The Czech Republic, like many small eastern European countries have had their faith determined by their bigger and more powerful neighbours.
Once part of the Great Moravian Empire, it became a roman province, after the fall of the Rome it then joined the Kingdom of Bohemia, and many years later it transformed itself into the industrial core of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its collapse when subsequently rose as the Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Long story short, after the long, surreal years as a communist then soviet country, the Czech Republic has proudly endured terrible destruction, wars, the loss of its children in Lidice and with much dignity it stands as one of the most beautiful countries in Eastern Europe, with an impressive amount of restored historical buildings and the crowning jewel of course the city of Prague that generates one of the highest revenues in the tourism industry, welcoming with around 8 million visitors a year.
Its cuisine is generous, rich, bold, comforting. It may had been part of the Austro Hungarian Empire but it seem to never have lost its true authentic love for roasts, filling dumplings and richly spiced biscuits and cakes.
During his last visit to Prague and Telč, MrD was kind enough to spend a good time finding me a traditional cookbook, out of which I’ve baked ginger biscuits, a chocolatey version of vánočka, a Christmas braided bread and made a rich and comforting thick mushroom soup.
Czech food might be humble but by no means lacks flavour, texture or vibrancy.
Because Christmas is just around the corner, and we shouldn’t need many excuses to bake, here’s the recipe to make Czech Christmas gingerbread biscuits.
The secret is actually in the decoration, a thick but delicate white royal icing will suffice to make these biscuits look irresistible.
To make a batch of 35-40 you will need:
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 50g honey
- 100g caster sugar
- 80g softened unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/5 tsp of allspice
For the icing:
- 1.5 cup of icing sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 piping bag
Sift the flour with the baking powder, heat the honey, sugar and butter in a bowl over hot water.
Add the egg and spices. Knead the dough until it comes together but don’t overwork it’ll become bready.
Preheat the oven at 190C
Form a tight ball and put in a plastic bag. Let it cool in the fridge for about 4 hours or leave it overnight.
In a lightly dusted working surface roll out the dough until you get an even height of .5 cm, use your favourite festive cookie cutters and proceed to cut and transfer the biscuits to a baking tray.
I’d recommend using reusable baking parchment as you won’t need to add extra flour.
Bake for 10-14 minutes
Let them cool completely before decorating.
To make the royal icing in a bowl combine the egg white and icing sugar, before whisking try to mix them with a fork, this will avoid having a cloud of sugar blown into your face.
Whisk with an electric mixer. It will take a good 4 minutes until you get the right consistency, the first stage is a “dirty white” which the mix is runny and it looks almost grey.
As you keep whisking it will turn bright and shiny as more air is pushed into the mix and the egg white breaks down.
Transfer to a piping bag and proceed to decorate making a very small hole to make delicate patterns.
Let the icing harden before eating.