This quick bread mix makes a fine holiday gift for those with both a sweet tooth and a taste for the unusual. A centuries-old tradition in Alsace, the fragrant honey-spice loaf is a bit different in character from the typical gingerbread-style and spiced fruit bread recipes most Americans are familiar with.
Its distinctive, slightly exotic taste comes from a combination of honey, aniseed, dried orange peel, crystallized ginger and several ground spices. The loaf normally is served plain in Alsace, but this moister, updated bread-in-a-jar version includes the makings for a simple glaze, which adds a festive look and a touch of sweetness.
Layer the mix ingredients in a 1-quart jar or canister made of clear glass, acrylic or plastic. Remember to provide recipe directions along with the mix.
Make Ahead: The jar of mix can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month, and for up to 2 months if refrigerated. The bread tastes best if allowed to mellow for a few hours before serving. Store, airtight, for up to 1 week.
Yield: Makes 1 quart of mix
- For the bread mix
- 1 1/2 cups flour (do not use bread flour)
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (may substitute light or medium rye flour)
- Scant 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground aniseed (may substitute 1 tablespoon whole aniseed, crushed)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (may substitute ground allspice)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried orange peel (may substitute dried orange zest; see related tip)
- 3/4 cup golden or dark seedless raisins (or a combination)
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (for the glaze)
- For the bread and glaze
- 1 1-quart jar bread mix
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup corn oil, canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sour cream (may substitute plain yogurt)
- 1/4 cup clover honey or other mild honey, plus 1 tablespoon for the glaze
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla, almond or lemon extract
- 2 teaspoons hot water, plus more as needed
For the bread mix: Place the white flour on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Use the foil as a funnel to pour the flour into a 1-quart (or 1-liter) jar. Rap the jar on the counter to even out the layer.
Combine the whole-wheat flour, sugar, aniseed, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and salt on the foil, stirring to blend well. Add to the jar; shake and rap the jar on the counter to even the layer.
Dust off the foil; place the ginger and dried orange peel on it. Add to the jar, rapping it to compact the layers.
Place the raisins in a small, sturdy plastic bag; close it tightly and place over the ginger. Put the confectioners' sugar in a separate small plastic bag; close it tightly and tuck in the top of the jar. Provide a tag or card with the following recipe directions to go with the jar or use our <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/foodanddining/graphics/GlazedAlsatianHoneySpiceBread.pdf" target="_blank">printable version</a> (PDF).
Glazed Alsatian Honey Spice Bread: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (or similar 1 1/2-quart) loaf pan with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Remove the confectioners' sugar packet from the jar and set aside. Open the raisin packet into a colander and rinse under hot water, then let drain well.
Whisk 1 large egg in a large bowl until lightened and very frothy. Whisk in 1/2 cup of corn oil, canola or other flavorless vegetable oil a few drops at a time, gradually increasing the oil flow. Whisk vigorously until all the oil is incorporated and the mixture is well blended, thickened and creamy-looking.
Add the bread mix, 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, 1/4 cup clover honey or other mild honey and the drained raisins to the bowl, stirring just until well blended. Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing and leveling it into the corners of the pan.
Bake on the middle oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cover with foil and continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few particles on the end and the loaf feels firm when pressed in the center of the top. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool until barely warm. Then set the loaf on a serving plate.
To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar (from the bag), 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/8 teaspoon of either vanilla, almond or lemon extract, and 2 teaspoons of hot water in a small bowl until completely smooth and slightly fluid. If necessary, thin with more water.
Use a round-edge knife to spread the glaze evenly over the loaf until the top and sides are coated. Gather any glaze that drips off and spread it over the top again.
The jar of mix can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 month, and for up to 2 months if refrigerated. The bread tastes best if allowed to mellow for a few hours before serving. Store, airtight, for up to 1 week.
From cookbook author Nancy Baggett.
Tested by Mary Pat Flaherty.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.