Is there anything nicer than the smell of baking spices wafting through the kitchen on a winter's day? Yes, having a chilled glass of sparkling wine ready to enjoy with the fruits of the oven!
When I asked Baptiste from Maison Antech in Limoux for his Christmas food and wine recommendations, his favourite pairing was Antech Blanquette de Limoux with the sweet, spicy pain d'epices. The handy thing about this French speciality is that it blurs the line between sweet and savoury. With lashings of aromatic spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, along with a good dollop of honey, it can be eaten on its own, with cream cheese and jam, or with a rich, smooth liver paté.
Luckily Antech Blanquette is well able for all options. Lovely depth and richness are balanced by crisp apple flavours, the mousse gentle and creamy. It's dry but fruity enough to work with the honeyed bread, whether served with sweet or savoury accompaniments.
Of course, many of our lovely local bakeries make pain d'epices, but those heavenly aromas are a fitting reward for baking your own.
This recipe is taken from Crumb by Richard Bertinet, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Jean Cazals.
25cm loaf tin
350g of honey
40g of soft dark brown sugar
125g of plain flour
125g of rye flour
1 tbsp of mixed spice, typically ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace and cloves
1 tsp star anise
20g of baking powder
2 medium eggs
100g of whole milk
20g of butter, for greasing the tin
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
2 Gently heat the honey in a pan with the sugar, stirring until the sugar melts, then remove from the heat
3 Combine the plain flour, rye flour, mixed spice, star anise and baking powder in a bowl
4 In a separate bowl beat together the eggs and milk, and then stir in the honey and sugar mixture. Stir this into the dry ingredients to form a batter
5 Melt the butter in a small pan and use to brush the inside of a 25cm long tin
6 Fill the tin with the batter, transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes until the top is dark brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean
Photos - ThadyTráPhotography