Toruń, Poland, home of Nicholas Copernicus, is one of many European cities that claims to have invented pierniczki, Polish gingerbread cookies. One story goes that a woman had consumed a little too much mead and made the happy mistake of adding honey and spices to the bread she was making.
The city, which is one of the few in Poland not damaged during World War II, even hosts a Gingerbread Museum. When we spent the night in Toruń on a Thanksgiving road trip, the hotel left individually wrapped gingerbread cookies on our pillows.
After seeing the beautiful gingerbread figures available at most festivals in the Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) in Poznan, I wanted to buy some wooden gingerbread molds to bring home with me. They’re not easy to find. I found my first at a gingerbread shop in Gdansk (they only had two and my friend bought the other for her daughter), subsequent wooden molds were purchased at a wonderful souvenir shop in Toruń (I wish I had the address), and finally. . .
I bought a large reversible mold (a man on one side, a woman on the other) in an antique store in Amsterdam, so I guess technically this one would be a speculaas mold. I think the large size be striking to use in holiday decorating.
I’ve made gingerbread in the past. I used to make three gingerbread houses every Christmas for our daughters to decorate. My American recipe uses molasses. The Polish recipe I used for inspiration, from Moje Wypieki, uses honey and is a little softer than what I’ve worked with previously.
The dough is easy to prepare. It mixes up in a saucepan with a wooden spoon, no mixer is needed. It’s a great recipe to make with kids.
The finished texture is light and lovely. One change that I will make next time is to reduce the baking soda when I’m using molds. I hope with less leavening, the details from the mold will be more distinct after baking.
I’m using Dr. Oetker Gingerbread Spice that I’ve picked up from my friends and sponsors at Polana.com. It’s a great blend of warm, winter, baking spices, ever so convenient. You can also use it to make grzane wino on cold winter nights.
This is the first time I’ve used the gingerbread molds, which I have seasoned previously with mineral oil. It was fun to try them out. After rolling the dough, I patted and pressed it into the molds, which I lightly dusted with powdered sugar to be sure the gingerbread would release. It worked like a charm.
I trimmed the pattern before baking, using a combination of a pizza cutter, a little pasta cutter, and the corner of my metal spatula. My royal icing piping isn’t precise enough to accent the lines in the molds, so Ed had the good idea of spreading icing on the relief and then wiping it off, almost as if I were antiquing furniture. It highlights the pattern better. I may also leave them plain in the future.
In addition to my wooden molds, I tried out two large Christmas cookie cutters and made a bunch of little hearts. I piped a little royal icing on the larger cookies and the molded gingerbread, but I left my little hearts plain, but you could certainly sprinkle them with coarse sugar or sprinkles before baking, or coat with a thin glaze after baking. Traditional pierniczki should look rustic, not too perfect.
Pierniczki Polish Gingerbread Cookies for Valentine’s Day too!
While Pierniczki is a traditional cookie for Christmas, it appears at other times of the year too. It’s a favorite treat for decorating and adding piped sentiments for all kinds of occasions, Valentine’s Day (Walentynki) or Dzien Kobiet (International Women’s Day).
Try some with Kocham Cię (I love you) for Valentine’s Day made with simple royal icing tinted withPrint
A light, crisp, spice cookie
- Preheat oven to 350
- In a saucepan, heat the honey, butter, and brown sugar over medium heat until the butter melts and sugar dissolves
- Remove from heat, cool if the mixture is too warm. You don’t want to scramble the egg you’re adding in the next step
- Stir in egg
- Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cocoa, and salt
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, about 1/4 inch thick
- Cut into shapes or press into prepared molds
- Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 8 minutes
- Substitute 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground ginger if you don’t have gingerbread seasoning.
- A couple of readers have had trouble with the dough being too crumbly, a sign of too much flour or too little liquid. Measure carefully, and you may want to add the flour gradually, stopping before it becomes difficult to work in the flour. The dough should be soft and pliable.
Keywords: Polish gingerbread cookies, pierniki
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.