The interesting thing about this kind of bread is thatthere’s no butter, oil or eggs. Somehow it doesn’t feel like it’s going to cometogether, rise, crack and turn into a moist, spicy slice of anything. The factthat it does is one of those incredible baking results, the ones that defy manylaws or ideas.
The texture is weird at first, theknife sort of doesn’t want to dive into it and offers a bit of a resistance. Athick skin, that’s what this bread has. And shiny. So, it’s better to leave itwrapped for one or two days, like the recipe advices. But it looked so nicethat of course I cut it before that. And then I wrapped it and left itunbothered for a day.
It was so much better the next days.It becomes a more uniform thing in terms of flavor and texture. The spices andnuts and dried fruit and honey are what this bread is all about. Kind ofobvious, right? I went ahead and used up almost everything I had. Mainlypistachios and figs. Man, I love that stuff.
I recently found out my mom loves figs uncontrollablytoo. She bluntly told me that I should take the bread away, and also thecontainers with the dried figs, and the jar with the fresh fig jam I made a fewdays ago, if I wanted them to last. She had no control, she said, and wasn´tabout to try to build it up now. She would just eat all the fig-related stufflying around. I pretty much feel the same way.
So you can imagine I made a very figgy pain d’epices.So good.
The combinations are many, and what makes a hugedifference is the type of honey used. The thing with honey in this country isthat, beside a few flavors that you may come by accidentally at some specialtystore that will most certainly be sold in expensive and tiny jars, here there´sjust honey. It’s all the same. Honey.
So I set out to make my own flavored honeys, with awonderful recipe from Viviane’s site. The process is dead easy and youcan have great honey in a few hours. I had to restrain myself from making adozen different combinations. Just cardamom and cinnamon-mint this time. You can get the recipe here.
from Simply Sensational Desserts, by Francois Payard
1cup (335g) honey
¾cup (150g) sugar
2Tbs dark rum, such as Myers’s
2pieces star anise
2cups (180g) nuts, I used a mix of almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts
1cup (150g) dried fruit, I used apricots, dark and light figs and prunes
½cup (90g) raisins, both dark and golden
Gratedzest of 1 lemon
Gratedzest of 1 orange
1Tbs + 1 teaspoon (20g) baking soda
¼teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Vietnamese)
Pinchof ground cloves
3cups (435g) all-purpose flour, sifted
Preheatthe oven to 350ºF / 180ºC
Butterand flour one large loaf pan or 4 individual small ones.
Combine1 ¾ cups (143g) water, honey, sugar, rum and star anise in a medium saucepanand bring to a boil.
Meanwhile,combine the remaining ingredients except the flour in a large bowl.
Removeand discard the star anise and pour the liquid over the fruit and nut mixture.Let stand, stirring gently every now and then, for 5 minutes, then stir in theflour. Let the mixture stand for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pourthe batter into the pan or divide evenly among the small pans, filling about ¾ full.
Bakefor 45 to 1 hour or more (depends on the pan size), or until a tester insertedin the center of the pain comes out with a few moist crumbs attached to thetip. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Unmoldthe loaves, wrap in plastic and store for one or two days.