Burgundian Honey Spice Bread

The wealthy and powerful Dukes of Burgundy controlled the spice trade in the Middle Ages. The windows of the shops and bakeries of Dijon are still filed with tightly wrapped loaves of pain d’épice, the traditional honey spice bread of the region. It’s similar to American-style gingerbread only in that they both contain a variety of spices. The texture of the French bread, however, is denser, as it’s traditionally baked at a low temperature for several hours, and the spice combination is slightly different. I’ve adapted this version to cook in less time. The texture isn’t as traditional, but the flavor is still incredible. While at La Varenne, we served this bread for breakfast for special guests. It’s also wonderful with a hot cup of tea on a chilly fall afternoon.–Virginia Willis

LC Comment Dit-On En Français Note

How does one pronounce pain d’épice, that is to say, spice bread in French? Easy peasy. Pan day piece. Say it with us. Pan day piece. There. You’re ready to travel to Paris.

Burgundian Honey Spice Bread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups honey (preferably tupelo, orange blossom, or sweet clover)
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed (it’s not widely available, but it can be ordered online or simply grind your own in a spice grinder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons very finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°). Brush two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with some butter. Cut 4 strips of parchment paper so that you have 2 strips that are 15-by-5 inches and 2 strips that are 14-by-8 inches. Place the 2 long pieces of parchment along the length of the buttered pan and press to adhere. Brush the parchment with butter. Lay the two wider pieces crosswise on top. Brush the parchment with butter. Everything must be very well buttered or the bread will stick.
  • 2. Heat the milk, brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside until slightly cooled.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, ground fennel, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. In 2 batches, add the honey mixture and candied ginger. Scrape down the sides as needed and blend on low speed until just combined.
  • 4. In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, egg yolk, and baking soda. Stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the batter and beat until well blended.
  • 5. To bake the loaves, pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans, dividing it evenly and not filling the pans more than halfway. Bake, rotating once, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if the bread starts to become too dark.
  • 6. Remove the loaves to a rack to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Turn them out of the pans and immediately remove the parchment paper. Store very tightly wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 week.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Larry Noak

Dec 23, 2009

This Burgundian Honey Spice Bread is, to say the very least, a FABULOUS and festive brown bread that will make every day a holiday. The bread is very cake-like and is delicious with or without butter or even buttercream. The bread comes together very easily. For an occasion, you could easily double the recipe and have 4 wonderful loaves. Candied or crystallized ginger can be difficult to find (and sometimes overpriced); I found mine at Trader Joe's for $1.49 for an 8-ounce bag. I like to double the candied ginger to give it a nice kick. Make this bread, you won't be disappointed!

Comments
Comments
  1. Chuck Matthews says:

    David,

    I appreciate the e-mails that steer me to so many fantastic recipes on your website.

    Regards,
    Chuck

  2. Cathy Arnold says:

    I’ve made this twice to rave reviews. Reminds me of something you would find on a medieval table. It will probably keep well, but I’ll never know since both loaves were consumed in three days. I grind whole spices in a small coffee grinder kept just for that purpose and it only takes a minute or two for the fennel. The second time I made it I used a 300 degree oven and baked for about an hour which eliminated a too brown crust. I also use a non-stick aluminum foil molded in the pans prior to filling them and don’t both greasing the pans at all.

  3. Sarah Esparza says:

    I was looking for a spice bread that used ginger to help quell a craving. This one caught my eye because I do historical reenactment, specifically Renaissance France. Left out the fennel and candied ginger because I didn’t have it on hand. Used a cup of whole wheat flour to make it a bit heartier and baked in two 9-by-4-inch bread pans. This smelled wonderful as a batter, spectacular while baking, and I am now tempted to hide the loaves so I don’t have to share them. It has a rich, dark color from the honey and brown sugar and the spices are just lovely. A five-star recipe that I’ll be making again! Thank you so much for putting this up.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in such enticing detail, Sarah! We’re so glad to hear of your experience. And oh yes, you’re welcome.

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