Pierniki - Polish Gingerbread Christmas Cookies

Polish Gingerbread Cookies Heritage

In Poland there is a centuries old tradition of baking spiced cakes and cookies for festive seasons. Those special cookies and cakes, called pierniki, are full of aromatic eastern spices and they were an ultimate status symbol in times when a grain of pepper or a quill of cinnamon were very expensive.

Torun, the town where Copernicus was born, is famous for its signature gingerbread cookies. They were baked here since middle ages in the carved wooden moulds, while recipes were treasures guarded dearly by the bakers.

Polish Gingerbread Spices Mix

In Poland "gingerbread spices" are a synonym for a blend of different spices which gives those cookies and cakes their distinctive flavour and ginger is only one of them. You can buy a ready mix in a shop, but I opt for making my own mix and store it in a jar for when I bake. I believe every baker has their own ratio of spices, adding and omitting some of the spices. It is a bit like a home made curry spice mix, each family and chef has its own footprint.

Spice Mix Ingredients

50g cinnamon quill
30g ground ginger
15g ground cloves
10g ground nutmeg
15g allspice

10g black pepper

The proportions of the spices are a guidance for you. It is best to try it to find a flavour you like. I prefer it more aromatic and spicy and therefore I use more allspice, ginger and black pepper.

My family's favourite Christmas cookies are as quick and easy to make and as quick to disappear. That is why we usually bake them few times before Christmas. However, they store very well in an airtight container for a few weeks, if you happen to be a very disciplined child. The secret of the Polish gingerbread cookies lies not only in the spice mix, it is honey that gives it a real Christmassy punch.

Method

You will need to warm honey gently in a pan, making sure it does not bubble. Take it off the heat, add butter and melt it in the honey. Transfer the mixture into a big bowl, add the spices, sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda and an egg. Knead well all ingredients into a dough. Roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm. 

Now preheat an oven to 180 Celsius. Cut cookies out and transfer them onto a tray lined with a baking paper. While cutting cookies, cover the rest of the dough with a cloth towel to prevent it from drying. Pop the cookies into an oven for about 10-12 min, then transfer them onto a cooling rack. You can decorate them once they are cool and store in an airtight container.

Ingredients

550g flour
300g honey
100g sugar
120g butter
60g gingerbread spice mix
1 egg

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

(Someone's already eating!)

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