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.
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
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
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
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.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.