Épice à pain d’épices
Whenever I get organic oranges, I always remove the zest and keep it to dry. You never know when it might come in handy, in a cup of tea, grated and sprinkled in fruit salad, in a cake, mulled with wine. With winter wrapping up, a new found interest in my spice drawers along with a Christine Ferber compendium from the library on my knee, I have been thinking chutney. It's a good thing I saved those orange peels. There's a quick way to dry them, if you're thinking chutney too and don't have any dried orange zest on hand. Just pare the zest off a well scrubbed orange and place it on a cookie sheet in your oven at the coolest temp setting for an hour or so.
Once particularly delicious looking recipe for chutney calls for the ingredient épice à pain d’épices. There are so many varieties and recipes all over France, it would be impossible to give a definitive formula for the mix of spices that make French spice bread. It really differs by the household. But since I have re-done the spice rack and am prepared to start with my own mixes à measure for my recipes instead of buying mystery jars with formulas meant to maximize commercial return to someone else, I want to hone down the possibilities on a house version.
Why all the hullabaloo about pain d’épices? Although certain regional specialty pain d’épices appear around the Christmas holiday in France, this type of spice bread isn't typecast to that role the way you'd think it would be. It is quite at home in this country all year round as an element in everyday French cafe and restaurant meals. For example, imagine ordering these dishes I've gathered from various French restaurant menus:
Pain d’épices encrusted Atlantic sea bass with pan tossed chanterelle mushrooms
A vegetable selection served with pain d’épices breaded foie gras
Duck breast with sliced pain d’épices
Pain d’épices breaded lamb napped with a flavorful reduction sauce
Pain d’épices breaded halibut fillet
Oven crisped pain d’épices breaded rabbit served with a slowly caramelized sour glazed carrot dish
Scallops seasoned with pain d’épices spices
Foie gras escalope with flavors of pain d’épices
Pain d’épices breaded veal kidneys
Veal glazed with a pain d’épices and sesame sauce
A pain d’épices tartine topped with foie gras and green apple chutney
Roasted Mediterranean fish with a pain d’épices seasoned glaze
Foie gras served two ways, one in a Cognac based marinade, the other poached and served with pain épices
A fanned duck breast with pain d’épices seasoned sauce
The rack of lamb in a pain d'épices crust
The foie gras terrine with toasted pain d’épices and tender roasted fruits
Duck foie gras and mango compressed terrine served with wedges of pain d’épices.
Enough to get you licking your chops yet?
A pain d’épices seasoned ile flottante in almond milk custard
Pain d’épices flan with goat cheese and pears
Apple tart served with pain d’épices ice cream
Frozen pain d’épices parfait
Armagnac seasoned apple prune crumble with pain d'épices ice cream
Frozen pain d’épices, orange marmelade and Macvin soufflé
Pear tarte Tatin with pain d’épices ice cream
A pressed Tatin style apple and pain d’épices terrine served with cinnamon ice cream
Pain d’épices crème brûlée served with a fresh fruit salad
A chicorée parfait with Djion-style pain d’epices layered meringue cream dessert
Anjou pears, poached then caramelized with a pain d’épices glaze
Alsatian-style Pinot Noir plum flan paired with a pain d’épices ice cream
Pain d’épices tiramisu with salted-butter caramel ice cream
A charlotte made with pain d’épices
The apple and orange confit tart served with pain d'épices
The mix of spices for pain d’épices can have a lot of uses outside of making the spice bread itself. For her chutney aux fruits secs, Christine Ferber gives us a quick formula for the coffee grinder from spices on your rack:
Épice à pain d’épices
1 part (gram weight) each:
dried (organic) lemon zest (optional)
dried (organic) orange zest.
Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods. Place the spices and dried orange zest in your grinder and give them a whirl, or crush with a mortar and pestle. Use in your chutney aux fruits secs or pain d’épices.
Labels: winter 09-10