The French love their gingerbread! It’s been a classic dish for hundreds of years and is especially popular in the north of France.
In Boulogne-sur-Mer, one of the most famous makers of gingerbread was Clémence Lestienne. Born Clémence Clarisse in 1834, she was known as much for the sweet treats she sold at markets in northern France as she was known for her looks. She was known as the femme a barbe, the bearded lady. By the time she was 16 it was said that no one could compete with her gingerbread.
More than 100 years later, her great, great, great grandson Tony Lestienne is equally famous for his Michelin starred kitchen and hotel, La Matelote, which he runs with son Stellio. It’s just a stone’s throw from the market in Boulogne-sur-Mer where Clémence once plied her trade.
Chef Lestienne created this recipe for gingerbread in honour of his great great great grandmother…
How to make a gingerbread loaf
180g of plain flour, sifted
180g of honey
2.5 teaspoons of gingerbread spices
2g of baking powder
7g of baking soda
80g whole milk
70g of soft brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 160 Deg C.
Gently warm the honey, milk, and butter in a pan.
Thoroughly sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Add the brown sugar then mix all together.
Line a loaf tin with butter and flour and pour the mix in.
Cook for one hour – you may need to cover the loaf with baking paper towards the end of cooking to prevent the loaf from becoming too brown.
Optional: You can add candied orange pieces to the dough or place on top of the gingerbread before baking for extra zing.
Spices for gingerbread
50g ground cinnamon
3 star anise, powdered
10 powdered cloves
20g ground coriander
15g powdered green anise
20g of ginger
10g ground nutmeg
Sift all the spices twice before putting the mix in a pot.
Pain d’épices en mémoire de Clémence Lestienne, 1834 – 1919: Le Pain d’épices de la femme à Barbe.
Find out more about La Matelote Michelin star restaurant and hotel, it’s the perfect place for a sojourn along the Opal Coast, northern France.