Pain d'Épices (Bouchon Bakery French Gingerbread Loaf)
French gingerbread is known as pain d’épices or spice bread. This version is moister, darker and denser than American gingerbread, which is lighter and more airy. This simple but delicious dairy free recipe hails from Bouchon Bakery.
2 ¼cups plus 2 teaspoons(340 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ½teaspoons(8 grams) baking soda
1tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon(7 grams) ground ginger
1 ½teaspoons(4 grams) ground cinnamon
⅜teaspoon(1 gram) ground cloves
½plus ⅛ teaspoon(2 grams) kosher salt
1cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons(220 grams) dark brown sugar,lightly packed
1cup plus 2 ¼ teaspoons(340 grams) unsulfured blackstrap molasses
1cup(215 grams) canola or vegetable oil(or other neutral flavored oil)
¼cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons(100 grams) beaten eggs(about 2 large eggs)
1 ¼cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons(336 grams) boiling water
1tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon(5 grams) grated lemon zest(from about 2 lemons)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 8 ½-by-4 ½-by-2 ¾-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, then spray the parchment.
Place the flour in a medium bowl and whisk in the baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Place the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed to break up any lumps. Add the molasses and mix for about 1 minute or until smooth. With the mixer running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream and continue to mix for about 1 ½ minutes, until completely combined.
Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and mix for 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dry mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each. With the mixer running, add the water 60 grams (¼ cup) at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl again. Fold in the lemon zest. The batter will be quite runny.
Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the pans and cool completely.
The cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. Defrost in the refrigerator and rewarm if desired. This gingerbread is best made a day ahead to allow the flavors to develop and deepen.
You CANNOT substitute regular molasses for blackstrap molasses. They are not interchangeable. Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar-making process, and blackstrap molasses is the result of the third and last boiling of molasses which yields the darkest and most bitter (least sweet) version of molasses. It contains vitamins and minerals including iron, manganese, copper, calcium and potassium. It also has a lower glycemic value because most of the sugar is extracted during the triple processing. I use Plantation Blackstrap Molasses for this recipe.
This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.