A pint’s a pound the world around, but how do you measure in a foreign language? In France there are (as far as I can tell) no measuring cups or spoons. At least I never saw any! I think this is because home baking of breads or cakes is relatively uncommon. And *that* is because even the smallest of villages has at least one bakery, or, at worst, a mini-truck that comes every day and blows its horn and opens up the back to see rafts and reams of good bread. Why bake?
So, I learned that a cuillère (say kwee-air) à soupe (soup spoon) is a tablespoon aka a Tbsp, and a cuillère à café (coffee spoon) is a teaspoon or tsp. And, cups are measured by coffee cups (or yogurt pots!) but never by mugs which don’t seem to exist there either. Very confusing, but happily my recipes tend to be fairly forgiving and my friends enjoyed my hits and misses kindly.
One other thing I learned, is that in France ginger is considered an aphrodisiac. Who knew? Certainly not I! I love ginger. I love ginger tea, ginger snaps, crystallized ginger, ginger ale, ginger chicken, ginger beef, ginger in most any form, and sometimes, just sometimes the craving gets the better of me. Partly its a comfort-food thing but partly its just too yummy and oh so versatile. So, I told my friends that I would make pain d’épice and they nodded tolerantly.
Pain d’épice, or spice bread, is as close to gingerbread as you will find in France. It includes honey where a “traditional” gingerbread might use only sugar and molasses, and the French version includes anise which, while I love it, is no ginger. So I improvised. I kept the anise, but added ginger and a little bit of allspice. I cut the honey and added molasses. I fiddled until it came out pretty much as I wanted and presented it, in all its clay ashtray glory to my friends. One tasted, smiled, and asked if she could take a piece home to her husband. The other one laughed and I was again confused… did they like it? Had I made a (yet another) faux pas?
Later someone explained the joke to me. Oh. Well, everyone ate it up and I thought it was pretty good, so I guess it all worked out fine. This recipe is a take-off on *that* recipe. Its re-worked yet again to be gluten free but you can certainly sub in 2-1/2 of AP flour. No other changes are necessary.
This is good with tea, coffee, vin santo, juice, or orangina, and of course, good friends!
Pain d’épice (Gingerbread for the French Palate)
Preheat oven to 350F
Butter and flour a 9-inch square pan
1/2 C butter (1 stick) +1/2 T for the pan
1/2 C sugar
1 C white rice flour
1 C quinoa flour
1/2 C chickpea or chestnut flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 T ginger powder
1 t allspice
1 T anise powder
1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 C molasses
1/2 C honey
1 C hot water
Melt butter and set aside to cool a bit. In a medium bowl, mix well the sugar and egg, add the cooled butter and beat to incorporate. The mixture will be thick and pale.
In another medium bowl combine the molasses, honey and hot water. Mix well. Let cool until no warmer than baby formula temperature. In a larger bowl, sift or whisk together all the dry ingredients, crystallized ginger, salt and spices.
Add the wet groupings to the dry ingredients alternating between the butter mixture and the honey/molasses, and mix gently but thoroughly until blended. The batter will be a bit soupy.
Bake in the buttered and floured 9×9 pan @ 350 for about 50 minutes. Test with a toothpick for “done-ness”, and cool 10 minutes in the pan before removing for cooling on a rack. When completely cool it will be a bit crunchy on top from the honey, and just a little stickier than a traditional gingerbread.
This will make your house smell *wonderful*. It will keep, covered, for a few days. As to any other benefits or side effects, ymmv… enjoy!