This traditional Easter-time treat is a wafer-thin crispbread of sorts. Nowadays you can find pennépis in the supermarkets or from street vendors almost all year round, but it was originally a Lenten recipe.
As our contributor Anselma, tells the story, her grandmother would have baked these traditionally in a home-built, wood-fired brick oven such as have recently become popular again for baking ‘creole’ bread.
The name is always a subject of discussion with some saying it originates in the price – penny-a-piece and others saying it is from the French pain espice – spiced bread…which ever it is, it’s a favourite!
Anselma says: My grandmother had a huge stone oven and my uncle used it after she passed. When my uncle passed also, we started to rent it out to a lady in Dennery who make some tasty pastries and other things. No thermometer or temperature gauge was ever used. My mom and all those who followed her baked cakes, bread, chicken and all kinds of things and nothing ever burnt. Everything tasted yummylicious!
- ½ lb flour
- ¼ lb sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ lb fresh ginger
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Add all the sugar and water in a pan. Simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and forms a syrup. Then allow mixture to cool.
- Peel the light skin off the ginger (you can do this easily by scraping it with a small sharp knife) wash and grate finely, then add ginger to flour.
- Slowly add sugar syrup to flour and ginger mixture and form into dough. Do not make dough too sticky.
- Pull dough into 2-inch pieces, use a rolling pin or a clean 1-quart bottle and roll dough into paper thin sheets.
- Put rolled out dough on greased baking sheets and place in oven. Pennepis is done when it is golden brown, you have to constantly monitor them because they get done very quickly! Try placing just one in first to see how quickly it cooks – you may find that you can just about roll out one while the previous one cooks.
- Don’t let them overcook or the sugar might begin to taste bitter.
Ginger: substitute ginger powder at about ¼ tsp for 1 T fresh and remember you may need to add a little water to your dough as well.
Sugar: traditionally white sugar would be used, but substitute brown if you prefer. You can also play with the amount – if you like a stronger ginger kick, cut out some sugar, but remember this also helps it become crispy.
Flour: traditionally white all-purpose flour would be used, but for a gluten and grain-free alternative, I normally replace white flour with a mix of ⅓ each of coconut flour, cassava flour, plantain flour…experiment! Have fun!
For a discussion on the ginger substitution please see here.