While vacationing in Aix-en-Provence a few years ago, I was too busy enjoying one of the best brioches of my entire life to notice if the patisserie there sold these buttery rich French breakfast breads studded with candied orange peel and flavored with orange blossom water and aniseed. The gibassier. Often called fougasse-prounced “foogass”-, a flatbread that is usually slashed to form shapes, the Gibassier appears to have originated in Lourmarin, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southeastern France.
Not a difficult bread, the Gibassier needs a little more time as it involves using a starter or biga made at least 14-16 hours ahead of making the dough. This adds flavor and complexity and helps to preserve the keeping qualities of the bread. I was lucky to find the orange blossom water, but not so with the candied orange peel, the commercial variety which I do not like, so I used chopped dried apricots as suggested by Aparna, admin of We Knead to Bake, this being the 19th edition. On Aparna’s blog, My Diverse Kitchen, you can see step-by-step photos of how to shape the Gibassier. Below is a watercolor version of the Gibassier-a little serendipity!
Gibbasier: A French Anise and Orange Flavored Loaf
Adapted from Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads authored by Ciril Hitz
Ingredients For Starter (Biga)
- 1-1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 cup milk, or more to make a slightly stiff, but smooth dough
- 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
For the Dough
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/8 cup orange blossom water, if not available, either leave it out or use 1/2 teaspoon orange extract. Another substitute might be warm orange juice instead of the 1/8 cup warm water
- 1/8 cup warm water (or orange juice
- 3-1/4 cups bread flour
- Biga (from above)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel, or same amount chopped dried apricots soaked in warm orange-drain
- 1-2 teaspoons orange zest
For Glazing and Dusting the Gibassier
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee), you can make your own ghee by placing unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Let it boil until it turns golden. Strain out the solids. Store in a glass jar.
- Vanilla sugar or caster sugar
- 14-16 hours ahead, make the biga by mixing the flour, milk and yeast together until smooth. If too stiff, add a little more milk to achieve the smooth dough. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and let stand at room temperature for about 14-16 hours. At the end of the time, the dough will have risen some and have a fermented look.
- Next day, make the dough with a food processor or a heavy duty stand mixer. I used the food processor so will go with those directions.
- Put the eggs, olive oil and orange blossom water in the processor bowl and mix well. Then add the warm water and mix again. Caution your water is not too hot or the eggs will curdle.
- Tear the biga up into chunks, add it along with the bred flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Knead with the processor until the dough is smooth. Add the slightly softened butter in increments of three, mixing well after each addition. The dough should be soft and supple.
- Add the candied orange peel or apricots, aniseed and the zest. Knead until incorporated into the dough. Shape in a round and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat well. Cover loosely and allow the dough to double in volume, about 2 hours.
- When dough, turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 12 equal rounds and let rise for about 20 minutes. To shape, flatten each round into an oval or semi-circle. Make three cuts in the semi-circle, one in the center and two on either side of the middle cut. Make sure the cuts open up into neat slits. Then using scissors, make 4 snips along the arched side of the dough, equidistant apart.
- Transfer the Gibassier to a parchment-lined baking sheet making sure to stretch it a little so the cuts open up well and the slits spread apart. Let the dough rise for about 30-45 minutes until puffy.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes until they turn golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and brush the hot Gibassier with the clarified butter. Immediately after, press the brushed side down lightly into the caster sugar. Let cool. Serve slightly warm or a room temperature. Makes 12 large Gibassier.
This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.
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