Friday, December 14, 2012

Honey Spice Loaf

It's been quite a long time since I've had Pain d'Epices, a French spice bread typically made with rye flour, honey and spices with origins that date back to the Napoleonic era.  When I worked in a French bakery, we produced it every week.  The texture is usually dense and it's often served as an accompaniment to savory food at holidays.

This loaf cake is different but somewhat in the same vein, although it has the texture of cake rather than bread.  The focus is really on the interplay between the raisins and the anise seeds, which I think are well matched.  There's a touch of whole wheat flour to keep the taste fairly rustic.  It's plain in nature and would pair well with a smear of soft cream cheese.

In this season of strong flavors and textures, I like the subtle flavor and the soft crumb of this cake.  So while it's a fairly simple and understated composition, I think it's still worthy of a holiday brunch table or afternoon tea or coffee affair when you feel a momentary urge to stray away from the usual seasonal loaf cakes and breads.

Bench notes:
- Plump the raisins by pouring hot simmering water over them and letting them stand for 1/2 hour.  Then place in a strainer and drain for 5 minutes.
- As with most spice cakes and cookies, this tastes better the next day.  The cake will keep for a few days wrapped and placed in an airtight container.

Honey Spice Loaf
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t anise seeds, crushed
1/8 t allspice
1/8 t cloves
pinch nutmeg
1/2 C canola oil
2 eggs @ room temperature
1/3 C honey
1/2 C dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 t vanilla
zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1/2 C raisins, plumped and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/12" loaf pan and line with a piece of parchment paper large enough to form an overhang on both sides along the length of the pan.

Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt and all the spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, honey and sugars until smooth.  Add the vanilla and orange zest.  Alternately add a third of the flour mixture and half the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix just until the batter is blended and has no streaks of flour.  Stir in plumped and drained raisins.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.  Remove from pan and peel off the parchment.


saturday mike said...

Made this yesterday and served it for brunch today. It was REALLY good! Very easy to put together and, as suggested, let it sit overnight so the flavors would meld and deepen. I didn't have cream cheese, but it was really nice with a thick smear of salted butter!
The only issue I had was when baking it. My oven rack was too high, so the top became VERY dark before the bottom was fully cooked. Not sure why I didn't move the rack to the center, but it definitely matters and I won't forget next time.
And there will be a next time!

pastry studio said...

Greetings, saturday mike! So nice to hear from you again and very pleased you liked this cake as much as I did. I just love the simple flavors.

Here's wishing for a terrific holiday to you and your family!