Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Spice Bread

This bread is, in truth, more like a spicy cake but to me it is bread in the same way that tea brack or soda bread, although cake-like, are breads. Despite its fairly unassuming and plain looks, this bread is packed with delicious flavours and its almost austere appearance belies its delightfully delectable qualities. The crumb is not as delicate as a sweet cake would be and in texture is more like a gingerbread cake or a freshly baked brown soda bread.

What I present here is essentially the same as a French pain d’epices and whilst lovely to eat on its own with a refreshing cup of tea, it is incredible versatile and also makes a great accompaniment to a range of dishes.

I love it gently fried in a little butter and served with some pan-fried apple or pear wedges and a caramel sauce. Although calorific and perhaps not great for the arteries, this is an incredibly delicious and self-indulgent treat to eat every once in a while.

The finished flavour of the bread also depends very much on the choice of honey used as different types will produce subtly different results. The inclusion of ground cloves and allspice give the bread an almost bitter edge on the palate. This is not in any way unpleasant and means that the bread is a perfect partner to rich ingredients, such as foie gras or blue cheese.

The aroma of the bread as it cooks reminds me so much of my kitchen at Christmastime and also brings back fond memories of the bustling activity in my grandmother’s kitchen as she prepared for the annual festivities.

Finally, I should mention that this bread stores incredibly well and is still extremely good to eat a few days after having been baked – just store it in an airtight tin.
 

Ingredients:

250g runny honey
125g light brown Muscovado sugar
75g butter
175ml water
225g plain flour
1tblsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground allspice
A generous pinch of ground cloves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
30g flaked almonds
50g raisins, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 25cm x 10cm loaf tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the honey, butter and sugar into a saucepan and add the water. Place over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Bring up to the boil and then remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large mixing bowl and slowly add the honey mixture and the beaten egg, mixing well to ensure that there are no little pockets of flour.
4. Finally, add the flaked almonds and chopped raisins, mixing well to distribute evenly. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.

Serves 10-12.