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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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

Spiced Pears

I have two pear trees in the garden and this year I have had the best crop of pears ever,  both in number and size of pear.

As I do not have a place to store the fruit that is cool and dry enough,  I was looking for recipes to use the pears.

I tried this popular recipe from my great Polish standby recipe book but I found it too acidic.  I adjusted the recipe and used less vinegar and more sugar and this I find to be much better.

Ingredients

1.5 kg of hard pears such as Conference

300ml of water

300ml of cider or white wine vinegar

500g of granulated sugar

8 cloves

8 grains of allspice

Piece of cinnamon bark

Method

Clean and sterilise 2 large glass jars.

Peel and core the pears and cut into large pieces.

Put the water, sugar and spices into a large pan and gently bring to the boil making sure the sugar is all dissolved.

Add the pears and bring back to the boil,  then gently simmer until the pears are soft and translucent.

Using a slotted spoon remove the pears and divide them between the jars.

To the liquid remaining in the pan add the vinegar and bring to the boil.

Leave this on a gently boil for around 5 minutes and then leave to cool.

Use a funnel to pour the liquid over the pears.

When the jars are cold put on the lids.

Store in a cool dry place or in a fridge.

Serve with hot roasts or cold meats, smoked sausages and cheeses.

The pears can be chopped into small pieces and used in various salads.

The spiced liquid can be used in salad dressings or in marinades for meat.

Fruity Ribs

My Polish friend who lives in Leeds often goes back to Poland to visit relatives and to have a holiday.

This summer she brought me back a recipe book which covers  a year of meals (365 meals) divided into 4 sections – namely the 4 seasons.

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There are lots of lovely recipes in the book and I am sure I will be trying many of them.

Here are two I have tried already – adapted slightly to make life easier!

Recipe 1 (autumn)

1 or 2 racks of pork ribs

2 tablespoons of raisins or sultanas

120g of ready to eat prunes

120g of ready to eat apricots

3-4 tablespoons of plain flour

3 large onions – chopped

500ml dry red wine ( more might be needed or some extra water)

4 peppercorns

4 grains of allspice

4 cloves

1 teaspoon of  dried marjoram or Italian herbs

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3 – 4  eating apples (best if quite tart – such as Granny Smiths)

Sunflower oil for frying

Method

Place the apricots & raisins in a bowl and cover them with hot water and leave for around 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 160°C.

Chop the ribs into 2 rib portions.

Put the flour onto a plate and then flour the ribs on both sides.

Fry the ribs lightly in hot oil on both sides.

Place the ribs in the bottom of a oven proof dish which has a lid.

Fry the onions until golden.

Slowly add some of the liquid from the soaked fruit and cook together mixing it well.

Add this to the ribs in the dish.

Add the peppercorns, allspice, cloves, marjoram and salt.

Pour the red wine over the rib mixture.

Place in the oven for around 45 minutes.

Cut the soaked apricots into strips and add these, the prunes and the raisins to the dish and give the mixture a stir.

Place back in the oven and cook for around 90 minutes to 2 hours until the meat is tender.

Check on the liquid level during this time and add wine or water if needed.

Remove the core from the apples and cut them into quarters (leave the skin on).

Place the apples, skin side down, on top of the ribs and place the lid back on.

Put the dish back in the oven for around 20 minutes.

When serving, place the cooked apples on top of the ribs and sauce.

Serve with boiled potatoes or rice.

 

 

Recipe 2 (spring)

Start this the evening before

Ingredients

1 or 2 racks of pork ribs

4 -5 tablespoons of runny honey

750 ml of apple juice (more might be needed)

Juice & finely grated rind of 1 lemon

100g of ready to eat prunes

3 -4  large tart apples (I used Bramleys)

3 cloves

Piece of cinnamon bark – around 10cm long

Method

Chop the ribs into 2 rib portions.

Coat both sides of the ribs with the honey and place them in a non-metal dish and sprinkle the lemon rind on the top.

Cover the dish and place it in a fridge overnight.

Next Day

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 160°C

Place the ribs into an oven proof dish which has a lid.

Add the cloves and cinnamon bark to the dish.

Peel, core and thickly slice the apples & sprinkle lemon juice on them.

Arrange the apples and prunes over the ribs.

Pour the apple juice over the contents.

Place the lid on top of the dish and put in the oven.

Cook for around 2 – 3 hours until the meat is tender.

You might have to add more apple juice when you check on the progress

 

Variation

Instead of ribs you might want to use slices of shoulder pork (750g  – 1kg) the method is just the same.

I tried this with recipe 2 – the one with the apple juice.

 

Served here with boiled new potatoes and brussel sprouts à la Polonaise.

Serving dishes  are Carnation by Royal Doulton, 1982 – 1998

 

 

 

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.

Red Cabbage

A few years ago on one of my  visits to The Netherlands to stay with my Dutch friend, we had a super meal which included a delicious dish of red cabbage that had been cooked with apples.

I thought then that I did not remember my mother ever cooking red cabbage. When I came home I found recipes in both my Polish and English cookery books and tried out many of these.

The following recipe has been refined and altered and this one  with lots of apples and spices is the one  I now use all the time.

As it takes a long time to cook in a low oven or in a slow cooker, I tend to make a lot at once. It freezes and reheats well, so once made I divide it into small portions to freeze.

I think it goes well with roast pork loin and I usually make some before Christmas and serve it with roast pork loin during the holiday period.

Tip 1

Have a lemon ready after handling the chopped red cabbage as you will find your hands become stained blue/purple. Lemon juice will clear the stains away.  Another reason to make this dish in advance.

Tip 2 – Also Excellent as a Salad

I have discovered that this dish is also delicious when it is cold!   I now also serve this with cold meats and Polish style sausage.

Ingredients

1 head of red cabbage

3 or 4 large cooking apples

1 onion – chopped fine

1 or 2 garlic cloves – chopped fine

6 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon

¼ level teaspoon of ground cloves

Salt & ground black pepper

3 tablespoons of cider or wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of water

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Method

Pre heat the oven to GM 2 or get your slow cooker ready..

You need a large oven-proof dish with a lid to make this.  I either use a very large oval enamel dish or I have now started to use a slow cooker.

I mix the ingredients in a large bowl first  and then put them in the cooking dish.

Mix together the sugar, spices, salt and pepper, vinegar and water.

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Remove the core from the cabbage head and cut the cabbage into fine shreds and add these to the spice mixture.

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Peel, core  and then coarse grate the apples and then add these to the cabbage mixture. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon.

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Put the mixture into the cooking dish (or slow cooker) and put in the oven (or switch on the slow cooker).

 

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It should take about  3-4 hours  – it may take longer in the slow cooker.

 

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Red Cabbage Ready to Serve
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Serving Dish is Cadiz by Meakin from the 1970s

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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.