miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2012

Spice Bread or Carbonade Flamande Part 1!

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The temperature has drop dreadfully those days, my kitchen garden is putting on a white coat in the mornings here the video, we even had a hailstorm...and my good old Citroën AX finds it hard to start up!
Winter is here!

And what do we feel like when the weather is sooo cold? Well, we feel like being wrapped up in a warm and heavy duvet, watching a movie, having a hot chocolate or eating Mummy's home-made stew!!
Last week she told me how good was her carbonade flamande recipe. My aim for the week: get this carbonade on my plate! 
The carbonade flamande is a typical dish from the North of France (my birth place) and more particularly from Belgium. 
It is a beef stew, the meat is simmering for hours in dark beer with brown sugar, mustard and ....spice bread! 
That explains the title of my post. In order to make this dish I need pain d'épices, it is the only ingredient I can't replace. Unfortunately I can't find any in Spain, nowhere. So I have to make my own. 

The pain d’épices has its origin in China! In the 10th century Chinese use to eat an oven cooked bread flavored with many spices, the favorite of Gengis Khan's knights (founder of the Mongol Empire).It spreads to Arabian territories during the war. Then arrives to Europe with the ones who were lucky to come back home after the Crusades. 
It gets to be famous in Germany and Alsace and slowly arrives to Reims where it is introduced with a rye flour recipe. In the Middle Age, it got famous because of its spices that are able to hide the bad taste of the rancid flour! Times have changed, there a big difference between the spice bread that was eaten then and the one we use nowadays.

French eat it for the afternoon tea, children love it. Surprisingly it goes very well with foie gras. It is usual to find it on the table for Christmas Eve. The most famous pain d'épices in France is Prosper represented by a funny bear.

Anyway, let's go back to the recipe....here is a very good one, perfect for a soft and slightly sticky bread with a strong honey and spices taste. In the following post I will tell you all about how it went with the carbonade. I hope it will be up to my expectations.

300g of honey
40g brown sugar (ideally we should use the typical sugar from Belgium and North of France: cassonade/vergeoise, which is a kind of moist brown sugar, like muscovado sugar) or 60g of orange or apricot jam.  
200g of flour
50g of whole flour
1 sachet of baking powder
2 medium eggs
100ml whole milk
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon oil (olive or sunflower)
Spices: 2 teaspoons grounded cinnamon, 2 teaspoons grounded ginger, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of grounded anise and 1 teaspoon of grounded cardamom or 2 table spoons of a special mix of spice for pain d'épices (if you know someone who can get it for you from France).
I always add more spices, that's how I like it. 

Preheat the oven on 180ºC.
Grease a rectangular tin with butter or line with baking paper.

In a small pan heat the honey, the sugar and the oil until liquid.  
In a bowl, mix the flour with the spices, salt and yeast. Stir in the eggs, the milk and the liquid mixture. Stir well. 

Pour in the mold until about 3/4 full. Put in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Cover with tin foil if it starts to burn a little bit on the top.  It is important not to overcook the bread, it can easily get dry and hard! Check with the point of a knife, if it comes out clean and dry of the bread, it is ready!  
Take the bread out of the oven, remove from the mold and let it cool on a rack.
Once completely cool, wrap it up in tinfoil or cling film and set aside for 24h before eating. That's how you it gets softer and tasty!

Savour with a nice cup of tea, a hot chocolate or why not use it to make some spice bread icecream or cupcakes frosting?  

I've already made my mind up, it will end in my carbonade (well, and the rest will go to Mon Chéri's stomach as I only need a few slices!).

To be continued! 

A good recipe from Palais des Délices