Christmas means gingerbread. But since molasses and/ or treacle aren’t exactly easy to come by in Corrientes, Argentina (where I am living with my Fiancé while he finishes Medical School), I decided to do a little searching. The first step was to pour the net for sites from the place where all things fabulously Christmas come: Alsace, France.
According to The French Food and Cook "Pain d'épices (gingerbread) was imported in France in the Middle Ages, in particular in East France, with the cities of Dijon and Reims as leading producers. Today, pain d'épices remains a specialty of Eastern France (Dijon, Alsace…). Pain d'épices that usually contents 30% of honey is very energetic (180 calories for 1 slice) and was considered as a very good medicine. There are various sorts of pain d'épices depending on region and cities, for example, some are with almonds or dried fruit." Though spice cakes go back as far as the Greeks, they came to Europe by way of China.
My fiance had never tried gingerbread before, so I didn't want to knock him out with something as sticky as the classic British gingerbread my mum makes from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book. The French Pain d'epices is more cake-like, but I wanted to keep the British flavoring. In the end I used the thick black sugar (Azucar Negra) that you can find in the markets here and ½ a cup of honey. I also threw in a little black pepper for good measure as some of the websites recommended, it may sound strange but it tastes divine.
In the end here is the recipe I used:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger (that I brought with me from the states)
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 ground cloves (this might be a bit much for some people, and I ground the cloves right before I used them)
1/4 tsps black pepper
1/2 tsps nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt (I know some very dangerous people that skip on the salt this is a very silly idea, it gives depth to the flavor and can't be missed!)
mix that in with 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons) and an egg until you have a lovely creamy puddle.
Then add in 1/2 azucar negra and 1 cup of honey.
Mix and then add 1//2 of hot water.
I baked mine around 350 for 35 mins in a bread pan and topped it off with a light coat of powdered sugar once it came out of the oven. If you don’t have Azucar negra, use 1/2 brown sugar and 1 cup of molasses instead. You can add orange zest as well. Very yum!