Taai-Taai

This is the Dutch variant of pain d'epice. The name means 'tough- tough', which it is, but it is also very good, in a dark, spicy way. Dutch bakers have retained the tradition of ripening their dough, sometimes for many months. I have adapted this from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra's Windmills in My Oven (Totnes: Prospect Books, 2002), a lovely book, simplifying the technique. Properly, taai-taai should be made over several days, but I make it in a single afternoon, as follows.

250 g rye flour
250 g plain flour
250 g honey
250 g molasses
50 ml water
1 tsp each cinnamon and aniseed
½ tsp ginger
a little grated nutmeg
2 ¼ tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, beaten

Mix together the flours. Combine the honey, molasses and water in a saucepan and warm slightly until very fluid. Cool slightly, then mix with the flours, preferably in a mixer, beating well. Cover and leave for one hour. Then add the spices and bicarbonate of soda. Beat the mixture again. Preheat the oven to 220 °C (gas mark 7). Roll out the sticky brown dough into a rectangle, and cut it into about sixteen or more medium square shapes. Brush each one with beaten egg and bake on trays lined with baking parchment for about seven minutes, before cooling on a wire rack. The taai-taai will keep a long time in an airtight container.

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