I came across this recipe in the book my Polish friend, who lives in Leeds, bought for me in Poland this summer.
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 Mikołaj – December 6th – St 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 6th – St 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.
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
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
Karpatka – Carpathian Mountain Cake – gets its name as the top looks like the rugged mountains and the icing sugar dusting looks like a fine covering of snow.
The Carpathian Mountains – Karpaty in Polish – are a mountain range in an arc roughly 1,500 kilometres in central and eastern Europe; part of the range is in Southern Poland and can be described as Alpine.
It is made with 2 layers of choux pastry with vanilla pastry cream in between the layers and the top dusted with icing sugar.
This was invented by an Italian chef in the mid 16th century and soon became popular in France. It gets its name from the French for cabbage as the little buns made from this pastry looked like little cabbages.
It is made without any raising agent. It is the large water content in the dough which turns to steam in the high oven temperature which causes the pastry to rise.
I read loads of conflicting advice on how to make choux pastry.
My first attempt came out more like a Yorkshire pudding.
After several attempts I now have a recipe that works.
300ml of water
2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
200 g of plain flour or strong plain flour *
pinch of salt
*Using strong flour gives a drier pastry whilst using plain flour gives a softer pastry.
Pre-heat the oven to GM6 200°C
Grease 2 equal sized rectangular baking trays with sides or a large rectangular tin.
Put the water, pinch of salt, sugar and the butter into a saucepan.
Heat gently so the butter melts and then slowly bring this to the boil.
Sift the flour.
Taking the pan off the heat add the flour, all in one go.
Return the pan to a gentle heat.
Using a wooden spoon blend this all together until the dough forms a ball in the middle of the pan.
Take the pan off the heat and put the dough into a bowl and leave till it is completely cold.
Add the eggs one by one, continually blending the mixture. You can use a wooden spoon to do this – I have found it easier to start with an electric whisk to begin with and then cahnge to a wooden spoon at the end. You get a thick paste type mixture.
Divide the mixture between the two trays and spread it out to fill the tray – do not smooth down the top – you want to have rough peaks.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Increase the heat up GM7 and bake for another 10 minutes
Using a cake tester make holes in the top of the pastry to remove some of the steam.
Bake for another 5 – 10 minutes.
The pastry should be ready now, test to see if it feels dry – if not return for a few more minutes.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
Budyń made with 500ml of milk. (see previous post)
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2-3 drops of vanilla essence
1 egg yolk
Cream together the butter, sugar and egg yolk till pale and fluffy.
Add the vanilla essence and mix this in well.
Add the budyń, spoonful by spoonful, mixing it well in.
Assembling the Cake
Whilst testing this recipe, I used half quantities of the choux pastry – ie just 1 tray – and cut this in half – the photographs – reflect this.
Place one piece of the baked pastry onto a serving board.
Cover the pastry with all the pastry cream spreading it evenly to the edges.
Place the second piece of pastry on top.
Dust the top lightly with icing sugar.
Cut into squares to serve.
Served on Las Palmas by Aynsley from the 1960s.
Though not as authentic but easier you can just use the chilled budyń on its own as the filling.
Served here on Greenaway by John Russell from the 1960s.
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.