Pierniczki are Polish gingerbread cookies.
The Polish city of Toruń, like Nuremberg, Germany, has been famous for its gingerbread cookies and cakes (piernik) since the Middle Ages. The cookies were originally baked in intricately carved wooden molds but today are more often cut into rounds or the shapes of St. Nicholas, hearts and other fanciful designs.
Chocolate-glazed, heart-shaped pierniczki are passed out to children on Dec. 6 by Swiety Mikolaj (St. Nicholas).
- Gingerbread Cookies:
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 2 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 3 tablespoons water)
- 1 cup honey
- 3 cups flour (all-purpose)
- Chocolate Glaze (Optional):
- 4 ounces chocolate (semisweet, chopped)
- 4 ounces butter
- 1 tablespoon water
- In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar until light and lemon-colored. Add the spices, baking soda-water mixture and honey. Mix well. Add flour gradually and mix until stiff dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. On parchment paper cut to fit your baking pans, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into your desired shape. Lift the parchment paper by opposite corners and place on the baking pans. See these steps for rolling and cutting gingerbread.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It's best to ice or glazes these cookies right before serving.
- To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and nuke for 20 seconds at a time until almost completely melted. Stir until smooth. Use immediately.
History of Gingerbread
The debate rages on as to the origins of gingerbread. An early form was used by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians for ceremonial purposes. Gingerbread didn't appear in Europe until 11th-century crusaders brought the spice back from the Middle East for those who could afford this precious commodity.
As ginger and other spices became more affordable to the masses, gingerbread caught on. An early European recipe consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar and, naturally, ginger.
The resultant paste was pressed into wooden molds. These carved works of art served as a sort of storyboard that told the news of the day, bearing the likeness of new kings, emperors, and queens, or religious symbols. The finished cookie might be decorated with edible gold paint or flat white icing to bring out the details in relief.
In the 16th century, the English replaced the breadcrumbs with flour, and added eggs and sweeteners, resulting in a lighter product. The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who knocked the socks off visiting dignitaries by presenting them with one baked in their own likeness.
Gingerbread tied with a ribbon was popular at fairs and, when exchanged, became a token of love. On a more practical note, before refrigeration was a twinkle in someone's eye, aromatic crumbled gingerbread was added to recipes to mask the odor of decaying meat.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Total Fat||10 g|
|Saturated Fat||5 g|
|Unsaturated Fat||3 g|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g|