Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pain d'épices - Taste and Create

This month for Taste and Create I was paired with Veronica of La Recette du Jour - a blog filled with lots of delicious-looking French recipes. I was slightly intimidated upon discovering this - everything was measured in grams and baked at Celsius, and I couldn't pronounce the names of half the recipes!

But I think the point of Taste and Create is partly to draw us out of our comfort zones, to make something we might not otherwise make. So I plodded ahead, eager to try something new.

I found several recipes that I would like to try (and probably will try even though I didn't choose them for this event). The one I finally settled on is called Pain d'épices. Veronica describes it as being "the French equivalent of gingerbread or parkin." Well, I don't exactly know what parkin is, but I know what gingerbread is, so there you have it. I think that Pain d'épices translates into "spice bread" or something like that.

After choosing a recipe, I had to figure out how I was going to measure my ingredients! I've never measured ingredients according to weight. But here I lucked out. I discovered that my simple kitchen scale measures, not only in ounces and pounds, but also in grams and kilograms. So I used that to measure my ingredients, instead of my trusted measuring cups. The only drawback to this is that anyone following this recipe also has to have a gram-measuring scale, because I didn't translate any of these measurements into cups.

The only thing I really wasn't sure about was "10 cl milk." My scale definitely does not measure cl! I searched around on the Internet for a while until I learned that 10 cl of milk is approximately 3.4 fluid ounces, or a little less than 1/2 cup.

On to the recipe!

Pain d'épices
100 g honey
140 g wholemeal flour (I took that to mean whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
10 cl milk (just under 1/2 cup)
1 egg
40 g butter
65 g soft brown sugar
1 tsp quatre-épices (this is a French combination of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ... pepper! - I used 1/4 tsp. each)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350 F). Warm the milk and add the honey, sugar and butter off the heat, stirring well. Put the flour, baking powder and 4-épices (spices) in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, break the egg into it, and add the milk. Mix well (or just throw the whole lot into a food processor).

Pour into a buttered 23-cm (8- or 9-inch) loaf tin and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 150C (300 F) and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Store wrapped in clingfilm to keep it moist.

Verdict - Holy cow, I think from now on pepper will be my secret ingredient in any spiced baked good I make. Oatmeal cookies, carrot cake, zucchini bread - I'm adding pepper! I was tentative and nervous to add pepper to this recipe, but I figured if the French can do it, so can I. And I'm so glad I did. This spice combination was surprisingly wonderful! It gives an extra depth of flavor, and a little bit of bite. Plus, I loved licking the pan that the milk and honey had been in, after adding it to the flour. It tasted like honey-butter - delicious!

I made a simply powdered sugar glaze to serve over the Pain d'épices: 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed with a tiny amount of milk and vanilla until it was drizzling consistency. It moistened and sweetened the finished product.

My "summed up" phrase for this recipe: "A deliciously spicy bread made with milk, honey, and the surprise ingredient - pepper!"


Barbara Bakes said...

I never thought of putting pepper in a spice bread. I don't know if I'd be that brave - but it looks delicious!

Jenny said...

Love the sound of this bread! And look at that sweet drizzle, yum!

Melinda said...

You're so brave!! Way to try new things!!

Southern Plate said...

My mouth is watering!

Veronica said...

ooh, your spice bread looks good, Stephanie -- very authentic! Glad you liked it.

I have the opposite problem to you with cups -- I just can't get my head round cups of butter :-) Actually I admire anyone who can get consistent results when measuring ingredients for baking in cups! I ended up buying a set of measuring cups because so many of my T&C partners use them -- but I always weigh the results and rewrite the recipe in grams. Even then, I often find I need to adjust, as I did with your spice bun recipe.

There are some really useful conversion charts here, which I sometimes use to check my calculations:

Oh, and parkin is a Yorkshire dish -- a spicy cake with oatmeal and black treacle (molasses) in it.

Michelle said...

I will have to check out this "Taste and Create" thing, looks fun!

Living in England it was like taking a crash course in the metric system! I was bored and would wander down to the corner store for cooking magazines, and would then have to translate the measurements. By the time we left I could do it all in my head, but since living here again for 3 years, I am not so good anymore...

This bread looks really good, I like gingerbread-y stuff, so long as it is soft!