny that has intended the little but ancient cookie to become a genuine trademark.

Stari Grad paprenjaks – gingerbreads

honey 500 g
prošek 200 cc
olive oil 200 cc
saffron 1 teaspoon
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
ground clove 1 teaspoon
nutmeg 1 teaspoon
baking powder 1 teaspoon
flour 1000 g
soft white icing 100 cc
  1. Bring the honey to boiling point in the prošek and oil, and add all the spices and the flour, and mix into a smooth thick pastry.
  2. Roll the pastry out on a board and with cutters cut out the gingerbreads of various forms.
  3. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. When they are baked, decorate the gingerbreads with icing, paying attention to the shape of each of the gingerbreads, and leave them to dry.
  4. They can stand several days.

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