It smells like Christmas… the perfect pain d’épices (gingerbread spice cake)

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This year, Christmas in Paris is actually unusually warm and “doux” as the French say. Nevertheless, the holiday spirit is here with all the beautiful decorations in the streets and shops and all the delicacies that are tempting us on every corner. I just can’t help myself when I pass by my absolute favorite chocolate shop in town, the wonderful Patrick Roger. He was elected the best French chocolate maker in 2014 but he’s also an artist – a sculptor, and the windows of his shops are a work of art, at every time of the year. This Christmas, elves and Christmas trees are inviting you to step inside, while last year it was penguins.

Here are some other more captured moments in the streets and shops of the City of Love. Some of the most impressive decorations can be found in the cities “grand magazins”, the two big famous department stores on Boulevard Hausmann, Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps. Aside from all the dreamy things that you can find there, it’s worth visiting them just to see the decorations!

I also love visiting Christmas markets where all the lovely smells of mulled wine and gingerbread come together into a heavenly holiday scent. Gingerbread is the ultimate smell of Christmas for me! I just took the loaf out of my oven and the whole apartment is filled with a delicious smell of honey and spices… no need for any extra scented candles! It’s delicious on it’s own with some coffee or tea (personally, I adore the Full Moon black tea from Marriages Freres during the holidays with it’s delicate almond and spice taste) or with a dollop of tangerine, cranberry or fig jam. I love to enjoy a piece with my morning coffee or in the afternoon when a sweet snack is just a must. Basically, there’s no Christmas without gingerbread and I’m so happy to have discovered the perfect gluten-free recipe that is just as soft and moist as the traditional one. The recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s book My Paris Kitchen which is originally also dairy-free (yay!), where I substituted all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour with a combination of whole rice flour, almond meal, corn starch and buckwheat flour. The choice of honey is also very important for the taste of the bread. My favorite is chestnut honey because it gives a deeper and richer flavor.

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Makes 1 gingerbread loaf (23 cm loaf pan)
Recipe adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
240 g of honey, preferably chestnut
90 g of raw, dark pure cane sugar
180 ml water
1/2 teaspoon salt
125 g whole rice flour
40 g almond meal
20 g corn starch
90 g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons of gingerbread spice mix
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
Additional optional ingredients: chopped pecans, grated orange peel

Preheat the oven at 180°C. Butter on line with parchment paper a 23 cm loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together 80g of the whole rice flour, the almond meal and corn starch. Heat the honey, raw pure cane sugar, water and salt in a saucepan until the mixture begins to boil. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mixture of dry ingredients. Set aside and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaing 45g of whole rice flour, the buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and 2 tablespoons of gingerbread spice mix.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the egg yolk.

Stir half of the honey mixture in the dry ingredients; add the eggs, then the rest of the honey mixture. Stir well to avoid any clumps of dry ingredients. To create variations of the cake, feel free to add chopped pecans or hazelnuts and/or freshly grated orange peel.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted come out clean. When ready, take out of the oven and let cool. The gingerbread spice cake will last at least a week at room temperature, if well wrapped, and can be easily frozen (it’s best to slice it before freezing).

Pain d’épices is also a wonderful home-made Christmas gift!

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