Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gibassier - We Knead to Bake 19

This month's bread that the members of the We Knead to Bake group are baking is a buttery textured, delightfully soft French breakfast bread, that is sweet, shaped somewhat like the Fougasse. I was looking forward to baking a savoury bread and when Aparna sent us the document was somewhat disappointed - that is until I baked this easy to do bread and tasted it.
The document was shared sometime around the fourth of July, and I was leaving for India the next week. So I wanted to give my try before I was caught up with other things. This bread is not particularly difficult, but one needs a bit of preparation ahead, involving the process of making a pre-ferment or the biga.
Now, before I get to the recipe, here I share in Aparna's text, information on the Gibassier. I would normally do a reading and looking up, but this time I was quite pressed for time. Thus, as I am confident that Aparna does a lot of reading before she puts it out to us, I share here what she sent us:

"This month's French pastry bread is Gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) from the Provence region, for us to bake. The Gibassier is also the name for large cookie from Lourmarin in particular that’s about a foot long, is made with olive oil and oval shaped like a leaf.


So what is a Gibassier?

The Gibassier is a buttery textured French breakfast bread that is flavoured with candied orange peel, orange blossom water and aniseed, and topped with a sprinkling of plain or vanilla sugar. It is shaped somewhat the way one shapes a fougasse and delightfully soft and delicious. GIbassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf, or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed/ snipped decoratively before they’re baked and this makes them even more irresistible. 

Gibassier is one of the 13 traditional French Christmas desserts that are traditionally served after Midnight Mass to signify Christ and his 12 aposltels at the Last Supper. Many people refer to the Gibassier as Pompe à Huile (French olive oil bread) while others insist the two are not the same. The Gibassier is somewhat like an Italian Panettone, and it is believed that it must apparently be torn apart with the hands when served to bring good luck in the New Year.

It is thought that the Gibassier is named after a mountain peak in the Luberon Mountains, called Le Gibas. Others suggest that the name comes from the “gibacier” which referred to a flat bag that was used to carry game, somewhat similar to the shape of the pastry."

Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf)

There are certain aspects that define this bread and again here is what I have to share from Aparna's document.
  • The use of Orange Blossom Water is important as it gives the Gibassier a distinct flavour that is difficult to replicate with any substitute. So leave it out if you can’t find Orange Blossom Water, or maybe try one of the substitutes mentioned in the recipe section of this post.

  • The other important part of this bread is the candied orange peel. If you do not get or do not like the orange peel, substitute for that with dried apricots chopped and soaked in orange juice.The orange flecked Gibassier has a lot of aesthetic appeal.

  • After baking the Gibassier, brushing them with clarified butter (ghee)while still warm not only gives them a lovely nutty flavour and taste but also helps the dusted sugar to stick well to the bread. Clarified butter is easy enough to make, as all it requires is to melt some butter and cook it till it turns golden.
  • To make the decorative cuts in the Gibassier, do not use a knife (however sharp it may be) or anything that drags through the dough. What you need is something that you can push down into the down to make a clean cut. 

For the Pre-ferment (Biga):
1 1/2 cups bread flour                 
1/2 cup milk
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:
2 eggs (I have substituted for eggs with flax seeds powder and warm water)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup orange blossom water*
1/8 cup warm water (or orange juice) **
3 1/4 cups bread flour
All the pre-ferment/ Biga from above
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
75 grams butter, slightly soft***
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel (I used dried apricots) ****
1 teaspoon orange zest (use 2 teaspoons if using dried apricot)

For Glazing and Dusting the Gibassier
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee) *****
Vanilla sugar or castor sugar

*What gives this bread its signature aroma is the orange flavour and orange blossom water makes all the difference. It is difficult to replicate with substitutions, so if you cannot find it, you may leave it out altogether. In this recipe since orange is an important flavour, you can can use 1/2 tsp orange extract instead, if you have it. Otherwise you can substitute the 1/8 cup water with unsweetened orange juice.

**If you are using apricots instead of candied orange peel, replace the 1/8 cup water with warm unsweetened orange juice.

***It is important to use butter that is just beginning to soften. The butter should be somewhat cold but just soft enough for you to press down with your finger. If your butter is too soft you might have greasy Gibassier.

****You can make your own candied orange peel if you want to.

If you don’t like cadied peel, you can substitute it with chopped dried apricots. But then remember to use warm orange juice instead of warm water for a stronger orange flavour.

*****If you don’t have ghee, you can make your own clarified butter. Just put unsalted butter in a pan and melt it. Let it boil and bubble on medium heat until it turns golden. Strain out the solids and you have clarified butter/ ghee. Store in a glass jar.

You can use melted butter instead of clarified butter but you will not get the same flavour.

You can make your own vanilla sugar at home, by steeping slit vanilla pods (whole or those from which you have removed the seeds) in a jar of granulated or castor sugar. Let it sit for about a week or two and your vanilla sugar is ready for use.

Making the Biga and baking the bread :

Make the biga or the pre-ferment the night before. Mix the ingredients listed together, increasing the milk a little bit, if necessary, (as it was for me) to a slightly stiff yet smooth dough.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat with oil on all sides. Cover loosely and let this stand at room temperature for 14 to 16 hours. By then it would rise and have a fermented look.
The next day, when you are ready to start the process of getting the dough ready and baking it, keep the butter out and allow it to soften just a bit.
I did not use eggs, instead I mixed flax seed powder in warm water, whisked it to substitute for the eggs.
The process of kneading van be done with the aid of a processor, which makes it easy or by hand, a bit long and messy process as the dough gets quite sticky.
In the processor bowl place the eggs/ substitute, olive oil and orange blossom water. Run it for a couple of minutes until they combine. Add the warm water (or warm orange juice, if using apricots) to this. If you are using eggs, ensure that this water is not hot so the mix does not curdle because of the eggs.
Now, tear the biga in pieces and add to the above in the bowl, the bread flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
Knead until the dough is smooth. Then add the butter in small chunks a little at a time making sure that the butter is well incorporated in the dough. Add the aniseed, orange peel and gently incorporate them in the dough.
The dough has to be kneaded well until it is soft and supple.
Grease a bowl with some oil and make a roll of the dough, turn it well in the oil and cover the bowl.
Let the dough rest and rise to almost double the volume which takes about a couple of hours.
When that has been achieved, turn the dough on to the work surface and divide it in twelve equal portions. Shape each of them in a round and allow them to rest for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll one portion in a semi circle or in an oval shape. Make three cuts using a small cookie cutter or however you feel fit. The three cuts have to be made one in the centre and to facing outwards in the arch of the semi circle. Snip off a small portion on the arch also at two points to give it a floral shape.
Lift the shaped dough and place it on a parchment lined baking tray. stretch the dough a bit so as to make the cuts show.Keep it loosely covered as you work the next one.
Repeat the process until all the dough is done. I had scraps from the cuts and could make one extra gibassier with that.
Place the baking trays covered and allow the dough to puff up a bit for 30 to 45 minutes.
Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Bake the gibassier for 12 to 15 minutes until the top is nicely golden brown.
Soon as the trays come off the oven, brush the ghee on the warm buns. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar on top and allow them to cool on wire racks.
Serve the gibassier warm with coffee or tea.

I have halved the above recipe so as to get 6 large gibassier. With the extra from the scraps I had one more.
If you can remove the warm gibassier off the parchment and press it lightly in the vanilla sugar, they will coat evenly and a bit more. I sprinkled the sugar on top and that sufficed to our taste, a little more than mildly sweet and not too sweet.

There is Aparna's post and all of our links at the end of that post. Please do check it out and see what an array the members have brought for you.