Old-Style Polish Gingerbread Cookies (“Pierniczki Staropolskie”)

Honey-based gingerbread cookies are a Polish specialty.  The city of Toruń is particularly known for their gingerbread cookies.  The cookies date back to the Medieval times–I love them just for the reason!  While Christmas-themed gingerbread cookies are made in our home during the holiday season, these cookies can be enjoyed anytime of year.  Wedel is one brand that we been able to buy in our area.  These cookies are usually filled with a fruit filling.  The largest producer of gingerbread cookies is Kopernik.

The version I tried baking myself for the first time was during our trip to Poland for Christmas.  I was pretty happy with them, though I think they were not as spicy as I would have liked.  The cookies were a quickie version since I only had a day to make them.  Since then, I’ve improved on the quickie version.  Check this recipe out, especially if you are in a pinch:

Same Day Polish Gingerbread Cookies (Pierniczki).

A more traditional way of making the cookies requires caramelizing sugar and aging the cookie dough.  Sheesh!  It’s all well worth it.  Following is the recipe, after which are step-by-step illustrated instructions.  See you after the recipe!

Print Recipe
Old-Style Polish Gingerbread Cookies (Pierniczki Staropolskie)
2017© HollyTrail.com
Course Dessert
Cuisine Polish
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
For Cookies
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter (one, 4 ounce stick + 3 tablespoons)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
For Glaze
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk or hot water (more may be necessary to reach the desired consistency)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Polish
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
For Cookies
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter (one, 4 ounce stick + 3 tablespoons)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
For Glaze
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk or hot water (more may be necessary to reach the desired consistency)
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, caramelize 1/4 cup of the sugar by heating it on medium-high heat until sugar melts. Swirl but do not stir to ensure even heating. Heat until sugar changes to a light amber color. Stir in honey and butter and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. While the honey mixture is cooling, sift together flour, cocoa powder, spices, and baking powder. When the honey mixture is warm to the touch, transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer. On low speed, mix flour mixture into honey mixture. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and remaining 1/4 cup sugar, about 3 minutes. Mix into the flour/honey mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together baking soda and milk. Mix into the flour/honey/egg mixture until well-combined. Briefly knead dough on counter until smooth. Transfer dough to a stoneware or glass container and cover. Let stand in a cool place for at least 24 hours and up to 7 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 390°F (200°C). Roll out a portion of dough to about 1/4 of an inch (5-6mm). Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Repeat for the remainder of the dough.
  5. Make the glaze: Stir together the confectioner's sugar, milk (or hot water), and almond extract (if using) until smooth. Add more confectioner's sugar if too runny or add more liquid if too thick. Using a pastry brush, cover the tops of each cookie with glaze. Let glaze harden before serving or storing. Store in air-tight container at room temperature for up to a month.
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STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

To make this version, I first had to caramelize the sugar.  In the photo below, I’m in the process of doing that.  You have to keep an eye on the sugar because it can burn easily.  You also shouldn’t stir it, but instead swirl the pot to ensure even heating.  As you can see below, I fell behind in my swirling since some of the sugar wasn’t even melted, yet the melted sugar was already amber-colored!  It all turned out OK though.

After caramelization of the sugar was complete, I added the honey and butter and stirred until fully incorporated.

The mixture then had to cool to lukewarm.  Meanwhile, I sifted together the flour, cocoa powder, spices, and baking powder.

Using a standing electric mixer on the slowest speed, I mixed the flour mixture into the honey mixture until well-combined.

Off to the side, I separately beat the eggs and remaining sugar together.  Then I mixed the egg mixture into the dough.

The dough came together nicely.

I “dissolved” baking soda in some milk (it doesn’t really dissolve).  Then I mixed it into the dough until fully incorporated.  I kneaded the dough a little bit by hand and then put it in a stoneware pot placed a cool spot for a few days.  The dough was a little sticky, but not much.  The container I used had a lid, so that came in handy.  Tying a cloth over top is another option.  I was afraid the dough would form a crust if I did it that way though, so I opted for a stoneware pot with a lid.

After about 3 days, I was ready to roll out the dough–I didn’t have time to wait a full week.  I thought I would need to flour my counter so that the dough wouldn’t stick when being rolled out, but I was wrong!  In fact, the flour I used on the counter in the photo below had to be cleaned off as it was getting in the way of proper rolling.

The dough didn’t stick to the counter at all.  It was so easy to roll out, cut out shapes, and peel off the counter.  No chilling or flouring necessary!!

Stars are a typical shape for Polish Christmas gingerbread cookies, but I tried out other shapes as well.

Out of the oven the gingerbread stars came.  They made the house smell so good!!

After the cookies cooled, I brushed on a simple confectioner’s sugar glaze, let the glaze harden, and them stored the cookies in one of those festive-looking metal Christmas cookie containers.

These are the kind of cookies that taste better with age.  The cookies have a somewhat mild spicy taste, despite what I thought was a heavy load of spices that I put into them.  Nevertheless, they are tender and delicious.  Well worth the time and effort!  My next gingerbread project will be to try out making Toruń-style gingerbread cookies. . . .

 

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