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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Piernik – Honey Spice Cake

Pierna is an old Polish word for spices and  piernik is a cake made with honey and spices.

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.

The very first recipes were just honey, flour (wheat or rye) and spices.

Honey was the original sweetener, long before sugar, and 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 very dark and full of flavour.

Piernik  can vary  from being 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.

Piernik is often translated as  Gingerbread but ginger is only rarely used!

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

Spice Mixture for Piernik

Having looked at many recipes I have made my own basic 3 spice mixture – to which I can add other spices if I want a variation.

I have mixed equal parts of ground cinnamon, cloves & cardamom & saved them in a jar.

 

In Polish shops in England you can buy ready mixed spices for piernik.

This little packet contains around 2 tablespoons.

You can 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.

 

 

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.

I have been looking through my many recipe books and there are just dozens of different recipes & I have been trying some of these out.

Many of the recipes have the addition of chopped nuts and/or mixed peel – I have not added these to my tests as I just wanted to try out the “basic” recipe.

Some of the recipes were for large quantities & I have cut them down in size.  Many do not give baking tin sizes or oven temperatures – so I have done a bit of trial and error with some of the ones I have done.

In many of the recipes the dough or batter once mixed up is left for up to 3 weeks before baking.  This indeed is a slow fermentation!

Even if the piernik is mixed and baked on the same day, most of them benefit from being wrapped and left for several days before serving.

The recipes in this post are ones you mix and bake on the same or the next day.

My mother made miodownik  – honey spice cake (which could be classed as a piernik). Hers is a more moist cake using vegetable oil, which is certainly a more modern ingredient.

This first recipe is adapted from a recently bought little cookbook.

The honey used in the book was given as fir tree honey – this would be a dark honey and would make the cake very dark.

(I remember getting some of this when one of my cousins came from Poland – it was nearly black!)

The honey you use will make a difference to the colour and flavour of the cake. I have used a basic clear type honey.

As only honey is used in this recipe, I think this one  is nearer the old recipes.

Piernik 1

Ingredients

450g plain flour

350g runny honey

125g butter or block margarine

Grated rind of a 1 lemon

1 egg – beaten

100ml of milk

1 + 1/2 teaspoons of spices

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.

Grease and line a large loaf tin – mine is longer than the regular 2lb tin.

Gently melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Mix together the spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt & add these to the flour in a large bowl.

Add the egg, the milk and the lemon rind and mix together.

Add the honey and the milk and mix together till you have a uniform smooth consistency.

Put the mixture into the tin and smooth the top.

Bake for around 50 minutes – checking a little earlier & cover with greaseproof paper it it looks like burning on the top if you need more time.

Leave to cool in the tin.

 

Wrap in foil to store.

The piernik can be dusted with icing sugar, topped with icing or with chocolate icing – of course these are relatively modern additions to the medieval piernik!

Variation

Addition of pepper

I made the piernik as above with the addition of 1/2 a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper with the spices.

I did not think it added much to the flavour – I was expecting it to be a little peppery!

 

Piernik 2

This little honey recipe book has around 2 dozen recipes for piernik  to choose from! (miód is Polish for honey)

 

 

Ingredients

400g plain flour

1 tablespoonful of butter

120g of granulated sugar

2 eggs

250g runny honey

125ml of milk

1 teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoons of spices

Method

Warm the honey slightly.

Put the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter.

Add the sugar,  bicarbonate of soda and the spices.

Mix in the eggs.

Add the honey

Add the milk & mix to give a very thick batter.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it in a cool place for a couple of hours.

Grease & line a 32cm by 22cm baking tin.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 5 -190°C.

Put the cake mixture into the tin and spread it out.

Bake for around 30 minutes (check earlier  and cover if it looks like burning.)

Leave in the tin to cool.

Wrap in foil and leave for a couple of days .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea plate is Sonnet by Royal Doulton, 1971 to 1998.

This piernik can be dusted with icing sugar, topped with icing or with chocolate icing.

It can also be cut into 2 slabs which are then sandwiched together with powidła which 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 before in glass jars, this product is in a plastic tub

 

 

Pierniczki – Small Honey Cakes

Pierniczki are a small cake or biscuit version of piernik.

For  Święty MikołajDecember 6thSt Nicholas Day I often buy packets of these glazed with clear or white icing or chocolate (You can get them in lots of shops nowadays including Lidl & Aldi) but sometimes I make them myself as they are very easy & delicious.

Ingredients

280g plain flour

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

180g of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of  spice

100g of runny honey

2 eggs

Optional

Icing sugar to dust

Method

Pre heat the oven to GM 5 – 190oC

Grease several baking sheets.

In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients together.

Beat the eggs lightly and mix these and the honey into the dry ingredients.

Place tablespoons well apart on the greased sheets and bake for about 10 minutes.

They do spread quite a bit.

Leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray and then put the on a wire rack to cool and the dust with icing sugar.

Pierniczki – Small Honey Cakes (filled)

The dough for these is made the evening before.

Ingredients

120g runny honey

60g granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of spice

40g of butter

250g of plain flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1 large egg

Filling

Powidła, apricot or sour cherry jam

Optional

Lightly beaten egg white for a glaze

Method

Heat the honey in a saucepan over a moderate heat and add the sugar and spices, stirring all the time for about 3 to 4 minutes so that the sugar is dissolved but do not let the honey boil.

Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.

In a separate pan melt the butter and then set that aside to cool.

In a large bowl add the baking powder to the flour.

Pour in the honey mixture, melted butter and the egg and mix with a a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.

Transfer to a small bowl and cover with a cloth and refrigerate overnight.

The next day -take out for 15 minutes before using.

Grease several baking sheets.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°C

You need a 6cm round cutter.

Cut the dough into halves or thirds.

Roll out the dough till it is thin and cut out circles.

Place a largish teaspoon of the powidła or jam on the middle of the circle (going for height).

 

 

The more jam the better but it can be hard to seal the circles – takes a bit of practice!

Place another circle on top and press the edges together firmly.

 

You can brush the tops with beaten egg white.

Place on the baking sheet – leaving some space between circles.

 

Bake for 15 minutes – checking earlier as they burn easily.

Leave to cool slightly on the tin before placing them on a wire rack.

 

Dust them with icing sugar.

Served on tea plates – Counterpoint by Royal Doulton 1973 – 1987.

Easy unfilled option

I think once you have tried the jam filled ones, these will be the only ones you want!

However if you want a harder biscuit to decorate with icing  then just place single circles on the baking trays and bake for 8 – 10  minutes – you really need to keep an eye on these as they burn very easily.

These come out as a quite hard biscuit.

These can be decorated with icing or chocolate icing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.