Pain d’Epices (Strasbourg, France)

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French recipes just sound fancy, right?  I seriously think I could live in a French pastry shop.  Just put me on a cot in the corner, and I can take it from there.  From mille-feuille (i.e. French Napoleon) to éclairs, the French know how to bake!  And Pain d’Epices is another one to add to the list of amazing French treats.  Pain d’Epices literally translates into ‘spiced bread,’ and it makes for a wonderful breakfast or mid-afternoon snack.

But here’s the thing about Pain d’Epices.  It’s actually not really gingerbread at all.  Or at least it’s not the classic gingerbread cake like we know here in the States.  Pain d’Epices is a spiced quick bread, but the spices are mild.  The bread is spiced just enough to make you keep going back for more without being over-the-top in the spice department.  And unlike many other quick breads, you’ll notice that this one is relatively light in the butter/oil department, too.  As a result, this bread stores quite well.  In fact, we’ve stored it at room temperature in a plastic bag for well over a week.  I guess you could call Pain d’Epices a cross between quick bread and standard bread in that regard.  Either way, it’s a treat that we really enjoy quite a bit!

Small loaves and slices of Pain d’Epices are found all over Strasbourg.  From bakeries to honey shops, it’s difficult to walk down a street without finding some of this wonderful spiced bread.  (For the record, Laura and I brought a huge bag of Pain d’Epices back in our suitcase…you know, in case we got hungry on the plane or something.  The bakery we visited made 7 different varieties of Pain d’Epices, and it was so hard to pick which one to get!)

Honey is the only sweetener used in this spiced bread which is why slices and loaves are also sold in honey shops all over Strasbourg.  In keeping with Strasbourg tradition, I’ve included a bit of cinnamon in this Pain d’Epices, too.  I mean cinnamon is one of my favorite spices, so that was a no-brainer for me!

Aside from the wonderful bakeries and shops that we discovered in Strasbourg, it’s worth noting the colorful architecture of the houses.  Not only were the homes bright and colorful, but most had gorgeous flowers out front.  And like most older European cities, Strasbourg lends itself to exploring on foot down a the spiderweb of narrow streets and cobblestone alleys.

Pain d’Epices

Ingredients

  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup rye flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with nonstick spray) a standard loaf pan.
  2. Using a large bowl, sift together all dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, ground cloves, salt and pepper).
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the butter and egg until well combined. Add the honey and orange zest; stir until well combined.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl with the honey; stir until well combined. Add ½ cup of water; stir until well combined. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and remaining water.
  5. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean.
  6. Let bread cool in pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto baking rack until completely cool.


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