Pain d'épice - From Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett



Since I learned how to make no-knead bread via Jim Lahey's book, My Bread, I have fallen in love with baking bread using this simple, foolproof technique.

Which is what led me to Nancy Baggett's book, Kneadlessly Simple. I've enjoyed Nancy's book because of the wide variety of everyday staples and more exotic breads that I was eager to try. Today's bread recipe fell into the latter category.

Nancy describes this bread as an "aromatic, flavorful, fruit-and-spice loaf...a French favorite, particularly in the farthest easter region of Alsace...quite spectacular  spread with cream cheese."

That last bit of description clinched the deal for me, since one of my favorite light-breakfasts consists of a slice of flavored bread spread with Labneh (a delicious spreadable yogurt cheese that tastes like cream cheese).

If you've ever wanted to bake bread but were intimidated, try Jim Lahey's or Nancy Baggett's books. You'll be amazed by how easy and accessible the recipes are, and how delicious the breads turn out.

You'll be a hero in your home!



Ingredients:

1/2 cup each dark raisins and golden raisins

2 1/4 cup unbleached white bread flour

1 cup medium rye flour or whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons anise seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons instant, fast-rising yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 cup clover honey or other mild honey

1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1 1/2 cups ice water

1/4 cup diced (1/8-inch pieces) crystallized ginger

Flavorless oil for coating dough top

2 teaspoons clover honey blended with
2 teaspoons water for wash


Directions:

1. Soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.

2. Whisk together the flours, anise seeds, yeast, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl or 4-cup measuring cup mix together water, honey, raisins, orange zest, and crystallized ginger

4. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients into the the dry ingredients, stirring until completely mixed and a sticky ball is formed.

5. First rise: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dishtowel and let rise for 12-18 hours. (Nancy also gives you the option of first placing the dough in the fridge for 3 - 10 hours before this first rise)

6. Second rise: Sirt the dough, Turn it out into a well-oiled 9X5 inch load pan. Brush top of dough with oil. Cover with non-stick spray coated plastic wrap and let rise for 2 1/2 hours. Continue the rise until dough extends 1/2 inch above the pan rim.

7. 30 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of oven, preheat to 350F. Evenly brush the top of the dough with the honey/water wash.

8.Bake on lower rack for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the loaf is well browned, covering with foil as needed. Continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes  more until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer to ensure the center is done.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minus, then turn the loaf onto rack and cool thoroughly.

9. Top may be decorated with a shower of powdered sugar or lemon drizzle.

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