Icon: Baton Nareznoi

When the head technician of the country's largest bread factory is asked about the staple white loaf baton nareznoi, she exclaims more than speaks.

"The aroma of that bread, fresh from the oven," said Taisia Isayeva from St. Petersburg's Khlebny Dom. "It's so sad that you can't convey it to people! It's such a distinct smell; nothing tastes better than freshly baked bread!"

It's no wonder that Isayeva talks in hyperbole. Baton nareznoi -- golden-brown and chewy on the outside, soft and white on the inside, packed into clear cellophane and sold for 10 to 15 rubles by babushkas, supermarkets and kiosks alike -- is a big deal.

Khlebnoi Dom makes 75 tons of baton nareznoi per day, said Yulia Lomako, its marketing director. Every year 1.6 million tons of the ubiquitous loaf are baked across the country, she said. That's about 20 percent of all baked goods, making it the most popular.

Baton nareznoi entered mass production in the 1960s, after a statewide re-engineering of bread factories. Mechanized production lines were made so that loaves of all types, nareznoi among them, would be made by the millions, so that everyone could have their bread and eat it, too.

Nareznoi received its name from the narezki or cut lines applied in the last stage of its preparation so that the dough does not crack unevenly when rising: "Automatic knives leave slash marks on the upper surface, and then finally, the dough is ready for baking," Isayeva said.

As with many other great, simple things in life, baton nareznoi is made from flour, sugar, margarine, salt and yeast.

The white loaf is prepared in three stages.

First, the ingredients are put together in a special intensive mixer. The resulting mass then gets flattened into a pancake, and swiveled into a roll.

The third stage, Isayeva said, is a special process because "dough, it's a living organism. It needs to rest, relax, and take time to get ready." At this stage, the dough is allowed to sit and rise. Then, it's cut and sent into ovens and baked into the baton nareznoi we're all familiar with.