Reims Pain D’epices is a French spice flavored pastry often described as a cross between a dense cake and a soft bread. It is made using flour, baking soda or powder and a mix of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. It is sweetened only with honey.
Pain means bread and D’epices means “of spices” so the literal translation is spice bread, but it’s also referred to as a gingerbread. The first recipes for Pain D’epices used buckwheat flour, though not so much today. In France, the bread is often eaten with foie gras or strong cheeses. It is just as enjoyable buttered and paired with tea or coffee.
While there are many different recipes and spice combinations, the major differences are between Reims Pain D’epices and Dijon Pain D’epices recipes. Reims D’epices is made with rye flour and does not contain eggs and milk.
Dijon D’epices contains eggs and milk but uses wheat flour instead of rye. Other well-liked variations, regardless of the type of flour used, or the inclusion of eggs and milk are the addition of dried fruit and a honey-orange flavored version.
A few hours southeast of Reims is the region of Alsace which borders Germany and Switzerland. Located there is the Musée du Pain Dépices or the Museum of Spice Bread. It showcases several decades of spice bread history
Origin & Cultural Significance
Exactly how Reims Pain D’epices came to France isn’t entirely clear. It is rumored to have originated from Asia, shared across the Middle East and introduced in France around the 13th century. Its popularity grew over the years starting in Reims, France where the first measured recipe was developed and spread to other regions.
Initially the bread was unleavened since chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder weren’t introduced in baking until the early 1800’s.
Pain D’epices has gone in and out of popularity for years. Today it is eaten all year round but is particularly popular around the Christmas season.
- Water, very warm - 170 ml
- Rye flour - 250g
- Baking Soda - 1 tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Pure honey - 300g
- Ground cinnamon - 1 ½ tsp
- Ground ginger - ½ tsp
- Ground anise - 1 tsp
- Ground cloves - ½ tsp
- Ground nutmeg - 1 tsp
- Zest of 1 orange
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust with flour.
- Pour the honey into the warm water and stir until it dissolves.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, and orange zest together
- Slowly stir the water and honey into the dry ingredients until the mixture is smooth
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes or until the breads crust is dark brown and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before attempting to loosen it, then continue cooling.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 189Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 245mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 4gSugar: 26gProtein: 3g
Photo credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery