As sweet as pie. What Muscovites had with tea in the 19th century

July 3

Ivan Filippov, a second-guild merchant, was perhaps the most famous producer of bread and rolls in Moscow. The successor of his father's business, Filippov brought it to a new level, successfully competed with German bakers, supplied the imperial court with his products on a daily basis and inspired a good load of historical anecdotes.

Dinner roll with a cockroach and a kalach with a handle

The Muscovites of the 19th century loved drinking tea and especially honored dinner rolls. Soft pastry of oblong shape, generously stuffed with raisins, were always served to the table with a steaming samovar. However, dinner rolls were made initially without raisins. Fillipov came up with this idea almost accidentally. And not for reasons of improving the product taste. Vladimir Gilyarovsky tells this story in his “Moscow and Muscovites”, where a lot of attention is paid to Filippov's amazing personality and his business acumen in the chapter “Bakers and Hairdressers”.

Ivan Maksimovich supplied pastries for breakfast to Arseny Zakrevsky, who was then the Governor-General of Moscow. One day, having bitten off a piece of his dinner roll, Zakrevsky noticed a cockroach inside to his horror. The enraged Governor-General called the baker and demanded an explanation. Having instantly assesses the scale of the disaster, Filippov reported: “That’s a raisin, sir.” He quickly finished the dinner roll with the cockroach to confirm his words and hide the traces of the crime. After leaving Zakrevsky, he rushed to his bakery, where he dumped a whole sieve of raisins into the dinner roll dough, despite the protests of the bakers. On the next day, there was no end of those who wanted to buy dinner rolls with raisins.

But the story about the cockroach spread across the city, and it was also mentioned by some famous writers. For example, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin in his “Modern Idyll”:

“That’s a kalach from Filippov?” I asked.

“Yes, from Filippov.”

“They say there’s a lot of cockroaches in his bakery...”

“You never know what they say! Tastes delicious, and that’s enough to know!”

Filippov's bakery was famous not only for dinner rolls with raisins, but also for kalaches. Ivan Maksimovich came up with the idea of making a kalach with a handle — that is with a thin strip of dough connected to the main part, which was called a “lip” or “tummy”. It was very convenient to each a kalach on the go and throw the handle away if the hands were not clean. That is how the expression “to reach the handle” appeared — that is to become so poor that one had to save and eat even the “inedible” part of the kalach.

By the way, kalaches, contrary to modern ideas, were not sweet – during the times of Ivan Maksimovich, the dough was made only of flour, water, yeast and salt.

Central bakery in Tverskaya street

From father to the son

Ivan Filippov inherited the secret of especially delicious kalaches from his father. Maxim Filippov, a former peasant serf, came to Moscow from the Kaluga province at in early 19th century. Over time, having studied at other people's bakeries, he opened his own shop in the corner of Myasnitskaya Street and the Boulevard Ring. At the same time he realized that the best kalaches were made if the dough is kept in the cold before baking. By the time the business passed to Ivan Maksimovich, the family already owned three bakeries. The other two were located in Sretenka and Tverskaya Streets.

Like his father, Ivan Filippov paid great attention to the quality of the products — he did not buy flour but ground his own at mills with proven millers and using grain bought in proven places. At the same time, the prices were moderate — poor students and civil servant, rich elegant ladies and ordinary workers visited his bakeries. “Rye bread is the first meal for a hard worker,” he often repeated.

The competition contributed a lot to the affordability of his kalaches, dinner rolls and bread — Filippov had to lower the prices for his excellent products. In the 1850s, German bakeries were very popular in Moscow. They made bread there twice a day, kept their premises in perfect cleanliness and order, and shops were set up right at the bakeries. Filippov took the last idea from his competitors.

Expanding the business

Pies with rice, mushrooms, farmer cheese and other fillings did not stay on the counter long— they were purchased as soon as they came out of the ovens. And if someone doubted that, for example, a cooled loaf was fresh, it was put on the counter and pressed down. If after a few seconds it regained its shape leaving no doubt it is freshest. If not, is was sold at a discount.

“Made with good butter, fresh minced meat, the five-kopeck pie was so big that a couple of them could be a hearty breakfast. The counters and shelves on the left side of the bakery that had a separate entrance were always surrounded by crowds buying pounds of rye bread and bread made of sifted flour”, Vladimir Gilyarovsky wrote in his book “Moscow and Muscovites”.

In 1855, the talented entrepreneur Filippov received the title of the supplier of His Imperial Majesty’s court. According to the legend, ordinary citizens were offered the same pastries as those supplied to the imperial court — no exclusions were made. Baked rolls made a long journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg every day — Filippov flatly refused the idea of baking on the spot as it was impossible to reproduce the taste even if the recipe was followed in the strictest manner. Ivan Maksimovich blamed water from the Neva River for it. Only later, when delivery of water from Mytishchi to the Northern capital was launched, a branch of Filippov’s business was opened there.

Ivan Filippov died in 1878, and his entire business was inherited by his wife and children. Difficult times began for the business in 1905: first a strike of workers demanding higher wages took place, and then they had to reap the fruits of downtimes making it impossible to settle with the creditors. The things were getting event worse, and after the revolution of 1917 the company was nationalized.

Filippov's Moscow Bakery. Saint-Petersburg. 1899

Where else one could buy bread

In the mid-19th century, delicious bread and pastries were sold on the Red Square — in Rumyantsev's bakery. Among other well-known bakeries are those of Kondratiev, Torpashev, Vinogradov, Berezin, Suslov, Chuev and many others. Each had its own unique selling offer. People went to Chuev's bakery in the Lubyanka square for special dinner rolls that were laid out hot on a straw mat for flavor, while the freshest sweet buns they bought at Savostyanov’s in the Arbat Square. From Ivan Svinyin's book “Memoirs of a student of the 60s, for the years 1862-1865” (1890):

“I still remember the time when Savostyanov's bakery occupied one room illuminated through small windows with simple glass of hardly impeccable cleanliness. The frames had sashes with ventilation windows made in them, through which we got hot loaves in the evening. Now there is luxury everywhere, space, abundance of light pouring its rays through gigantic mirrored glasses. At that time, the bakery specialized in butter cookies, so called “sweet buns”, while all other things such as white bread, kalaches, bagels were sold exclusively at Filippov's bakery.”

Vladimir Stozharov. Still life with bread. 1959

By the way, there is no consensus among scientists over the origin of the name “sweet bun” (“plyushka” in Russian). According to one version, it came from the Old Russian word "plyushchka" which, in its turn, was formed from the verb "plyushchiti", and emphasizes the flat shape of the product. The second version is less obvious: perhaps the buns were originally baked in the form of birds, for example, wagtails, one of the dialect names of which is plyushka, plishka or pliska.

The city bakeries made excellent rye bread generously sprinkled with anise or cumin. It cost only one kopeck. There was also more expensive bread: an oblong-oval French loaf, soft inside and covered with a crispy crust on the outside, cost five times more.

By the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 300 bakeries in the city. Following Filippov, many entrepreneurs started shops directly in bakeries, and such establishments were especially popular: the flavor of bread and pastries just removed from the oven did not leave visitors indifferent. It was extremely difficult to resist buying. But after 1917, many of these businesses (smallest ones) were closed, and others were nationalized.


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