French pain dâÃÂ©pices often gets mistranslated into English as âgingerbread,â but beyond being heavily spiced, sweet quick breads, the two cakes bear little resemblance to one another. While the flavor of American gingerbread is dominated by molasses and the eponymous ginger, pain dâÃÂ©pices features whole-grain flour, anise seed and luscious French honey.
Delicious on its own or with a touch of butter, pain dâÃÂ©pices also makes a wonderful accompaniment to foie gras, whether in terrine, pÃÂ¢tÃÂ© or pan-seared form. The heady spices and sweet honey enhance the rich duck or goose liver perfectly. If foie gras isnât your cup of tea, or if itâs too difficult to find in your area, pain dâÃÂ©pices is just as good alongside a cheese platter. Strong blues, such as Roquefort or bleu dâAuvergne, are marvelous with the honeyed notes, and fresh goat cheeses provide a refreshing foil to the warm spices. Wash it all down with a glass of lightly sweet white wine for a sophisticated aperitif or predessert course.
Makes one loaf.
1ÃÂ½ cups (350 ml) milk
1 cup (300 grams) honey, preferably one with some character
zest of 1 clementine, tangerine or other small orange
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (125 grams) whole-wheat, rye or buckwheat flour
ÃÂ½ teaspoon baking soda
1ÃÂ½ teaspoons baking powder
ÃÂ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
ÃÂ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
ÃÂ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
ÃÂ½ teaspoon whole anise seeds
ÃÂ¼ teaspoon ground coriander seed (optional)
1/3 cup (30 grams) chopped dried apricot
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9-inch (23-centimeter) loaf pan.
2. Pour the milk and honey into a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until the honey has dissolved. Add the zest and set aside.
3. Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Mix in the honey, milk and zest. The batter will be quite liquid and a little foamy. Fold in about a third of the apricots.
4. Fill the loaf pan about half full and sprinkle half of the remaining apricots over the batter. Repeat with the rest of the batter and apricots. Bake until the top of the cake is deeply golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
5. Cool completely before slicing and serving. Well wrapped, the cake will keep for up to a week.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.