Friday 16 May 2008

Pain d'épices

I encounter pain d'épices (spice bread) at most fairs in the Touraine. It is not actually a bread, but a spicy cake sweetened with honey and often containing nut meal. It is popular for breakfast, dipped into hot chocolate or coffee, or with a between meal cuppa. In our area, the locals consider the best pain d'épices is made with miel de sarrasin. Normally I am not a fan of cooking with honey, but there is no question that miel de sarrasin's very strong flavour combines perfectly with the nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger spices and toasted hazelnut meal that I used, resulting in a very distinctive taste that seems to me to be very northern European. Usually pain d'épices contains anise, but I omitted it as neither Simon nor I are huge fans of the taste, and the recipe could also include coriander, cumin or cardamom.

The ingredients for pain d'épices.

I chose to make little individual cakes rather than a loaf. Mine are somewhat more rough hewn than the ones I see at the markets, where, if there are individual cakes on display, they are perfectly moulded little hearts in cellophane packets of three.


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