My Gigi’s class was tasked with a “Christmas Around the World” project in Social Studies and of the three countries she chose to research, she was granted Poland.
Seeing as though my children share in their father’s half-Polish ancestry, we took to researching traditional Polish Christmas desserts to add to our repertoire of holiday goodies.
Today I bring you Piernik Staropolski, an old world Polish gingerbread cake. We layered ours with fragrant sugarplum jam. You can use homemade or store-bought plum jam – just add a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla bean and nutmeg to make your own sugarplum version.
After you’ve baked the gingerbread and it has cooled, slice the loaf in half lengthwise and spread a generous layer of sugarplum jam. Carefully put the loaf back together and pour the silky chocolate icing on top. I garnished mine with sugared cranberries for an extra dose of Christmas measure.
Piernik Staropolski will now coexist in Christmas merriment alongside my grandmother’s Italian Knot cookies and my husband’s famous (at least around here) Cream Puffs.
Merry Christmas, or should I say, Wesołych Świąt!
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Old World Gingerbread + Sugarplum Jam (Piernik Staropolski)
Makes one loaf
For the gingerbread:
2 tablespoons sugar (for the caramel)
1/2 cup local honey
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup organic milk
2 farm-fresh or organic eggs, separated
1/2 stick farm-fresh or organic butter
1 and 1/2 cups organic unbleached all purpose flour (I use King Arthur brand)
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use The Saco Pantry’s Dutched blend)
2 tablespoons gingerbread spice mix – store bought or homemade (recipe below)
1 cup sugarplum jam (add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg + half a vanilla bean to regular plum jam) or just use regular plum jam
Optional garnish, sugared cranberries or slivered almonds
For the Chocolate Icing:
7 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water
For Homemade Gingerbread Spice Mix – Combine & store in an airtight container:
2 tablespoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 340 F.
- Over low-medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy bottomed pot until it turns a deep caramel color;
- Keep the heat low and add honey, butter and spices. Mix to combine well and cool completely;
- Once cooled, add the milk, sugar, and egg yolks and stir to combine;
- Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa together. Fold into the batter to mix taking care not to overwork the batter;
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (I use my standmixer for this). Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter, folding them in gently. Repeat twice more until all the egg whites have been mixed into the batter;
- Grease a loaf pan (I use coconut oil spray) and line the bottom with a piece of well-fitted parchment paper that has been cut to size. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick or skewer inserted comes out clean;
- Allow the loaf to cool and slice it in half lengthwise. Spread the jam generously and evenly on one half of the loaf and carefully put the halves back together;
- For the icing: Melt butter in a sauce pan. Dissolve the confectioner’s sugar and stir in the cocoa powder and hot water. Allow the sauce to almost cool completely, stir it occasionally as the butter will sometimes separate. Sauce should be cool, but still able to easily pour. Slowly pour the sauce over the top of the gingerbread allowing it to spill down the sides (this part is messy, so take care to do it over parchment paper or something of the like) and garnish with sugared cranberries or slivered almonds, if desired.
Other options to consider:
This gingerbread can also be made without the layer of jam or chocolate sauce. Just make it as-is and slice as you would slice a normal loaf of bread. Tastes wonderful served with a slab of softened butter.
Another great way to serve this loaf is to substitute the chocolate icing for a light sprinkle of powdered sugar instead.
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