Pain d’Épices

The challenge for this month’s BreadBakingDay #18, hosted by Mansi (Fun & Food Blog) and Zorra (1x umrühren bitte), was Quick Breads. When I think of “quick bread” I usually think of a giant loaf-shaped muffin, not really a bread at all. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I wanted a bread. Or as close as you can get to bread without involving some sort of yeast.

I thought of soda bread, but with Saint Patrick’s Day well over by the time I got to doing this, it just didn’t seem right. I scanned my books and settled on Pain d’Épices from Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour. The recipe contains no fat whatsoever (no eggs, no butter, no oil, no milk) so I knew it would not bear much resemblance to a muffin. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how much I would love this.

There’s no question that this a very homely looking loaf, but the plain-Jane appearance belies its seductive nature. The flavor derives mainly from anise, complimented by mustard powder and cinnamon, and from honey. I’m going to be living and breathing that anise-mustard-cinnamon-honey combination for quite some time to come. I’m going to be sleeping with it and injecting it into my veins. If I run out, I’m going to be trading my first-born child for it. Really.

This a dense bread, and Malgieri suggests wrapping the loaf in foil for a day or two before serving, to make it more tender. That’s fine if you’re the patient type. Or you can just do what I did, and dip it in your coffee or tea for instant tenderizing; the bread is substantial enough to take it. You may never eat biscotti again.

Pain d’Épices
(adapted from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri)

Yield: one 9 x 5-inch loaf


  • 355 g all-purpose flour
  • 3 g (1 t.) ground or crushed anise seed
  • 2 g (1 t.) dry mustard
  • 2 g (1 t.) cinnamon
  • 13 g (2.5 t.) baking powder
  • 3 g (1/2 t.) salt
  • 227 g water
  • 130 g sugar
  • 232 g honey
  • 1.5 t. finely-grated orange zest


  1. Preheat oven to 375F, with rack in the center.
  2. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, anise, mustard, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Place over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup comes to a simmer.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and orange zest.
  6. Sift half the dry ingredients mixture into the syrup, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients, again 1/4 cup at a time; fold in each addition with a spatula.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes; then de-pan the bread and cool completely before wrapping in foil.
  9. Age for a day or two before serving (or not).

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    I had the same problem that quick bread means something like a muffin to me. And for me, a muffin is a kind of very small cake.
    But your recipe sounds very delicous and not cake-like. And it looks really like bread, too ;-)
    This is added to my “What I want to bake” list!

  2. says

    Pain d’epices has so many memories for me in Alsace where I lived and there are so many derivative desserts you can make with the combination of spices in this wonderful bread with,(though dry mustard seems rather odd? Your sure it wasn’t a miss print?) hmmm….you sure your going to trade in your first born, must be good stuff!

  3. says

    Wow! This bread sounds delicious. Mustard powder, cinnamon, and honey? What a fabulous combination. I love that if you let the loaf sit, it gets more tender, too. How perfect!

  4. says

    Jeremy, Malgieri says he has always added mustard because the loaf is closely associated with the city of Dijon. It seemed odd to me too but so good!

    And B, if you’re reading this, don’t worry honey, the chances of me needing to use you to score some spices are really pretty small. You might want to keep your door locked though.

  5. ASL4U says

    I just made this bread! just now!… and WOW!
    I made some mistakes – so I’ll share them so you know that if you make the same ones, you’ve not killed it:
    I put all the dry ingredients in together and sifted them, including the sugar (that’s what happens when you are walking back and forth between the kitchen and the computer to enter the ingredients!)
    but what I did to resolve the potential problem was, I boiled the honey and the water in the microwave (1 min) and got them together and HOT… and then I melted the sugar in the bowl as I mixed in the hot water/honey.
    Just pulled this loaf out of the oven, cooled for about 10 minutes and cut off a slice and WOW.. its is just really Good! (Chewy while its warm!)
    Thank you for a great recipe!

  6. brady says

    Hi there,

    you make this loaf sound so delicious, I think I’m going to try making my own loaf tonight. I was wondering what type of mustard powder you used though. I have a couple of different kinds and they’re both very different. Or maybe a better question is how spicy of a mustard did you use?

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve made some really good loaves from your blog and also started my sourdough starter with advice from your blog!

  7. says

    Here in the Touraine, it is traditional to make Pain d’épices using the very strong dark miel de sarrasin (buckwheat honey). It accentuates the already rather medicinal flavour provided by the spices. The addition of mustard in the recipe you have used is most interesting – must try it out. It’s also very common here to substitute hazelnut meal for some of the flour. The bread is usually eaten for breakfast, dipped in coffee.

  8. says

    ASL4U, wow, that was fast! Glad you liked it.

    brady, I just used regular old mustard powder from the supermarket. It is not particularly spicy. The mustard flavor does not jump out at you.

    Susan W, thanks for those tips. Hazelnut flour would be really interesting to try.

  9. says

    At my organic store they sell a jar of “pain d’épice” spices… to die for! This is a classic French “quick bread” that is made with either whole wheat or rye flour which also adds depth of flavor. I love it when it’s home made, but less when bought in a package. That reminds me, I posted a recipe for bread pudding made with it… you MUST try that one! Jane

  10. says

    Made this last night and had a slice with coffee this morning. It was wonderful. After assembling most of the ingredients however, I realized I did not have enough honey in the house, so I used up the honey I did have, I added a touch of dark corn syrup (for shame!) brown sugar and water. Obviously can’t compare it to the all honey version yet, but it tastes wonderful, great texture too. I used the classic Colemans dry mustard and fennel seeds instead of anise.

  11. says

    I’ve made some pain d’epice with a store-bought spice mix (consisting of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger) last winter. It had a peppery aftertaste which I found a bit to strong. I bookmarked this recipe to try out next.

  12. says

    I’m bookmarking this, it sounds so amazing! Anything with anise and orange is a winner, in my book, and it will be interesting to see what the infusion of mustard brings to the flavor combo.

  13. aida says

    Hi, I´m a mexican lady made it 2 days ahead, don´t know what happened, maybe the altitude but it went never dry it was very steaky all the time can´t tell anything more because I just tried a little piece and it disapeared !!!! the flavors are just fantastic and the comments where: it tastes like a honey leikaj ! to much orange peel but delicious, a little hot as I put hot dry mustard instead and was just incredible good.

  14. Sunflower Girl says

    I’ve been lurking for a while here and enjoying the blog. I bake every Friday, and have been making bread of various kinds for 30 years now. I was dubious about the pain d’épices, since I’m not a fan of anise, but I made it yesterday for breakfast today – wonderful! Amazing dipped in coffee. And very popular with my husband (“tastes like things I ate with my German grandparents”) and kids (“tastes like Christmas”). Reminded me of the south of France. Only change was substitution of lemon for the orange, since I didn’t have an orange on hand. Thank you!

  15. says

    All these comments and suggestions, I’d better make up a loaf and try it! Will have to borrow back the book, as I gave it to my grandson for Christmas. He’s 12 and loves to bake! Good choice, I love the different spices in the recipe.

  16. Linda says

    Holy Cow! This bread is fantastic! When I read your original post, I was beguiled. I am not really a quick bread kinda gal. but this sounded great. and it is.

    do I owe you my first born now?

  17. Nathaniel says

    This recipe is as close to my Mimi’s that I could find!
    I have been eating this delicious bread since I was a small boy (I am 32 now) so I have a taste for it we shall say! The only difference is she uses brown sugar not white, self rising flour ( no need for baking powder.) Plus she always combined the honey, brown sugar and milk in a pot and got it hot and all melted then added it to the flour… But besides the small differences bravo!!!


  1. [...] La repostería de otoño y de invierno huele a especias. Al menos así ha sido siempre en mi casa, donde tenemos una extraña mezcla de costumbres suizas y murcianas. Cuando se acerca la Navidad lo que más me apetece hornear son masas aromáticas, panes, galletas o bizcochos, que adquieren diferentes nombres según la región (Lebkuchen, gingerbread, pain d’épice). Para esta receta de pan dulce de especias me he basado en la que podemos encontrar en el blog Wild Yeast. [...]

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