Pain d’épices is part of French traditional desserts. It’s not only a gingerbread if you translate literally. It’s actually a cake baked in a loaf tin (the French actually use the word cake for loafs, gâteau being the generic term for cakes, isn’t that funny?). Pain d’épices is made with many different spices : ginger of course (ground ginger) cut also cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and clove being the most commonly used spices.
We can even find a special blend of spices for gingerbread in épices pour pain d’épices fine grocery shops. French gingerbread spices blend is made of: cinnamon, coriander, anis, clove, green cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, fennel and ginger. At least the one I bought at G. Detou, an amazing tiny grocery shop located in the center of Paris, near Les Halles, where many pastry chefs go shopping. In my recipe, I add citrus zests (orange and lemon, and a bit of lemon juice as well).
Well this is note quite correct. It’s not my recipe, but a family recipe coming from my husband’s aunt. All her life, she baked pain d’épices and gave a loaf to the one they love everytime she met them. My mother in low use to come back from her journeys in Brittany with a bag full of pain d’épices, and use to pre-slice them and freeze them, this way she could have gingerbread on hand anytime she needed or wanted some. This is to say that the recipe have been widely approved. You can check the pain d’épices recipe here, I also tell you in this article the story behind, you’ll see the origin and the history of this French dessert is very rich. For French gastronomy lovers, head there to read the story.
Even though the French just love to eat gingerbread as you would do for any cake, at breakfast (with salted butter, among best breakfasts ever!), tea tome, afternoon snack, or for dessert with ice-cream, fresh fruit salad or poached fruits for example; there are many other ways to use gingerbread in a savory or sweet dish. I’m not talking here about using gingerbread house leftovers but creating recipes with gingerbread as one of the ingredients, with different shapes : sliced, cubed, ground…
Here are 6 ways to use gingerbread in your cooking or baking.
Cut thin slices of gingerbread, eventually toast them, and serve them with any topping you wish, it gives a wonderful sweet and savory combination. It goes well with foie gras with caramelized onion or fig jam for example. I know foie gras is controversial but it’s part of French gastronomy. Nice also with smoked salmon and a light creamy sauce. Many combination to imagine, don’t be afraid to use gingerbread with savory toppings.
Make cubes or slices of gingerbread, heat butter in a pan and fry gingerbread on all sides. It will caramelize and give a wonderful twist to many dishes, may they be sweet or savory such as a mixed salad, roast vegetables, pasta or risotto… I just love to have crunchy caramelized gingerbread croutons with squash soup. One of my favorites. And the good news is that it’s on the blog, see the link here.
Gingerbread as an ingredient, thus cooked in a dish
Have you ever heard of Flemish carbonade? Called carbonade flamande in French? It’s a beef stew from Northern France, meet being cooked in beer with onions. Before the end, a few slices of gingerbread spread with Dijon mustard is added. It helps thicken the sauce and give a wonderful taste to the dish, see the carbonade flamande recipe here.
Gingerbread crumbs for breaded ingredients
You can grind gingerbread and use it as you usually do with breadcrumbs. The pain d’épices shouldn’t be too recent as too moist it will be difficult to grind. If so don’t hesitate to toast it. I did this at a cooking workshop for French delis federation and event showed the recipe live on French TV a few years ago. In this recipe that is only in French for the moment but that I will try to translate soon, I breaded French boudin blanc (typical white sausage made with white meat, eggs and milk) with gingerbread crumb. A delight. Meanwhile, I’ll leave the link in French here, and see the replay of the TV show in French below.
Gingerbread crumbs as a topping
Grind gingerbread as we’ve just seen and simply use it to sprinkle crumbs on sweet or savory preparations. As gingerbread goes very well with foie gras don’t hesitate to sprinkle some on top such as for those treats with a pear sauce. Perfect with many dessert, poached fruits, ice-cream, fresh fruit salad, chocolate cake with vanilla custard… Combinations are endless.
Gingerbread French toasts
French toasts are actually called pain perdu, which litterally means “lost bread” in French. This comes from the fact that French toasts are made with bread leftovers that we don’t want to through away, thus loose. Be that as it may, have you ever tried to make French toast with gingerbread? Believe me, it’s a must try. As for gingerbread croutons, it becomes a bit caramelized as gingerbread is very sweet. A delight. Do the same thing as for classic French toasts, beaten egg and milk. No or few sugar however as gingerbread is already very sweet.
Well, isn’t that mouthwatering? I hope those few lines and ideas made you want to try. Don’t hesitate to tell me in comment what you’ve tested or the recipes you’ve invented based on those 6 ways to use gingerbread. And if you have any other proposal, I’d love to hear them.