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.

Chocolate Orange Babka

This is a new recipe for a babka – it is very moist and tastes delicious.

I serve it just dusted with icing sugar but you could add a thin chocolate glaze.

Ingredients

225g Butter or Block Margarine

225g Caster Sugar

Finely grated zest and the juice of 1 orange

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

2 tablespoons of apricot jam

4 eggs

175g self raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

50g of cocoa

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160°C

Grease & flour well a large babka tin, tapping away any excess.

 

 

 

 

Beat well together the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy.

Beat the eggs well and gradually add them, beating the mixure after each addition.

Mix  in the vanilla essence, apricot jam, orange zest and juice.

In a seperate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and cocoa together.

Fold the flour mixture into the beaten mixture.

Spoon the cake mixture into the babka tin and level the top.

Bake for 50 – 55 minutes until the babka has risen and a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool for at least 5 minutes in the tin, then turn this out onto a wire cake rack to cool.

Dust with icing sugar before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Served on Crown – fine bone china – England (no pattern name given).

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

Drożdżówka – Yeast Cake

The Polish word for yeast is drożdże and drożdżówka is any sweet cake or bun made using yeast.

Often the cake is a large flat cake ( placek) made in a large roasting tin.

This yeast cake is made with plain flour not strong flour and the mixture is mixed with a wooden spoon to form a soft mixture and is not kneaded.

My late father has two cousins living in Białystok, North East Poland, they are both wonderful cooks.

This yeast cake is based on a recipe given to me by one of these aunties.

As with any recipe made with yeast, timings are so unpredictable depending on many variables including the room temperature.

I always bake with yeast when I am at home for most of the day with other activities to do whilst waiting for the dough to rise etc.

Ingredients

Yeast Cake

400g plain flour

250ml of tepid milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil

150g of raisins or sultanas

10g of fresh yeast or 5g of dried yeast

Crumble Topping

2 tablespoons of plain flour

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

Method

Mix the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the milk and 1 tablespoon of the sugar and leave this till it starts bubbling.

In a bowl whisk together the egg  and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

Add the oil and whisk again.

Add the milk and the raisins or sultanas and mix well.

Add the flour and mix this all together with a wooden spoon to form a very loose, soft dough.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm or a cloth and leave in a warm place to rise.

Make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs and then stir in the sugar.

Grease and line a large roasting tin.

25cm x 34 cm or 22cm x 32cm.

Put the risen dough into the tin – use a spatula to spread it out.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top and leave to rise again.

 

 

Pre-heat the oven to  GM6 – 200°C.

Place the risen cake into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Then lower the temperature to GM5 – 190°C and bake for another 10 minutes – keeping an eye on this and cover with foil if it looks like it is burning.

You might want also want to move it down a shelf for the last 5  minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes then take it out and remove from the greaeproof paper – so it does not go soggy on the base.

 

Served on Sonnet by Royal Doulton, 1971 – 1998.

As with most yeast cakes this is best eaten as soon as possible as it will soon go stale – you might need to invite round lots of friends and family!

If all is not eaten on the day of baking, I cut the cake into slices and pack into a plastic container and freeze – these are then toasted and served with butter at a later date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toasted and buttered yeast cake served on Las Palmas by Aynsley from the 1960s.

Variations

The dried fruits added can be varied  and I have made this with raisins, mixed peel and 1 teaspoon of mixed spice.

 

 

 

 

Served on Counterpoint by Royal Doulton, 1973 – 1987.

Other dried fruit options can be used, such as apricots, cranberries, pears or prunes and so on,  chopping larger fruits into small pieces.

I made this with apricots, sultanas and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla essence.

 

The dried fruits add sweetness to the cake and I think the small amount of sugar works well – you can if you like add a few extra tablespoons of sugar.

 

 

 

 

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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Walnut Tort

This is the same  recipe as the  Hazelnut tort only here ground walnuts  are used instead of hazelnuts.

I used the 6 egg recipe and made it in 2 x 18cm sponge cake tins.

A Little Note About Walnuts

Walnuts (Juglans regia) are native to south-east Europe and south-west China. They are the oldest tree food known dating back to 7,000 BC.

There are accounts of their cultivation in Babylon (now Iraq) in 2,000BC.

Juglans regia means means Jupiter’s royal nut.

They are the seed of a drupe (stone fruit) – not a true Botanical nut.

In Polish walnuts are orzechy włoskie –  nuts Italian – so named it is thought as they were brought to Poland by traders from Imperial Rome.

Black walnuts (Juglans nigra) are native to North America.

Ingredients

6 eggs

225g  caster sugar

225g ground walnuts

2 sponge fingers – crushed.

Optional – extra chopped walnuts for sprinkling on the butter cream or grated dark chocolate.

P1030465

Method

You will need to grind the walnuts and of course an electric grinder makes this very easy.

It is best to chop the walnuts into small pieces as this will make it easier and grind the walnuts in small batches so as not to over strain the motor.

Pre-heat the oven to GM5 – 190°C.

Grease and line 2 x 18cm in diameter tins.

Crush the sponge fingers and mix them with the ground walnuts.

 

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are pale and frothy.

Fold in the walnut mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.

Allow the cakes to cool .

Drizzle each cake with a poncz (sweetened punch). I used 50ml of weak black tea, 1 tablespoon of rum  and 1 tablespoon of  sugar.

 

Sandwich together with a butter cream & cover the top and sides also.

The following flavours are good with walnuts.

I used a rum butter cream made from 80g butter, 1 egg yolk  1 tablespoon of rum and  around 230g of icing sugar.

Cream the butter and the egg yolk and add the rum.  Mix in the icing sugar until you have the desired consistency.

More butter cream would have been better – I was trying to use the minimum this time!

I added chopped nuts to the top and sides (I used a cake stand with a small lip – a totally flat stand would have make it easier to add the nuts to the sides).

 

 

Served on – Tuscan China – Bird of Paradise – Hand Painted – 1930s

An Austrian Influence

A few weeks ago I bought an excellent Austrian cookery book in a charity shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that there is a lot of overlap & influence between Polish & Austrian Cookery  and have enjoyed looking at this book and comparing my recipes with ones here.

On the back cover it says

The culinary flavour of Austria is a gentle flavour. It knows of the fiery spices of Hungary and the elegance of French cuisine. It derives much of its strength from Moravia and much of its daring from Poland.”

For several of the cakes apricot or redcurrant jam is used to cover the top and sides of the cake before icing it.

For a walnut gateau, similar to my recipe, redcurrant jam is used.

I decided to do a variation of this with my walnut tort and to use raspberry jam.

The 2 cakes were made as above.

A poncz(sweet punch) was used made from 50ml of weak black tea and 1 tablespoon of sugar to drizzle the cakes.

The cakes were then sandwiched together with a raspberry butter cream using  60g Butter, 180g icing sugar & 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam which were creamed together.

 

Then the  top and sides were covered with raspberry jam, warmed slightly for ease of spreading and then this was allowed to dry.

I then made a lemon icing with the juice of 1 lemon and  icing sugar and used this to cover the top and sizes.

 

 

Served on Royal Grafton – Woodside  –  from the 1950s

However

This did not work too well – the icing I made was too stiff and I disturbed the jam underneath and got a mottled pink and white icing which  then  dripped down onto the base of the cake stand!!

However my friends thought the cake tasted wonderful and loved the combination of  flavours, so I decided to make the icing with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & icing sugar and see how that worked.

Storage

Do not cover the cake completely or it will go very soggy – cover it with a net or similar which will let the air circulate but keep insects off.

 

Alternative Icing 1

I decided to test out the raspberry icing over a creamed sponge cake – I used 4 eggs and equal amounts of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour and baked them in 2 x 20 cm anodised baking tins.

I sandwiched the cakes together with a layer of jam and the raspberry butter cream as above.

 

I then made a thick icing using the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & icing sugar.

 

Served on Aynsley  –  Las Palmas – 1960s

Alternative Icing 2

This icing was not as tangy as on the original cake so I tested this again with a more pouring, dripping glaze – this time using the juice a lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & enough icing sugar to make a more pouring glaze.

I made just one 22cm round walnut cake and cut it in half &  used a poncz(sweet punch) made from 50ml of weak black tea and 1 tablespoon of sugar to drizzle the cake.

 

 

A few thoughts!

With hindsight I would not use one cake again as it was hard to cut it through evenly & there were lots of crumbs – if I only wanted to use 4 eggs,  I would make 2 smaller cakes.

I still have not got the icing quite right – this time there was too much & it was a bit too runny – maybe just the juice of half a lemon would be enough – however the taste was very good.

The cake improved over the next few days as the icing seeped into the cake.

 

 

Served on Colclough – Stardust – from the 1960s.

Storage

As with the cakes above do not cover the cake completely or it will go very soggy – cover it with a net or similar which will let the air circulate but keep insects off.

 

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Placek

Placek is a low flat cake and can be  round or rectangular in shape.

I made two using  each of the recipes in  ciasto półkruche  – a type of shortcrust pastry – with jam fillings and both turned out well.

Placek with jam

Grease and line a 32 x 22 tin

Pre-heat the oven  GM5 – 190°C

Use half the dough and roll it out to fit the tin.

Spread the dough with jam – you will need around a jar.

Cover the top with the rest of the dough rolled out.

Bake for around 30 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar as soon as you take it out of the oven and leave to cool.

Placek with Blackcurrant Jam

 

Served on – Colclough – Enchantment-  1950 – 1960s

Placek with Sour Cherry Jam

 

Served on – Duchess – Bramble Rose – 1960s