I had this post all done last night. It was quite possibly the best thing I had ever written. The words just flowed from my fingertips and onto my screen. I even spell checked and edited, something I rarely remember to do. I tagged and categorised the post and finally hit publish. At that point a message I had never seen but often wished for appeared. It said “Are you sure?” My spidey senses started tingling at this point, because even though there have been times when I needed an “are you sure” option, I knew this would not turn out well. I clicked yes, but the same screen reappeared. I clicked no and was returned to my edit post screen, except all of the words that had so magically flowed from my fingertips were now gone. I searched for an auto save version, but there were none. The post had just disappeared into the interweb.
Thankfully I still had some of these mini Pain D’épices to console myself with. I had made them after a long day of Christmas shopping and tree decorating to keep my holiday spirit up. The honey and spices are perfectly Christmas-ey. The flavours intensify and meld over time, so this is one of those recipes best made in advance. French spice loaves are generally very dense, and this one is no exception. I followed Laura Calder’s recipe and made very few modifications. I baked it in mini loaf molds rather than a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan, I infused the milk with anise seed instead of grinding the seeds, and I sugared the molds instead of flouring them to create a sugar crust on the sides of the loaves. The recipe is quite easy to follow, and doesn’t require any special equipment. The loaves would pair well with a cream cheese icing, but I decided to eat them as is.
Recipe by Laura Calder
- 2/3 cup dark honey
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup butter
- 3-4 anise seeds
- Zest of 1 orange
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup sugar and 1 tbsp butter for the mold
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a mini loaf pan with the butter and pour a little sugar into each mold. Tap the pan to spread the sugar around each mold then discard any excess.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the honey, sugar, milk, butter, anise seeds and orange zest to a boil. Set aside to cool as the rest of the ingredients are prepared.
- Sift the flour, spices and salt into a large bowl. Dig a well into the center of the flour mixture and pour the egg into the well.
- Discard the anise seed from the milk mixture, and then pour the milk into the well. Whisk the milk into the flour until combined.
- Pour an equal amount of batter into each mold. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean. If using a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan bake for about 50 minutes.
- Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Cover in plastic wrap let the flavours blend together for about 24 hours.