The most famous product of Toruń is the Toruń gingerbread. The tradition of the baking of these aromatic cookies in the town of Copernicus is almost as long as the history of Toruń. One says that no visitor to our city can leave Toruń without gingerbread.
The products used for the Toruń gingerbread are: top quality flour, oriental spicy flavouring, and honey that is exceptional in taste, and in which abound only the forests and fields around Toruń that are situated on the Vistula river. In the past the beautiful, old Hanseatic Toruń was located at the crossing of the most important European trade routes. Therefore, there were no problems with transporting from the Levant countries some of the ingredients indispensable for the baking of gingerbread: ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, etc.
The Toruń masters of gingerbread craft jealously guarded the secrets of their product. The recopies were kept secret not only from the competition from Nürnberg or Königsberg, where one attempted reproducing the excellent taste of the gingerbread from Toruń, but also from other gingerbread bakers from Toruń. The gingerbread resembles the wines coming from the best vineyards of France or Italy in the respect that it suffices to taste the Toruń gingerbread and recognize it by its sophisticated taste from which the Toruń bakery comes. Today the only immediate heir and continuator of the great Toruń tradition of gingerbread making is the Confectionery Factory "Copernicus" S.A. which was established in 1760 by Jan Weese. (Fabryka Cukiernicza "Kopernik" S.A.)
The present technologies of gingerbread baking are based on old recipes and methods whose immediate tradition dates back to the experiences of gingerbread masters from the 16th century. The Toruń gingerbread, as the only true one, is sold, among others, in all countries of the European Union, in Canada, the USA, Kuwait, Israel and Japan. Because of its taste and quality, prominent guests have been presented with gingerbread designed especially for them since the Middle Ages. Pope John Paul II received such a gift in Toruń, gingerbread was also given to presidents, emperors, kings and Nobel prize winners who visited Toruń.
Down in history went the gingerbread baked in 1778 for Tsarina Catherine. The gingerbread was about two metres long and 30 cm thick.
Pope John Paul II received an occasional gingerbread in the shape of the heliocentric system known from the work of Nicholas of Copernicus "De Revolutionibus…" from the delegation of the Toruń gingerbread makers:
Of especially profound meaning are the gingerbread hearts given on St. Valentine's Day.
Frederic Chopin loved the gingerbread of Toruń. In August 1825, he even described them in a letter to his friend:
"(…) but leaving aside Copernicus, who was born in Toruń, I will begin about the Toruń gingerbread. (…) According to the custom of local gingerbread makers, the shops for gingerbread are halls of tenements surrounded by boxes with key-locks, in which there rests gingerbread arranged in dozens and sorted according to its kind. (…) I will say more, when we meet, but I will write to you now that the greatest impression on me made the gingerbread. I did see, it is true, the whole fortification from all sides of the city, with all details, (…) moreover, churches of Gothic construction, founded by the Teutonic Knights, one of which was erected in 1231. I saw the leaning tower, like in Pisa, the famous town hall, whose greatest curiosity is, from outside as well as inside, that it has as many windows as the year has days, as many halls as months, as many rooms as weeks, and as many towers as seasons, and that the whole building is the most splendid in the Gothic taste. This, however, does not surpass the gingerbread, oh the gingerbread (…)".
One of the kinds of gingerbread presently made in Toruń has been called "Scherzo" ("Joke") in honour of F. Chopin.
In the old days the Toruń gingerbread was, among others, in the shape of carriages, coats of arms, knights, townsmen and townswomen at work, hearts, and first of all, Katarzynki, which is one of the most famous Toruń gingerbread. The history is silent about who invented the gingerbread of that shape and why it has this name, but there are several beautiful legends. In one of them, the gingerbread of the characteristic shape and name was invented by a young, modest journeyman, who was in love with beautiful Catherine, the daughter of his gingerbread master, in order to win the heart of his beloved as well as recognition of the future father-in-law.
This information has been prepared in cooperation with the producer of the Toruń gingerbread,
the Confectionery Factory "Kopernik" SA in Toruń (Fabryka Cukiernicza "Kopernik" SA w Toruniu), www.kopernik.com.pl