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French Gingerbread, Pain d’epices

December 4, 2013

French Gingerbread2

Baking, sharing, holiday love from my kitchen.  It’s a year round love of giving but more so at the holidays.  Extra batches of cookies are baked, double the pies and my single loaf pan is set aside to fill smaller pans for sharing.

This is going to be truly a simple Christmas season for me this year.   Out of work for 3 months now, gifting to others will be homemade, handmade gifts from the heart, warmth from friendships and family.   This year will be more on moderation and celebrating the reason for the season, the birth of baby Jesus.

In many ways, it actually feels so freeing.  To step away from the gift giving frenzy, trying to out do last year’s presents, watching my children open one gift and on to the next, fulfilling their “wish lists to Santa”.  It feels simple, uncomplicated, peaceful and joyful.  (Now I wonder if my kids will feel the same!)

This gingerbread is also as simple as it can be.  Not overly sweet, not overly complicated.  It’s perfect for breakfast with coffee, afternoon tea or hot cocoa.  The texture is firm, not crumbly soft as most quick breads.  The flavor improves the next day, but definitely taking a warm slice from a freshly baked loaf is heavenly too.

French Gingerbread plated

I’ve had this recipe for years and searched around to see how “authentic” it was.  There are many (no surprise) recipes and some even used yeast.  Using honey seems to be the most standard ingredient along with an intense blend of spices.  As this calls for 1 cup of honey, the taste of your honey is important.  Very little butter is used and this time I swapped it for coconut oil instead of the butter.

These loafs will freeze well for a couple of months and store in the refrigerator for a few weeks.  I’ll take one out to serve on a platter with fresh fruit, fig jam and nuts for a quick, last minute appetizer.

French Gingerbread, Pain d’ epices

dry ingredients:

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used white/wheat blend)

2 1/4 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon whole anise seeds

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 cup diced dried apricots

1/4 cup dried cranberries

wet ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter or coconut oil at room temperature

1 egg, at room temperature

1 cup honey

Zest from 1 orange, organic preferred

Add in:

Juice of the orange and water to make 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a large bowl of standing electric mixer, blend the wet ingredients (EXCEPT for the cup of water/juice)  butter, egg, honey and zest until blended well.  Add in the dry ingredients, alternating with the cup of water, until mixed well.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 60 minutes for one loaf or about 40 minutes for the mini loaf pans.  Test with a toothpick.  Remove from the oven, cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then remove to cool completely on a rack.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2013 3:12 pm

    I imagine it is very stressful and hard to be out of work, but no doubt you have the correct attitude!

    loved this post, it reminded me of a favorite bakery from Paris, a few blocks from where I used to live, called “Pain d’Epices”

    and they sold a fantastic example, I can almost smell it when I close my eyes,, and looking at your photos..

    • December 4, 2013 5:09 pm

      I so hope to visit Paris one day! I’ve been dreaming about it for so long, I’ll need to make sure it’s a very long visit so that I can pace myself and try out everything!

  2. December 4, 2013 3:24 pm

    These look wonderful and I just love your dishes! We are going light on Christmas gifts this year, too. The kids are older and I hope they don’t get too upset, but I am trying to teach them that Christmas is more about family and love than things. Happy baking!

    • December 4, 2013 5:11 pm

      My “kids” are older than yours and their gift requests still add up! You’re right to teach them that Christmas is more about family and love!!

  3. December 4, 2013 3:26 pm

    By the way — what are those cute little mint colored dishes in the background of your first photo?

    • December 4, 2013 5:15 pm

      The little mint dishes hold my finishing salts, sea salts….one is citrus, another is grey salt, another is sundried tomato and the other is crushed red pepper!! How sharp you are to notice!! Behind those mint dishes is a handmade clay dish holding my house seasoning mix. Those spoons in the red pitcher are my tasting spoons while I cook, next to that is my fresh garlic and next to that my utensil holder!!

  4. December 4, 2013 4:05 pm

    I love how nice and high your breads rose. They look beautiful in your gingerbread loaf pans.

  5. December 4, 2013 4:08 pm

    Home made presents are always the best ;-)

  6. December 4, 2013 5:00 pm

    I think homemade gifts are the best and anyone receiving a loaf of your beautiful pain d’epices is very lucky,

  7. December 4, 2013 5:41 pm

    I would much prefer a homemade gift and my children have always known this. I get the best hand made things every year. Nobody else would want them but they mean the world to me.

    I love your gingerbread!

    • December 5, 2013 10:03 am

      I do love to receive homemade gifts too. I still want my daughter to make me a card vs buying one! Those are the cards I treasure forever!

  8. December 4, 2013 6:49 pm

    Looks pretty delicious!

  9. December 4, 2013 7:03 pm

    I LOVE this, and the only thing I might change is subbing crystallized ginger for the dry…just because I really like it in gingerbread…or perhaps even better, add it to the dry ginger for a double ginger whammy! Lovely, and I’d be ecstatic if someone gave me this as a gift. I’ve been making gifts for several years now (I’ve been a freelance for 26) and the recipients always seem to like the homemade better than store bought anyway! :) Bravo Linda!

    • December 5, 2013 10:07 am

      Thanks Betsy. That’s a great tip to use the crystallized ginger for the dry. I’m definitely going to try that out next time, the flavor will really increase. If I could find my a way to freelance, I’d so love doing something like that. I’ve kinda enjoyed being home….if only I could get paid!!

  10. December 4, 2013 9:34 pm

    Oh those look soooo good! Ginger and cinnamon are my favorite spices and that’s one reason I love this time of year. It gives me the excuse to use it all the time. I also really love, LOVE those loaf pans! They are so precious!!

    • December 5, 2013 10:08 am

      Thanks Brandi. I’ve had those mini loaf pans for years now! I think I bought a whole case of them and through the years gifted them out, of course with a sweet bread in it. I think I’m down to my last 8 pans!

  11. December 4, 2013 11:16 pm

    Homemade gifts are usually the best!
    Those gingerbread loaves look so pretty and I love your adorable baking pans.

    • December 5, 2013 10:09 am

      Thank you Angie. Baking gingerbread also ensures a warm and welcoming aroma in my home!

  12. December 5, 2013 1:49 am

    I’ve never had gingerbread like this before. It looks very good. I love the sound of your Christmas and how you’re taking it right back to the reason for the season. In my family we are also doing a lot of homemade gifts and I’m very excited about it. I trust you will soon find that perfect job! xx

    • December 5, 2013 10:10 am

      Thanks Charlie, I’m finding more and more people are coming back to homemade gifts. It’s means more to the recipient that someone took the time and care to create a special gift.

  13. December 5, 2013 11:19 am

    Looks lovely and I’m with you on the rejection of commercial Christmas. Your salt pots look like little tangines.

    • December 9, 2013 8:39 pm

      Yes, you’re right! When I first spotted those little pots, I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but I knew I had to get them!

  14. December 5, 2013 8:09 pm

    I adore gingerbread & I can almost smell the spices from here. Lovely pans. too.

  15. December 5, 2013 9:44 pm

    What a gorgeous appetizer that would be! And what a lovely gift these would make for your friends as well. I, too, am making a hand-made gift for all my friends. I think handmade is the way to go and shifting the focus to the true meaning of Christmas is so freeing!

    • December 9, 2013 8:40 pm

      I agree and am so glad to hear that so many others feel the same way about all the commercialized aspects of the holidays! I know your handmade gifts will be fabulous!

  16. December 6, 2013 4:26 pm

    Whether i’m low on money or not, I ALWAYS give handmade gifts. I think they’re so much more special and meaningful! Not to mention, no one can’t use some tasty treats ;) I actually don’t think i’ve ever made gingerbread, but I love the spices in gingerbread cookies so I’m sure I’d love it. Yours is so festive :)

    • December 9, 2013 8:41 pm

      Thanks Amy. You are very creative so I imagine you come up with great handmade gifts. I’m not quite sure all I will do, I’ve got to keep collecting ideas and get going fast!

  17. December 6, 2013 11:07 pm

    There is nothing like gingerbread during the holidays. Your loaves look so good and my son was just talking about gingerbread the other day. I can relate to you on the reason for the season. I constantly reinforce to my 6 year old son that Christmas is not just about him getting presents. He fully understands what that day means and how important it is. I can’t wait to try this recipe, I have never made gingerbread, but I have made ginger cookies and the taste of ginger is intoxicating in a good way:-)

    • December 9, 2013 9:15 pm

      You’re a smart mom to show your son so early on the true meaning of Christmas! I bought my kids way too many presents, which I think was partly due to being a single parent and trying too hard!

  18. December 7, 2013 11:00 am

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been out of work. On the positive side, I really do feel that the way you are choosing to celebrate Christmas is the way in which is was intended. It wasn’t supposed to be about malls, money, and the perfect gift. The simplicity of love and family, uncrowded by material things is a wonderful way to spend the holidays. Kinda like that wonderful loaf.

    • December 9, 2013 9:16 pm

      Thanks France, I’m always trying to look on the positive side! I appreciate your kind comment.

  19. December 7, 2013 12:21 pm

    There is just something about gingerbread and the accompany of spices that makes the holiday season seem right ~ yours is perfect for afternoon tea and would make a beautiful gift. We too are keeping things pretty simple, I find the uncomplicated we can make it, the better and richer is it. If I have nothing more than my kids under my wings for just a couple of days, it is all I need. We have decided to do an appetizer tray rather than a full meal for Christmas, just to keep it as easy as possible and I am grateful.

    • December 9, 2013 9:17 pm

      I’m so blessed to have so many of you “friends” fill me with comforting comments! I agree, I’m so looking forward to having both kids at home for the holidays, it’s all that matters to me!

  20. Gina permalink
    December 8, 2013 11:17 pm

    Presents don’t matter as long as I can munch on this!

  21. December 10, 2013 5:10 pm

    Hi Linda, these look fantastic! I love that they are a sturdier loaf rather than a spongy crumb. It sounds unique and the blend of spices seems perfect. I wish you a very peaceful and joyous Christmas and also hope that a great job comes your way soon.

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