Pain d’Epices (Spiced Ginger Bread)
This week, (July 2020) I wanted to send a care package to my son who is in strict lockdown in Melbourne, unlike the rest of Australia. My Canberra based pastry chef son made the Melbourne son chocolate brownie biscuits. I decided, as well as sending him these biscuits, to pack face masks, hand sanitiser, cheese and chocolate, and to try making Pain d’Epices, a traditional French gingerbread, which lasts for at least a week. It is not that sweet and is delicious with butter or cream cheese spread on it. I decided it would probably last being battered in a box in the post, and even if it arrives in crumbs he can use it to stuff roast chicken, apparently. (Pigeon if in France!).
Traditionally Pain d’Epices is made with at least some rye flour, and honey, and is really delicious when you feel like something sweet, but not too sweet. This recipe is adapted from one by David Lebowitz, an American pastry chef based in Paris who has a fabulous website. https://www.davidlebovitz.com/ I have made a couple of changes to the method and ingredients. By the way the fresher your spices, the better this will taste. I actually ground my own cloves for this and the smell was amazing (but the cloves destroyed the plastic of the inside of my mini grinder, only use a metal spice grinder!) And when you bake it the house will be filled with the delicious smell of spices. In fact if you are giving one away make one to keep!
455 gms (3 1/2cups) plain flour
60gms (1/2cup) dark rye flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarb soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, whole
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ( if you can get Tasmanian mountain pepper it adds to the flavour)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
55 gms unsalted cultured butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten.
340g ( 1 cup) honey
1 tablespoon finely-grated orange zest
240ml (1 cup) milk
Prepare a loaf tin by buttering and lining with baking paper. Heat the oven to 160 fan forced.
Put the honey, butter, orange zest and milk in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat.
Add the bicarb soda – it will froth up. Stir.
Sieve the flours into a bowl and add all the rest of the dry ingredients (spices, pepper and salt).
Add the melted mixture into the flour mixture, add the beaten egg and stir everything together.
Spoon into tin and put in the middle of the oven
Bake for 60 minutes, checking at fifty. Test with a skewer to see if it is cooked: it should come out clean. The cake will be darker on the top.
Cool for ten minutes before turning out onto a rack.
This cake will keep for a week if you wrap it up in cling wrap and place in the pantry, or put in an airtight tin. Eat with butter or cream cheese.