If you’re stressed out because all your neighbours have their houses decorated already, their presents bought and their perfect holiday pictures up on Facebook while you are still cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner, then Poland is your place to be. In Poland, Christmas preparations don’t start early.
Poles don’t decorate the tree in November and they don’t bother themselves with moving Elf on the Shelf all around the house for a month before Christmas. Actually, everything “Christmassy” in Poland is done in one day: Christmas Eve, the 24th of December; “maybe because we are a hard working, busy-loving nation, that loves to decorate the tree, work, cook, and eat early dinner all in one day” as Olga, Polish expat writer, explains on her blog Milk, Crafts and Honesty.
However, there’s one Polish Christmas tradition that requires early preparation: gingerbread cookies (pierniczki). They are usually made in late November/early December because they have to be stored for a few weeks to become soft and yummy.
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Polish Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread is a traditional treat that has been prepared in Poland since late Middle Ages, when 11th century crusaders brought ginger and other exotic spices to Europe from the Middle East. Due to high price of those imported goods, gingerbread cake was as luxury treat for medieval folks as French champagne and caviar is for us today.
If Trip Advisor had existed back then, definitely port cities would have made all the “Top 10 destinations to get gingebread in Europe”. In Poland, the biggest port city and the wealthiest port city back then was Gdańsk, so it was where ginger and all the other exotic spices arrived first.
Gdansk was linked by a river with Toruń, a town that was already well known for yummy baked goods. Since then Toruń has become the gingebread spot number one in Poland. In the old days it was believed that the longer you stored your gingerbread dough, the better it was when you finally made cookies. In some households gingebread dough was prepared on the day of birth of a daughter and it was baked on her wedding day.
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There was also a fierce competition between Toruń and the city of Nuremberg in Germany over who makes better gingerbread cookies. The recipe was kept secret and they even sent spies to a rival town to get it. Nowadays, priorities have clearly changed; food bloggers in Poland share tons of pictures of their gingerbread cookies on every social media site known to man since late November.
There are many gingerbread cookies recipes on the Internet, but we’ve decided to follow a recipe from a friend who is as bad cook as I am but her gingerbread cookies always turn out yummy.
This gingerbread cookies recipe requires:
- 3 cups of flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup of honey
- Half slice of butter (approx. 75g)
- 1 teaspoon of cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
Can you spy the reindeer ears?
Before you bake:
- Put all the ingredients on your kitchen table, countertop or wherever you’re going to bake.
- Give your children some Christmas accessories; you need some jolly spirit! However, if you don’t want to wash all the cookies ingredients from their best Christmas jumpers, head accessories are enough. If your kids, like mine, think that life is a beach and happily wander around the house just in their pajamas bottoms/undies, that’s even better.
- Take a picture of your children & the ingredients while your kitchen is still clean and cute and post it on a social media site of your choice. Just in case your gingerbread cookies are another #Pinterestfail to add to your CV, you’ll at least have a cute Christmasy picture on your feed.
- Heat butter, honey and sugar in a pan, stirring all the time to prevent burning.
- Leave it to cool for a while. (If you live in cold climate, you can put it on your window ledge. However, if you live on ground floor like us, watch out. Once my mum left a soup just for 5 minutes and it was gone. Someone had a free dinner that night.)
- Put the mix in a bowl. Add to the mix: flour, cinnamon, soda, cacao powder, ginger and eggs.
- Mix the whole thing very well.
- Put the mix in the fridge for 3 hours. (Unless, of course, you want to keep the dough for your children’s wedding, like Poles in Medieval times.)
- After that step, everyone I know and their mama got a smooth mix that they could roll out and then cut into different shapes. I got THIS:
However, it was not a problem for my children; they happily used a straw and cookie forms to consume the “yummy sticky stuff” directly from the table. But if you have followed the instructions correctly, you should then bake your gingerbread cookies in 180 degrees for 15 minutes. Gingerbread cookies can be so beautiful!
Check out these fun children’s books about gingerbread cookies:
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Welcome to our fourth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, and 2015), plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!
Crafty Moms Share: Nigeria – Jollof Rice
Creative World of Varya: Lebanon
the piri-piri lexicon: Portugal
Raising a Trilingual Child: Italy
Pack-n-Go Girls: Austria
Multicultural Baby: Paraguay
La Clase de Sra. DuFault: Chile
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: Puerto Rico
All Done Monkey: Haiti