Thursday, March 11, 2010

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?

For dessert:
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:
star anise
black pepper
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.



Blogger RachelD said...

Between this and gfron's chocolate couscous today, I've a lingering undertongue tingle akin to sniffing the French's jar.

We got in a big box of "ordered" spices yesterdy and opened it this a.m., and I'm awash in the heady aromas, and now in your words.

5:14 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Mary Beth Magee said...

Thanks for the idea. I have a tree full of oranges right now. Do you have a recipe you like and would share for pain d'epices?

6:09 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger TKTC said...

I just bought my first ounce of star anise and this looks like a beautiful cause to put it toward. By the by, I love this site. I still have dreams about those clementines...

6:44 PM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Lilikoi said...

Stunning images!

11:21 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thank you for your kind comments, friends. Mary Beth, I worked on that in January and will continue on that project because I still don't have the absolute perfect recipe. As soon as I have one, I promise I'll share it.

4:09 PM, March 12, 2010  
Anonymous Sasa said...

I LOVE that you keep the zest. Paying attention to using everything we have without wasting is something really important to me that I learned by example from my obaachan (Japanese grandmother) and a qulaity I appreciate in others.

9:18 PM, March 14, 2010  
Anonymous Gosia said...

I'm so happy that you posted the ingredients of the epice a pain d'epices. I always wondered what goes in it. Now, would you be so kind and post the recipe for the bread itself? Or it's somewhere in your blog already, but I couldn't find it.
By the way, have you made, or even eaten all these dishes that feature the pain d'epices. They sound so exotic.
Thanks again for your wonderful blog. I enjoy it greatly, even if I'm seriously behind my reading.

3:03 PM, March 22, 2010  

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