Warm family recipes

I’ll never forget the first time Alan’s mother shared her secret cookie recipe with me—I felt like I was officially part of the family, even though he and I were still dating. That’s why the legend of Poland’s Torun gingerbread intrigues me. Dating back to the 14th century, these icons of Polish cuisine are considered a delicacy and confectioners regarded the recipe for the spicy but sweet treat fiercely. Bakers in neighboring Germany got in on the act and the countries didn’t call a truce until almost two centuries later. Today you can sample them on our The Best of Eastern Europe vacation, perhaps seeking out a shop to try both recipes in Poland and Germany (where it is called lebkuchen).

Torun gingerbread

Baked using a mold or formed into the shape of hearts, then covered in chocolate, Torun are made year-round—not just during the holidays. Much like Vienna honors the legendary composer with Mozartkugel truffles, Poland’s largest Torun producer has a special heart-shaped version featuring native son Frederic Chopin on the wrapper. But even without the fancy wrapper these cookies are quite tasty when made at home.


Gingerbread cookies:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves, powdered (you may grind using a mortar and pestle)
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 3 Tbsp. water
1 cup honey
3 cups all-purpose flour

Optional Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbsp. water

  1. Beat eggs with sugar in a large bowl until bright yellow. Add the spices, honey, and mixture of baking soda and water, mixing well. Add flour gradually and mix until a stiff dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. On parchment paper cut to fit your baking pans, roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to make into your desired shape, or turn a drinking glass upside down to form circles. Lift the parchment paper by opposite corners and place on the baking pans. Bake for 10 minutes on the middle rack of your oven, or until lightly brown around the edges.
  3. Glaze cookies after they have cooled by combining all of the glaze ingredients in a bowl and microwaving for 20 seconds at a time, until almost completely melted. Stir until smooth. Use immediately.

Makes 3 dozen cookies