Breakfast,  French,  Sweet

Spice bread and watching a white hen unravel

Have you ever seen a hen unravel? I hadn’t, but I have now. A friend (I use the term loosely in hindsight) gave us four hens last week. When I say hens, obviously I mean butch, feathered, street-wise ladettes hell-bent on stealing the others’ food, staying up all night and generally causing mayhen (sorry!). Our white ‘head’ hen was not amused by their arrival and ‘greeted’ them with firmly-closed wings. As soon as she caught sight of them, she strutted purposefully over to the kitchen, squawking loudly until I opened the window. When I explained that it was OK, they had been invited, she wandered off for a mad, muttering walk on her own in the woods, head between wings. Even now, a week later, she comes to check with me everyday that these ruffians are still welcome and spends more time than usual on her perch, disdainfully looking down at them.
This spice bread is deliciously soothing, which is useful when you’re trying to console a hen with a grievance.
500g raw honey
250g spelt flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cardammon seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
2 free-range eggs, beaten
100ml milk
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Dissolve the yeast in two tablespoons of lukewarm water and set aside. Gently warm the honey, spices and zest until very runny (about 3 minutes). Place the flour in a mixing bowl, leaving a well in the middle. Add the yeast and then the beaten eggs and milk to the well, followed by the honey and spice mixture. Beat until you obtain a smooth, liquid dough. Transfer to a 1kg greased loaf tin and cook for 1 hour 15 mins. Cover the tin with aluminium foil once it is golden brown. It is best to leave the bread in a tin to rest at room temperature for at least three days before eating.


  • apuginthekitchen

    I love the bread, it looks wonderful and must say your animals/birds have such personalities. Imagine a hen with an attitude and trouble making renegade hens on the loose. I would like to spend a day (or more) at your place, I think I would be entertained constantly. I think about your very upset hen taking a walk in solitude after you explained the situation is comical really, a video with captions or voice over would be great, a viral hit for sure.

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      That’s true – they do all have big personalities for sure. The worst thing is that, at the moment we have 7 hens and NO EGGS! They’re so busy circling each other and sending dirty looks that they don’t have time to work! I think I’ll try to video her – it’s a sight to behold 😉 Hope your finger’s a little bit on the mend…

  • cookazido

    We recently introduced 2 new chickens to our original 3. It is painful to watch how mean they are to each other. The 3 still won’t let the 2 new ones sleep in the coop. They were banished to a perch outside. We really do enjoy our chickens, though. I hope yours get used to each other soon!P.S. Your bread sounds delicious!

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      I agree – they are sooo mean to each other it’s untrue. When we first got our original two hens, one of them had an open wound on her foot. The other one used to peck away at it as if she was her lunch. In the end we had to put an elastoplaste on her wound to curb the other one’s appetite 😉

  • Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs

    I’m sitting here smiling after reading your story… I love the fact that she walked away pouting… sometimes I think that people just don’t give our animals who share this earth with us, any credit. They are so much smarter than most people think! Your hens sound like little teenage girls…
    And now for the bread… The bread sounds absolutely fabulous with the coriander, cardamom, and lemon! I could go for a slice or two right now, right out of the oven… Yum..

  • Stacey Bender

    Such a funny vision I have of the scene with your hen. Ginger acted very similar when Buddy joined our family. Two and a half years later, she has finally come to terms that he is here for good. I think she is secretly happy.
    The cake sounds delicious. I can’t say I’ve ever made a cake that calls for yeast. I too could eat a few slices right NOW!

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