Pains d'Epices de la St Nicolas (French Gingerbread)

Pains d'Epices is found in all Lorraine bakeries for St. Nicolas, though seldom made at home. Mademoiselle Cuisine developed this recipe to make "perfect" Pains d'Epices when way from Lorraine.

Mademoiselle Cuisine's two essential tips: 1) the dough needs to be thick; 2) do not overbake. Otherwise the gingerbread will be so hard it may break your teeth!

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St Nicolas Pain d'Epices with printed icing sheet
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St Nicolas Pain d'Epices glazed


Measurements are metric weight--more people have kitchen scales now. If not, here is a recipe converter.

  • 500 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 200 grams granulated sugar
  • 250 grams liquid honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • (1/2 teaspoon powdered anise—if you like anise!)
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 10 CL (3.4 ounces) water


  1. Put flour into mixing bowl; add baking soda and spices; mix well.
  2. Add liquid honey, if it is a little hard, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix by hand or with mixer.
  3. Add half the water, a little less than 2 ounces.
  4. Keep mixing, if by hand, knead dough with your hands. The dough may seem a little dry at first, but keep kneading without adding the rest of the water.
  5. After a few minutes add the remaining water if necessary. The dough should not be sticky, if so, add a little flour. I needed all of the water.
  6. Form a ball with the dough, wrap it in plastic film. Let it rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature.
  7. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F
  8. Roll the dough 1 cm thick (3/8-inch), on floured pastry cloth using
    rolling pin cover. Dough sticks, rolling pin guides make it easy to control dough thickness.
    Important: It may seem thick, but it must not be thinner, or the cookies will be too dry after baking, and you may not be able to bite into them.
  9. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters.
  10. Put the cookies on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment paper, space them well apart, as they will spread a bit during baking.
  11. Bake about 15 mins. For the first batch, watch the baking to find the ideal time, the gingerbread should barely colour. Do not overcook them, otherwise they will become too hard once cooled! I baked them 13 minutes.
  12. Cool on wire rack.
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Mademoiselle Cuisine's decorated Pains d'Epices


  • The gingerbreads are even better after 48 hours as they have time to become a little more "soft." They'll keep in a metal box for 1 month.
  • For a gourmet snack, dip gingerbread in hot milk with a little honey, mmmmmm.
  • Decorate with printed icing sheets. European cookies often have a cookie paper on either a plain cookie, on top of white glaze, or with accent icing framing the design.
  • Printed cookie papers aren't available in the US; printed sugar sheets are. The designs shown here are edible icing sheets printed by PhotoFrost. They print very clearly. Download this jpg to send to PhotoFrost for 12 figures on their 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet.
  • Cut figures part together with the backing sheet. Trim, keeping the backing sheet on. Then peel backing piece off; attach to plain cookies with peach jam (spread on the back with pastry brush); if using glaze, just stick right onto the glazed cookie.

Easy Cookie Glaze

2 c. sifted confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond flavoring (almond doesn't discolor glaze)
1/4 scant teaspoon salt
liquid: 2 tablespoons water or 3 tablespoons cream

Mix together, adding enough liquid to spread easily, flowing just a bit.

Easy Decorating Icing

2 c. sifted confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon flavoring (vanilla or almond)
1/4 scant teaspoon salt
liquid: 1 1/2 tablespoon water or 2 tablespoons cream

Mix together, adding enough liquid to hold its shape, but not too stiff to squeeze through decorating bag.
Video of Mademoiselle Cuisine showing how to make them, in French but easy to follow.
This link has Mademoiselle Cuisine's process photos, the pictures are self-explanatory.
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Pains d'Epices de la St Nicolas

This is a newer video from Mademoiselle Cuisine, showing the same recipe and copper cookie cutters like we used to have!

Recipe in French

From Mademoiselle Cuisine, Pains d'Epices de la St Nicolas, used by permission.

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