The texture is weird at first, the knife sort of doesn´t want to dive into it and offers a bit of a resistance. A thick skin, that´s what this bread has. And shiny. So, it´s better to leave it wrapped for one or two days, like the recipe advices. But it looked so nice that of course I cut it before that. And then I wrapped it and left it unbothered for a day.
It was so much better the next days. It becomes a more uniform thing in terms of flavor and texture. The spices and nuts and dried fruit and honey are what this bread is all about. Kind of obvious, right? I went ahead and used up almost everything I had. Mainly pistachios and figs. Man, I love that stuff.
I recently found out my mom loves figs uncontrollably too. She bluntly told me that I should take the bread away, and also the containers with the dried figs, and the jar with the fresh fig jam I made a few days ago, if I wanted them to last. She had no control, she said, and wasn´t about to try to build it up now. She would just eat all the fig-related stuff lying around. I pretty much feel the same way.
So you can imagine I made a very figgy pain d´epices. So good.
The combinations are many, and what makes a huge difference is the type of honey used. The thing with honey in this country is that, beside a few flavors that you may come by accidentally at some specialty store that will most certainly be sold in expensive and tiny jars, here there´s just honey. It´s all the same. Honey.
So I set out to make my own flavored honeys, with a wonderful recipe from Viviane´s site. The process is dead easy and you can have great honey in a few hours. I had to restrain myself from making a dozen different combinations. Just cardamom and cinnamon-mint this time. You can get the recipe here.
from Simply Sensational Desserts, by Francois Payard
1 cup (335g) honey
¾ cup (150g) sugar
2 Tbs dark rum, such as Myers´s
2 pieces star anise
2 cups (180g) nuts, I used a mix of almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts
1 cup (150g) dried fruit, I used apricots, dark and light figs and prunes
½ cup (90g) raisins, both dark and golden
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 Tbs + 1 teaspoon (20g) baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Vietnamese)
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
3 cups (435g) all purpose flour, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350ºF / 180ºC
Butter and flour one large loaf pan or 4 individual small ones.
Combine 1 ¾ cups (143g) water, honey, sugar, rum and star anise in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients except the flour in a large bowl.
Remove and discard the star anise and pour the liquid over the fruit and nut mixture. Let stand, stirring gently every now and then, for 5 minutes, then stir in the flour. Let the mixture stand for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour the batter into the pan or divide evenly among the small pans, filling about ¾ full.
Bake for 45 to 1 hour or more (depends on the pan size), or until a tester inserted in the center of the pain comes out with a few moist crumbs attached to the tip. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Unmold the loaves, wrap in plastic and store for one or two days.