Piernik – Honey Spice Cake-2

Two months to Christmas and I am posting this recipe so you have time to prepare for then.

I have tried out several piernik – honey spice cake  recipes  & many of them have been dreadful!

But at last I have found one that I am happy to share – I would describe it as a sort of soft biscuit.

This is piernik staropolski (in the old Polish style) and is a recipe which takes time to make, as the mixture is left for several weeks before it is baked – (10 days is the absolute minimum). This maturing enhances the flavour of the spices.

I have been reading that some people make their dough even earlier say in September before they bake it

This piernik is baked for Święty Mikołaj – St Nicholas Day – December 6th and for  Wigilia – Christmas Eve – December 24th.

The science for this will be really interesting – I presume it is a slow fermentation that is taking place & the high honey/sugar content, low temperature & access to air prevents the dough from spoiling.

Ingredients

  • 250ml runny honey
  • 125g Trex™ **
  • 230g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs – lightly beaten
  • 550g plain flour (may need more)
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spices or piernik mix (ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom in equal parts)
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 70 ml of warm milk
  • 250g mixed dried fruit (raisins, peel, chopped dates and figs)

** The original recipe uses lard (pork fat) – I used Trex™ – a white solid vegetable fat.

Method

  • Put the honey, sugar and Trex in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring the mixture till all the Trex is melted and the sugar dissolved.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Mix the flour, salt & spices together.
  • Add this to the honey mixture and mix together first with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the beaten eggs to the mixture.
  • Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add this to the dough and mix till you have a thick dough.
  • Knead this dough lightly for around 5 minutes (add more flour if the mixture is too wet).
  • Add in the dried fruits and knead them in lightly.
  • Form the dough into a ball.
  • Place the dough in a glass or ceramic bowl – not a metal one.
  • Cover with a linen or cotton cloth – tie the string around it to keep it covered.
  • Do not use cling film – as air needs to circulate.
  • You could use foil but you would need to prick in some air holes.
  • Place in a cool place (mine was put into my cool cellar) for a minimum of 10 days and up to 4 weeks.
  • I left mine for 2 weeks.
  • Ensure that the dough will not pick up any unwanted flavours such as onions or garlic by carefully choosing the place you store it.

After resting

  • Pre-heat the oven to GM2 – 150°C
  • Grease and line a 2 baking tins – 22 x 33 cm.
  • Take the ball of dough out of the bowl and cut it into two.
  • Flatten each piece lightly and make into a rough rectangular shape – can use a rolling pin.
  • Place this into the tim and with fingers push and press it into all the sides of the tin.
  • You can use the blunt end of a rolling pin.
  • Repeat for the other
  • Bake for around  55 -65 minutes – checking after 40 minutes and covering with greaseproof paper if it is starting to burn.
  • Leave the piernik to cool in the tin.
  • When it is cold, wrap it loosely in greaseproof paper and then a clean linen tea towel and leave in a cool place for 2 -3 days.

To serve

  • Cut each cake into two or three rectangles.
  • Remove the crusts – optional.
  • Dust with icing sugar or coat in chocolate melted with butter (40g butter : 100g dark chocolate).
  • You can use a thin white icing semi glaze instead of the chocolate.
  • You can store the piernik in an airtight tin – I think the chocolate coating helps to keep it longer.

Slices served on Queen Anne china tea plates.

 

 

 

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Carrot Piernik

Piernik is a spiced honey-cake.

I would describe this cake as a “Pseudo-piernik” as  granulated sugar rather than honey is used.

My Polish friend in Leeds gave me this recipe and she got it from another Polish lady. The written copy could be described as being in “Ponglish” being written partly in English with additional notes in Polish!

The original recipe used cups which except for liquids I find hard to work with and  much prefer weights.

I tried out a few alterations & variations until I reached this final version which I feel is the easiest way to get consistent results.

I made it is two different tins: the longer tin gave a thinner cake which was  better for cutting in two and adding  a filling, the shorter tin gave a thicker cake which was  better with just a topping.

Ingredients

  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 225g coarse grated carrots
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice (I use Marks & Spencer’s) or cinnamon

Method

  • Grease and line a 32cm x 22cm or a 27cm x 21cm tin.
  • Pre-heat oven to GM5 – 190°C
  • Mix well together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla essence &  orange rind (I use an electric whisk).
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, spices & salt and lightly mix this into the whisked mixture.
  • Mix in the grated carrots.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  • Depending on the tin size, bake for 25 – 35 minutes but keep an eye on it and cover with foil or greaseproof if it starts to burn.
  • Leave to cool in the tin.

 

 

Finishing – several ways

  • Dust with icing sugar
  • Drizzle with a melted chocolate & butter mixture
  • Cut into two and sandwich together with powidła – Polish plum jam* or sour cherry jam – then dust with icing and drizzle with chocolate & butter topping
  • Top with orange butter icing

*Powidła is a lovely spread – often translated as jam but  is not really a jam.

It is made from fresh ripe plums which are heated and stirred for hours until the water is driven off and you get a thick paste.  The traditional version does not have any extra sugar added.

I bought some in my local Polish shop, I have seen it for sale in glass jars or in plastic tubs.

Chocolate Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 50g of plain chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Method

  • Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it.
  • Heat the water in the pan and stir the mixture to combine it together.
  • Use a spoon to drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake.

 

 

Orange Butter Icing

Ingredients

  • 50g of butter
  • 2 tablespoon of orange juice
  • Grated rind of 1/2  a large orange
  • Around 250g of icing sugar

 

 

Method

  • Melt the butter with the juice and rind in a small saucepan.
  • Leave to cool slightly.
  • Mix in the icing sugar to get a thick spreadable icing.

 

 

Royal Albert – Primulette – tea set – from the 1950s

Green teapot – Café Culture by Maxwell Williams

Optional

Add 100g of sultanas to the mixture.

 

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Note

I have posted a previous carrot recipe which I have used to make small buns.

The ingredients are similar but in different proportions – soft dark brown sugar is used which is not usually available in Poland.

Piernik with Chocolate

I came across this recipe in the book my Polish friend, who lives in Leeds, bought for me in Poland this summer.

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I thought it sounded interesting and I have adapted it slightly.

Piernik is a honey spice cake which has its origins in the 12th Century.

The spices used will have originaly been brought back by the Crusadors.  I make up a mixture of equal parts of cinnamon, cloves and cardamon.

Piernik in Poland is associated with the Christmas season and would be made for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day, it would also be made for Święty MikołajDecember 6thSt Nicholas Day. This a day for present giving in Poland to children and I would always get a piernik shaped and decorated to look like the bishop that was St Nicholas.

As it is Święty Mikołaj next week on  December 6thSt Nicholas Day – I  thought this was a good day to post this recipe.

The addition of chocolate to coat the piernik is more recent. Chocolate made by Wedel in Poland started in 1851.

Here the chocolate is grated or chopped finely and added to the cake mixture.

The result is delicious and I will certainly be adding this to my Wigilia (Christmas Eve) menu.

I found grating the chocolate hard work – it was easier for me to chop this amount into very small pieces, using a cleaver type knife.

Ingredients

250ml runny honey

230g granulated sugar

2 large eggs (or 3 medium)

1.5 teaspoons of piernik spices (cinnamon: cloves: cardamon in equal amounts  so a half  teaspoon of each).

350g plain flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

100g dark chocolate – grated or finely chopped

100g chopped mixed peel

 

Icing Sugar to serve

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160°C

Grease and line a 32cm x 22cm shallow Mermaid tin (use one sheet for the two long sides and the base).

Put the honey, eggs, sugar and the spices into a large bowl and whisk well together.

In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder, chopped/grated chocolate and the mixed peel.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the honey mixture and then mix it all together.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for around 1 hour 10 minutes, check it after 40 minutes and cover if it is starting to catch.

Test with a cake tester to check it is done and then leave it  in the oven for 10 minutes with the door slightly open.

Then put on a cake rack to cool.

 

 

 

 

 

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Plates, cups & saucers are Lyndale by Royal Standard from the 1950s

Teapot is Café Culture by Maxwell Williams

Piernik – Honey Spice Cake – Using Rye & Wheat Flour

Piernik is a cake which has been known in Poland since the 12th century.

The very first recipes used just honey, wheat or rye flour and spices (see notes in previous piernik post for spices)

I have tried a recipe which did just use honey, rye flour and spices – I did not like the result at all, so will not be including that one!

I also tried one which used wheat and potato flour which also did not turn out well.

I then went on to make the recipe below which also uses wheat flour, egg yolks and icing sugar.

I tried this out twice as the first time it did not rise very much, so I doubled the amount of bicarbonate of soda and was pleased with the result.

Piernik with rye & wheat flour

Ingredients

110g rye flour

160g plain flour

160g runny honey

2 egg yolks

100g icing sugar

1 teaspoon of piernik spices (cinnamon : cloves : cardamom – in equal parts)

1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of cold water.

Method

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3 – 160°C

Line the tin with aluminium foil, grease the foil and then coat with dried breadcrumbs.

Or

Grease & line  a 2 lb loaf tin or use a paper liner

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a large bowl mix together the rye flour, plain flour and the spices.

In a small saucepan heat the honey to boiling point & turn it off the heat & allow to cool slightly.

Pour the hot honey over the flour and mix well.

 

 

Beat the yolks with the icing sugar until  they are pale and fluffy.

Add this to the flour and honey mixture.

 

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and mix this in.

Put the mixture into the prepared tin & smooth the top.

Brush the top with cold water.

 

 

Bake for around 40 minutes in the long tin & 1 hour  in the loaf tin. Check earlier and cover with greaseproof paper to stop burning if necessary.

 

This piernik is not very sweet and could be split in half and sandwiched back together with powidła  – Polish plum spread (see notes in previous piernik post) and covered in a chocolate coating made from melted butter & dark chocolate.

I just had it sliced and spread with powidła (Polish plum spread) or sour cherry or raspberry jam.

Served on La prune by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.

Beef & Piernik

The original recipe is Belgian – if fact a recipe from Flandres or Flanders in English.

It is a recipe I adapted from a book I bought in Belgium many years ago.

The recipe is called Carbonnade flamande and uses pain d’ épices to thicken and flavour a beef casserole.

Belgian beer is used in the original recipe – I use Polish beer (piwo) – which is also a light coloured lager beer.

(When I went to my local Polish shop – they did not have the beers I normally use such as  Żywiec or Tyskie, so I used the EB which was there & it was very good).

I use piernik – a Polish honey spice cake instead of the pain d’ épices.

Note

I often slice up part of a piernik I have made and freeze this so I have some ready for this recipe.

Ingredients

500g of braising steak – cubed

2 onions chopped

2 – 3 slices of piernik (depends on the size)

500ml Polish lager

300ml vegetable or chicken stock (NOT BEEF) – can be from cubes or powder

1 bay leaf

Dried Italian herbs

2-3 grains of pepper

Sprinkling of salt

Oil for frying

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C

You need an oven proof casserole dish with a tight fitting lid  – I use an enamelled dish.

Fry the beef lightly and then put this into the casserole dish.

 

 

Add the chopped onions, herbs, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt.

Chop the piernik into cubes and add this to the dish

 

 

 

Pour the beer over to cover the ingredients – add some of the stock if necessary.

The rest of the stock is used to top up the dish as it is cooking (this is better than putting it all in at the start).

Cook at GM4 – 180°C, for 1 hour then turn the oven down to GM3 – 160°C and cook for another 2 hours.

More time many be needed or you can take it out and re-heat it at GM4 – 180°C for at least 1 hour the next day.

Serve here with steamed new potatoes.

To compliment the sweetness of this dish serve with something tangy such as

ogórki (gherkins) or a sauerkraut salad.

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Miodownik – Piernik – Honey Spice Cake

Miód is the Polish word for honey and so Miodownik is a Honey Cake which usually contains spices. Pierna is an old Polish word for spices and so Piernik is also a Honey Spice Cake.

Some sources say the name is from pieprz – pepper or piorun – thunderbolt or devil – because of its spiciness.

These cakes have been known in Poland since the 12th century and the  spices would have come from Turkey (originally brought back by the crusaders) or India.

Honey was the original sweetener, long before sugar and there are many traditional recipes that use honey not only in cakes, but also in meat dishes.

When you travel in Poland you will find many village ladies selling their own honey, the taste varies greatly depending on where the bees have found their flowers and the honey from a forest region is dark and very flavoursome.

Piernik  can vary  from a soft dense cake to a drier but soft biscuit.

The Polish town of  Toruń is famous for its piernik and  Chopin was very found of this.

Pierniki(plural) coated with chocolate are called Katarzynki –  which means Katherine’s cakes – named after Katarzyna the daughter of one of the bakers.

Similar cakes are found throughout Europe including the French pain d’éspices, the Dutch peperkoek and the German lebkuchen.

Miodownik  and piernik are often translated as  Gingerbread but ginger is a spice rarely used in Polish cookery.

The main spices used are cinnamon and cloves with the addition according to different recipes of cardamon, black pepper, caraway, nutmeg, dried orange and/or lemon peel and then in later recipes allspice which is from the New World.

My older recipe book gives the proportions for mixing spices and there is one with black pepper which I intend to try out in the future.

Whilst looking through some of my more recent cookery books it would appear that it in Poland you can buy ready mixed spices for piernik so I would presume you can get these in Polish shops in England. I will try these out in the future as well.

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I use the mixed spice mixture which is sold by Marks & Spencer which contains: dried orange peel, cassia (a variety of cinnamon), ginger, nutmeg, pimento (allspice) and caraway. I think it is the dried orange peel which makes it much nicer than other mixtures I have used.

Some recipes make a cake mixture and then leave it in a cool place for up to several weeks before baking it. I have tried one of these out many years ago and it was very good – I intend to try this again for a post in the early winter of next year.

Piernik in Poland is associated with the Christmas season and would be made for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day, it would also be made for Święty MikołajDecember 6thSt Nicholas Day. This a day for present giving in Poland to children and I would always get a piernik shaped and decorated to look like the bishop that was St Nicholas.

Mama’s Miodownik

This is of my mother’s recipes and it uses sunflower oil which is a more recent addition to recipes in Polish cookery. It is a dense cake which is lovely and moist and improves with keeping.

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Miodownik on Greenway Hostess designed by John Russell 1960 – 1979

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Ingredients

450g Clear honey

250g Icing sugar

4 Eggs separated

250ml Tepid water

4 Teaspoons cocoa

250ml Sunflower oil

450g Plain flour

Pinch of salt

1 Teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 Teaspoon mixed spice (M&S is the best)

100g mixed peel

Method

You can use a 25cm square tin or a 31cm x21cm rectangular tray tin.

Grease and line the tin.

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3 – 160º C.

In a large bowl, mix the honey and the icing sugar.

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Add the water, cocoa, egg yolks, oil and then the mixed peel.

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In a separate bowl mix the plain flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice.

Add the dry mixture to the honey mixture and mix together to make a batter.

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Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and fold these into the honey batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

 

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Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for around  1hour 30minutes.

Take care as this has a tendency to burn  at the top, you might need to cover it after about 1 hour with a piece of greaseproof paper of aluminium foil.

Test to make sure it is cooked through with a fine cake tester.

Leave to cool in the tin.

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 Store in an airtight container or cover in aluminium foil

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Miodownik on Greenway Hostess designed by John Russell 1960 – 1979

Addendum

I recently made this for Wigilia (Christmas Eve) around 3 weeks beforehand – it was lovely and moist by then.