TRADITIONAL FRENCH PAIN D’EPICES
Pain d’epices is a strange but perfect mix between cake and bread, not a million miles away from banana bread in fact. Only with no banana. In my mind, it’s very much a breakfast cake, you eat it sliced thinly with butter spread generously on it. It’s not a wow cake but it is an elegant every day cake. The flavour is complex and evolves with the cake maturity. This pain d’epices will last a good week if kept in a cake tin or wrapped properly in tin foil or a even better a waxed clothe.
You could make the spice mix yourself, but honestly, the mixed spice mix you buy in the shops is perfect. You could go all out and add some zest but my version is the basic one and you can build on from that. Pain d’epices is funny, I don’t recall ever seeing it in boulangeries in France, but you do see it at the farmers’ market at the honey guy stall, you know the one? He sells his own honey, some combs and maybe some candles? Well, he often sells pain d’epices too. And that makes sense, honey being such an important component of this cake.
Pain d’epices is a honeyed version of what I’ve seen called ginger cake but it’s made with rye flour and has a more dense texture and the taste is far more intense. It lingers in your mouth and goes through so many notes before disappearing. Two things, I need to stress about this cake. First, use up the best honey you can buy, locally here in Dublin, I use Olly’s Farm honey. And secondly, every now and again, when I make a loaf, the top catches in the oven. Rye flour and honey are not ingredients I’ve baked with much outside of this recipe and so I don’t know, sometimes, the top just catches. Sometimes the oven gets too hot or I’ve left it too long in the oven I’m not sure which one, but if you let it cool and slice through is as normal, you will see that everything under the dome is just perfect, so don’t worry about the top, you can either just not eat it or you can do what I do and still eat it with butter spread on.
- 125 g plain flour
- 125 wholemeal rye flour
- One jar of honey (340 g or so)
- 40 g soft brown sugar
- One star anise
- One heaped tablespoon of mixed spices
- One heaped tablespoon of baking powder (20 g)
- 2 eggs
- 100 ml of milk
- Add the sugar and honey to a pot and heat up very gently while stirring constantly until the sugar has melted.
- Add all your dry ingredients to a dry bowl. Beat your eggs and milk together and gently incorporate the melted honey and sugar until uniform and add to the dry ingredients.
- Mix everything gently until you have a homogenous batter. Pour into your buttered loaf shaped tin and put into the oven at 180 C for 30 min (remember to check from 20 min and maybe turning it down a notch if it’s catching. Or even covering the top with tinfoil).
- Let it cool down before tucking in but remember, thinly slice with lots of butter is where it’s at.