Making Perníčky, or Czech gingerbread cookies, is a nice change from trying the standard American recipes. These Czech Christmas cookies are less sweet, lack ginger, and feature a mild anise flavor in the spice mixture.
Servings: 50to 80 cookies (depending on the size and thickness)
4cups(560 grams) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½teaspoonsbaking soda
1 ¼cups(150 grams) powdered sugar
⅓cup(110 grams) honey
4tablespoons(55 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1teaspoonunsweetened cocoa powder
1egg whitefrom large egg
2cups(240 grams) powdered sugar
Water as needed
Grind the spices together in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. In a medium mixing bowl combine spices with flour and baking soda.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the eggs and powdered sugar (start on low speed first so you don’t get a cloud of powdered sugar). Beat until frothy and the sugar is dissolved, scraping down the sides once or twice as needed. Add the honey and melted butter, and continue to mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until it starts coming together into a dry and crumbly dough.
Carefully dump it out of the bowl onto a large work surface and knead gently by hand until all of the crumbs are absorbed, and the dough is a smooth, cohesive, and sticky mass. The dough is ready immediately to roll out and cut into shapes.
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line 3 to 4 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly dust work surface with flour, cut off a smaller piece of dough, and roll it out on the floured surface until about ⅛-inch thick. Lightly dust with more flour as needed as you work with the dough. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters, and arrange the cut cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. After rolling and cutting all the dough, gather the dough scraps into a ball and roll them out again, and cut more cookies. Repeat as needed.
Bake cookies one pan at a time on the center rack of the oven for 14 minutes. Meanwhile, make the topping by beating together the egg and cocoa powder until smooth (this may take a little effort to get out all the lumps; use the back of a spoon if needed to press on the lumps). After removing a pan of cookies from the oven, immediately use a pastry brush to brush the egg-cocoa mixture evenly over the top of each cookie (while they are still hot). This will provide color and shine. Repeat with the remaining cookies, and allow them to cool completely before decorating.
To make the royal icing, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine the egg white and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. If the mixture is too thick (it likely will be) beat in water by the teaspoonful until desired consistency is reached (2 to 3 teaspoons should be enough).
Fit a pastry bag with a #2 or #3 round pastry tip, and transfer royal icing into prepared pastry bag. Make sure any extra icing is covered in a bowl, as it will dry out quickly when exposed to air. Decorate cookies with royal icing. Allow icing to dry completely before storing in tin containers in a cool, dry place for 3 weeks or more.
If you don’t have enough baking sheets to prep them all at once, you can reuse the pans for additional batches of cookies once the preliminary batches are transferred to cooling racks to cool.
You will likely yield more icing than you will need depending on how much decoration you pipe onto your cookies.