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 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.
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!
So ring in the holiday cheer with this traditional French bread!
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!
- 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
Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Butter and flour two 9X5X3-inch (23X13X7 ½ cm) loaf pans.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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