There are many Polish culinary traditions that are famous around the world, but few have a history quite as long as Poland’s gingerbread! Pierniki - the famous ginger spiced cookies that hail from Poland’s medieval city of Toruń, have a history that is well over 700 years old! Because of its long-upheld tradition, Polish gingerbread has become a symbol of the city, famous not only all over Poland but also recognized all over the world! The bakery brand, Toruńskie Pierniki, for example is among the 20 most recognized brands of Poland.
The first mentions of this baked good in Toruń date back to the 13th century. By the 18th and 19th centuries Toruń gingerbread went into mass production. The largest gingerbread factory was opened in 1751 and operated until 1945, when it was nationalized and turned into the now, world-famous Kopernik Confectionary Factory.
Carefully protected recipes that call for the use of only the highest quality ingredients as well as specific techniques for kneading and aging the dough are the secret behind this unique sweet that continues to delight Toruń locals, Poland’s tourists and people around the world to this day!
Throughout history the gingerbread of Toruń has been presented as a gift to political leaders, artists and other distinguished individuals in Polish society, including Polish kings! Made with a variety of coatings and fillings the Polish pierniki are baked in different shapes - the most famous being the Serca (hearts), Uszatki (shaped like ears and named after the Polish word for ears – uszy) and, of course, the Katarzynka.
It's the Katarzynka gingerbread shape that has the most endearing local legend. “Katarzynka,” is Polish for “little Catherine.” According to the story told in Toruń, there was once a little girl who wanted to bake gingerbread for her sick father. She didn’t have the right cookie cutter on hand, so she used a cup to cut the dough pieces. However, because she placed the dough circles too close together on her baking pan, they baked together into what looks like a cloud shaped cookie. From then on, this shape of Toruń gingerbread became known as the “Katarzynka,” after the girl’s name.
When visiting Toruń, you’ll find small vendor stands and bakeries selling this famous local good almost on every street. Some specialty varieties feature intricately carved images and specialty shapes like the depiction of Toruń-born Polish astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus, for example.
Toruń gingerbreads come not only in a variety of shapes, but also different coatings and flavors. They can be covered in a sugar glaze or coated with chocolate. Some are plain, while other varieties are filled with plum butter, rose-hip, strawberry or other fruit jams.
You can now bring this part of Polish cuisine and culture home with the wide variety of authentic Polish gingerbread available in the sweets section on Polana.com. Imported straight from Toruń, they can be shipped right to your door anywhere in the U.S. with Polana’s nationwide shipping! Follow this link to order your favorites from our Polish gingerbread selection!