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Pain d’epices is a warmly spiced honey loaf cake from France, rather like gingerbread but with milder intensity and a lighter texture. Our version has a pretty citrus topping using confit orange slices. A perfect tea time treat for Winter.
For a pair of committed foodies, we found the Universe gave us quite a challenge in our children, who were both rather fussy eaters to start with. Of course most kids go through the phase where only pasta and dry cereal are acceptable, and things always improve once they start eating with their peers at school.
Yet one of the best pieces of advice I got from a dietitian friend was to persevere and keep re-introducing a new food into meals- apparently it can take up to 20 ‘exposures’ before a fussy eating child will consider trying something new. If they refuse to taste it, work with the other senses – encouraging them to touch and smell it.
Baking is a great way to get children involved with food – desensitising their ‘yuk’ factor by letting them get their hands dirty, measuring, mixing and of course tasting. The kids have always enjoyed picking out the sweet smelling spices in our kitchen. Gingerbread is a favourite family bake, as is pain d’epices – it’s subtler, French cousin.
Enriched with rye flour, pain d’epices has a wholesome, nutty flavour. The ‘epices’ being a mix of warming spices – cinnamon, ginger, clove and anise, and the caramel sweetness of honey.
The cake has a light texture and I have to say I prefer it warm, though slices of cold pain d’epices are also tremendously satisfying when consumed with a generous dab of unsalted butter.
Traditionally baked as large loafs, we opted for mini versions here, perfectly sized for snack boxes.
Whilst the loaves were baking we sliced some oranges and poached them gently in a stock sugar syrup to confit them. It makes a pretty topping and pairs well with the spices in the cake.
This recipe makes 6 mini loaf cakes.
Pain d’epices with confit orange.
- 320g honey
- 1 egg
- 110g butter
- 130ml whole milk
- 180g Plain flour
- 90g Rye flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cloves
- 1 star anise pod
- Seeds of 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- Half teaspoon powdered ginger.
- 50g water
- 50ml water
- 1 orange
- Preheat oven to 165 °C.
- Grease and flour 6 mini loaf tins.
- Melt the butter in a microwave and let it cool.
- In a saucepan, heat the honey to 50 °C.
- Using a stand mixer or electric whisk, beat the egg then slowly pour in the warm honey.
- Add the melted butter and milk and continue to beat.
- Sift in the rye and plain flour and baking soda and continue to beat until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour in the mixture into the mini loaf pans, to about 2/3 the height of the tin and place in the preheated oven.
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until the pains d’epices are risen and a skewer inserted into them comes out just dry.
- Whilst the loaves are baking, slice the orange thinly from the middle.
- Heat the water and sugar in a medium sized saucepan until the sugar has melted and the syrup is boiling. Reduce the heat to bring the syrup to a simmer.
- Select the largest slices of orange and place them in the stock syrup and cook in the gently simmering syrup for 10 minutes, and then remove from heat. Leave the slices to continue to infuse the syrup as it cools down.
- When the loaves are cooked, remove them from their tins and place on a cooling rack
- Brush the tops with some of the sugar syrup
- Cut segments of the orange slices and arrange them on the top of the loaves.
- The pain d’epices can be eaten warm or cooled.
- Stored in a bread bin these will stay fresh for a couple of days.