I·ATE: pierniki, lebkuchen and some Christmas gingerbread to celebrate!

December 17, 2016 10:00 am

Christmas is already here! This is why we cannot miss this opportunity to suggest you I·ATE‘s sweet proposal for today. We want to introduce you to Pierniki in Poland, Lebkuchen in Germany and Gingerbread in Great Britain. Do you know them? Which one is favourite?


If we start our Christmas culinary adventure in Poland we will find a traditional tasty sweet called Pierniki Toruńskie which is a traditional old Polish gingerbread that has been produced since the 12th century in Toruń – the city of Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus) – a very well-known Polish city.

In the old Polish cuisine we can find traditional spices such as ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg frequently mixed with other ingredients such as honey, eggs, sugar and so on. The preparation of the old Polish piernik (pierniki in plural) requires a lot of dedication, time and attention. It is a mixture of gingerbread spices, honey, lard, sugar, eggs and some flour. It needs to be prepared in advance to obtain a particular gingerbread taste and it should be prepared some days before Christmas Eve. It is a sweet which remains fresh for many days and it is eaten with some traditional plum preserves called powidła. They are also prepared as small sweets with different shapes in order to decorate the Christmas tree. The picture below shows traditional Pierniki Toruńskie with plum preserves and small pierniki for decoration.


The first mention of pierniki from Toruń goes back to 1380 and is attributed to a local baker called Niclos Czana. The sweet quickly gained fame across Poland and also abroad. Toruń and the German city of Nuremberg, both famous for their special sweets, were eager to protect the secrets of their recipes from each other. Finally in 1556, they reached an agreement by which each city could bake the specialities of the other.

Pierniki Toruńskie which is a traditional old Polish gingerbread that has been produced since the 12th century in Toruń

The German version of pierniki is called Lebkuchen. They can be spicy or sweet and have so many different shapes with the round one being the most common. Lebkuchen are made with some of the Polish ingredients to which aniseed, coriander, cloves, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or even candied fruit are added. The variety of the sweets depends on the type, shape and by the kind of nuts used and their proportions. Lebkuchen is usually soft, but there is also a harder version of them which is used to produce Lebkuchenherzen (“Lebkuchen hearts”), which usually carry inscriptions made of sugar icing and available at many German regional fairs and Christmas markets. The original Lebkuchen from Nuremberg are also known as Elisenlebkuchen and must contain no less than 25 percent of nuts and less than 10 percent of wheat flour. The picture below presents traditional round Lebkuchen and Lebkuchenherzen.


In Great Britain there is an interesting variety of gingerbread foods, ranging from a soft, moist loaf cake to something close to a ginger biscuit. Gingerbread in biscuit form commonly takes the form of a gingerbread man. Gingerbread men were first attributed to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who served the figurines to foreign dignitaries. Today, however, they are generally served during the Christmas period. The picture below shows English gingerbread men and women.


In Belgium and the Netherlands we can find peperkoek, kruidkoek or ontbijtkoek eaten with butter and served for breakfast during the Christmas period. In France they prepare pain d’épices which is somewhat similar, though generally slightly drier, and contains honey rather than treacle. The original French pain d’épices did not contain any ginger.

In the Nordic countries, we can find pepperkaker in Norway and pepparkakor in Sweden. In Denmark we can eat brunkager and in Iceland we can find some piparkökur while in Finland they call it piparkakut. In the Baltic countries they also have their own variants such as piparkūkas in Latvia and piparkoogid in Estonia.

In Russia they prepare pryanikithen travelling to Romania we will eat turtă dulce with some sugar glazing while in Bulgaria we can find some меденка (“made of honey”). In Czech Republic they eat perníčky.

How about your country? Do you also prepare some gingerbread? Is it similar to the one eaten in Poland, Germany or maybe Great Britain? Feel free to comment below and have a Merry Christmas!

Written by Olga Jeczmyk: Translator-Interpreter, Social Media and Content Manager as well as Communication and Terminology Trainee. Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg.


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