Monday, 17 December 2012

Pain d'epices and Recycled Baubles

It was Lilo's playgroup Christmas party today, so I thought we would bring something baked to contribute. This morning, Ju and I made a "pain d'epices", which is a French spiced honey cake. Although it translates literally as spice bread, it is not the same as gingerbread and it has its roots in China, from where it was brought over in the Middle Ages. It is also a cousin of German Lebkuchen. We used to eat this a lot for snack time as children and I have never really associated it with Christmas time, but it contains all the usual spices. I adapted the recipe from French recipe site marmiton to make it gluten-free.

Pain d'epices

- 250 g honey
- 250 g flour (I used Doves gluten-free plain flour)
- 100 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground anise
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 eggs
- 50 ml milk

Pre-heat the oven at 160°C.
Heat up the honey in a saucepan until really runny and pour it into a bowl containing the flour, baking powder, sugar and spices. Mix well with a wooden spoon and gradually beat in 2 eggs and the vanilla extract, then add the lukewarm milk.
Ju stirs the cake mixture
Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour and turn out the cake when it has cooled down completely.
It keeps for one week wrapped in foil. 
Slice of delicious pain d'epices
It is delicious spread with butter or on its own and eating it takes me right back to childhood. The texture is slightly chewy and so moist, especially considering there is no fat in it. It is also deliciously sweet and spicy, a real taste of Christmas one can enjoy at any time of year. Luckily, even though it was appreciated at play group, competing cupcakes made by another mum meant there was some left over, so I took it home so Ju could try it after nursery.
Pain d'epices tasting

Santa and Elf Recycled Baubles

In previous years, we have made a footprint ceramic bauble at The Ceramic Experience and I have made various fabric baubles using polystyrene balls. On Day 1 we also made a string and glue ornament, which was pretty much a bauble, although not completely round. Baubles are definitely a must on any Christmas tree
String and glue ornament (top), fabric bauble (bottom left) and ceramic bauble (bottom right)
I have in the house coloured plastic balls from a ball pit that has been moved up to the attic, and I thought of a use for them today, which also allows us to complete another one of our Christmas countdown activity: to make a Christmas bauble. I started by putting a needle with thread through the top to ensure we could hang the bauble. 
Needle with thread through the top of the plastic ball
Then we took some felt and I cut a section from a circle so the boys could make hats for the tops of their baubles. We use Copydex to glue felt, seems to work quite well.
Ball, felt circle with section cut off and red marabou trim
Lilo wanted to make a Santa and Ju a little elf. Both boys glued their hats on and then decorated the bauble with trimmings of red marabou for Ju's elf's beard and cotton wool for the hat trim, bobble, and the beard. I helped Lilo stick some googly eyes and a black belt with a yellow buckle cut out of felt.
Ju gets gluing

Santa's eyes and beard
The boys couldn't wait to put their baubles in the tree. They are definitely getting the hang of this (!).
Ju's elf bauble

Lilo's santa bauble

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