Pain d'Espices ~ Christmas Spice Bread - a flavourful Christmas favourite that is also good with tea and as an afternoon snack.
Christmas, Desserts

Christmas Spice Bread ~ Pain d’Espices

Another Christmas recipe to follow up my Christmas Forest Fruitcake!  Woo hoo!  Since Journey to the Garden is so brand new, I’ve been trying to find a groove and stay on top of things.  Well, I’m happy to report that everything is coming together and there will not only be two Christmas recipes but three and perhaps more!  I hope you’re all relieved; I know I am!

My first experience with Pain d’Espices or in English, Spice Bread, happened during Christmas time at a market in Provence in the South of France.  It was part of their thirteen desserts, a celebration of Christmas, and the size of the bread was enormous and purchased by the slice.  It was amazingly fragrant and it’s deep rich colour was indeed memorable.  Each Christmas I missed its spicy flavour and, a few years later, finally found a recipe that I felt was similar to the original.  It’s a slightly adapted version of Babette’s Spice Bread, or Pain d’Espices de Babette from Susan Hermann Loomis’ French Farmhouse Cookbook.

Pain d'Espices ~ Christmas Spice Bread - a flavourful Christmas favourite which is also good with tea or as an afternoon snack

Pain d’Espices or Spice Bread is a French quickbread with a history dating back to at least the 16th century.  Historically made with honey, rye flour and spices, it was an unleavened sourdough that was left in a cool place to ferment for months before baking.  In modern times, the bread is consumed at tea time and as an after school snack.

Pain d'Espices ~ Christmas Spice Bread - a flavourful Christmas favourite that is also good with tea or as an afternoon snack.

One of the many things I love about this bread is that it’s sweetened only with honey.  Make sure you use a good quality honey for a premium flavour.  Also feel free to alter the measurement of the spices.  While the flavour of this recipe is excellent, there are a number of combinations you could use for a different experience with each baking!

Pain d'Espices ~ Christmas Spice Bread - a flavourful Christmas favourite that is also good with tea or as an afternoon snack.

So ring in the holiday cheer with this traditional French bread!

Pain d'Espices ~ Christmas Spice Bread - a flavourful Christmas favourite that is also good with tea or as an afternoon snack.
4.8 from 5 votes

Spice Bread ~ Pain d'Espices

A flavourful quickbread which can be served at tea time or for an after school snack, as well as a dessert to crown the Christmas season!

Course Christmas, Dessert
Cuisine French
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 20
Calories 356 kcal
Author Cleo


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon, ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 2 tablespoons whole anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 ¾ cups mild, flowery honey
  • 7 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour (I used 3 cups spelt and 4 ⅓ white)
  • ¾ cup orange marmalade or red currant jelly (I used rose hip & crab apple as a substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons plain yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC).  Butter and flour two 9X5X3-inch (23X13X7 ½ cm) loaf pans.

  2. Combine milk and the spices (I did this the night before and left them in the fridge) in a medium-size saucepan over medium high heat, and whisk gently. As soon as bubbles have formed around the edges of the milk, remove it from the heat, cover, and let the spices infuse for 10 minutes.

  3. Heat the honey in a saucepan just until liquified.  Do not overheat.  Transfer it to a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, add the spiced milk and mix well.  Sift in 2 cups of the flour and mix until incorporated, then add the marmalade or jelly and stir in.  Sift in the rest of the flour and mix until thoroughly combined.

  4. In a small bowl, mix together the baking soda, warm water, and yogurt until mixture fizzes.  Add to batter and mix for 10 minutes, or at medium speed for 5 minutes if using an electric mixer.

  5. Divide batter between the loaf pans.  Place in centre of oven, leaving room between pans for heat circulation.  Bake until the loaves are puffed, golden and spring back when touched.  This baking time can vary from 1 hour 15 min to 1 hr 40 minutes, so check after an hour and then keep your eye on them.

  6. Remove the pans from the oven, cool slightly and then remove the loaves to cool on a wire rack.  When cool, wrap in parchment paper and then aluminum foil, and wait at least 24 hours before tasting to allow flavours to mature.

  7. The bread will keep well wrapped and stored in an airtight container in a cool spot for at least 2 weeks.  They can also be refrigerated for up to 1 month.  If they are frozen, beware, they will be somewhat dry and their aroma will be lessened considerably.

Food for Thought: “I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play and wild and sweet their words repeat, of peace on earth, good-will to men!”  ~ Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

Christmas Spice Bread ~ Pain d'Espices - a flavourful quickbread which can be served at tea time, as well as a dessert to crown the Christmas season!


18 thoughts on “Christmas Spice Bread ~ Pain d’Espices”

    1. Welcome, Cakespy! I’m always thrilled when someone likes the quotes …. I hope they’re inspirational! Yes, this is certainly the perfect bread for such an occasion, or even for having tea with a friend. It’s so flavourful!

  1. Perfect winter cake while….
    ‘I leant upon a coppice gate
    When Frost was spectre-grey
    and Winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day…” (T. Hardy)
    I’m following your great food blog….and even bought myself
    a cookbook by the famous Canadian ‘Edna Staebler’. I hope you can add one of her favorites!

    1. Nancy, my dear friend!! So good to see you here!! Love the Hardy quote; it’s so HIM! 😉 I’ve ordered the one Staebler book from the library on your recommendation, although I must admit I’d never heard of her before. I’ll see what I can cook up! So thrilled to touch base with you again!

      1. Your Pumpkin Blueberry breakfast AND spice cake are on my to do list this weekend. I have to do a grocery run first!. Glad you liked the quote…I want to learn the poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’ by heart.
        I hear Edan Staebler’s Oatmeal Cookies are to die for….so those are m choice for Xmas Cookie bake day. Now, that is an idea for a post …XMAS COOKIE suggestions! 🙂

        1. Oh, awesome! You’ll have to let me know what you think. And if you have any requests, please let me know and I’ll try to put them in the recipe machine! 😉 Thanks! You’ve perhaps given me my Christmas focus for next year ….. COOKIES! How brilliant!

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