The Polish tradition of baking gingerbread goes back to the early Slavonic times, when cakes made with honey performed a ritual function. In those times, when sugar was still unknown, the only highly valued sweetener was the honey of wild bees, which the early Slavs mixed with crushed wheat grain. This delicacy served at pagan feasts was the forerunner of today’s gingerbread.
The traditional recipe was rather simple. The dough was made from pure honey, spices! (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, aniseed), one part rye flour and one part wheat flour , spirit and potash http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potash (today’s baking powder). It matured slowly and could be kept unbaked for months, even years (the longer the better).
The best! traditional Polish piernik (gingerbread) has been produced since the Middle Ages in the city of Toruń (Thorn).
You can visit World of Toruń Gingerbread (at Nicolaus Copernicus House), make your own famous gingerbread or just buy some of them at the traditional Torun gingerbread store. Torun is really amazing, not only because of the best Piernik they make. This is also one of the oldest and in my opinion one of the most beautiful polish towns.
Piernik. Polish Christmas gingerbread
200g natural honey
50g (1/4 cup) light muscavado sugar
50g cold butter
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
300g (2 cups) plain flour
2 tablespoon spices*
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cardamom,
1 tbsp ground black pepper,
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp powdered ginger
2/3 tbsp ground cloves,
½ tbsp ground aniseed
½ tbsp ground coriander
½ tbsp ground allspice
½ tbsp ground fennel
1. Place the butter, honey, muscavado sugar and 1 tablespoon of spices in a medium pan. Heat over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Cool a little.
2. Mix the beaten eggs with the cooled mixture.
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and one tablespoon of spices into a large mixing bowl.
4. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and beat well using a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. (mixture should be thick)
5. Pour the mixture into prepared tin (I used Fluted round tin, ∅ 22cm )
6. Bake in a preheated oven, 180C/350F for 1 hour until well risen and just firm to the touch.
7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. When cool, remove the cake from the tin with the lining paper. Overwrap with foil and place in airtight container up to 2-3 days to allow the flavour to mature.
8. The cake is ready to eat also after baking!
9. Spread with the chocolate or icing topping if you wish.