Gibassier are sweet, yeasted and enriched dessert breads infused with olive oil, candied orange peel, anise seeds and orange blossom water.
I first learned of them through my intensive workshops at the San Francisco Baking Institute (SFBI) where they were served for breakfast. It was love at first bite with such a unique combination of flavors. SFBI’s book, Advanced Bread and Pastry says that Gibassier (named after the Gibas mountain in the Provence Alpes in France) are one of the 13 desserts served for Christmas in that region. The number 13 is significant because it represents Jesus and the 12 apostles. The 13 desserts start with the “beggars” (nuts, fresh and dried fruit) and progress to enriched dessert breads and nougats. I tend to believe Michael Suas’ (author of the cookbook) interpretation of Gibassier, as he is well known and well researched. However, other research tells me that Gibassier are made year-round and are often confused with “pompe à l’huile,” a similar dessert bread, but only made at Christmas time.
I don’t care about the differing versions and I suggest that you don’t either. I make my recipe (based on Epicurious’ recipe) year-round. They freeze well and can be enjoyed whenever you want, made even more delicious with a bit of apricot jam on the side. Gibassier range from biscuit or scone-like in texture, to more brioche-like. I prefer the more brioche-like and I roll mine in the shape of croissants.
I used to look for Gibassier in bakeries everywhere when I traveled but they are difficult to find. Pearl Bakery in Portland, Oregon makes them, and they are terrific, and also brioche-like. Thoroughbred Bakery (a bakery that is owned and operated by SFBI in San Francisco), also offers them, but only at Christmas and theirs is the drier, more scone-like version.
They are a bit of a project to make, and you must do “part 1” the night before. Don’t let the multiple steps deter you. These are well worth the effort despite what time of year you want to make them.
Arliano Update (Aggiornamento Arliano):
Country living. The joys, the sorrows… We’ve had days of very heavy rain. The good news is that our fossi (ditches) handled the water run-off quite well. The not-so-great news is that a fosso (singular ditch) that runs for several kilometers between many properties got clogged with leaves and tree branches and over ran, flooding our gravel driveway and a neighbor’s field. Much of our gravel has washed away, leaving some deep ruts in the dirt road that leads to our house. The next research project will be where to buy bulk gravel. On the positive side, we met a neighbor whom we hadn’t yet met who was out on the ditch clearing away leaves and branches even before we were. That sense of community left us warm and fuzzy despite being rain drenched.
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- 145 grams (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) bread flour
- 75 grams (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon) milk
- 25 grams (1/2 of a beaten egg) egg (Note: Save the other half in the refrigerator, you’ll need it tomorrow!)
- 0.25 gram (a pinch) instant yeast
- 175 grams (3 and 1/2 large) eggs
- 88 grams (1/2 cup minus a tablespoon) olive oil
- 38 grams (1/2 cup minus a teaspoon) orange blossom water
- 50 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) water
- 567 grams bread flour (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 134 grams (2/3 cup) sugar
- 10 grams (1 and 3/4 teaspoons) kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- 26 grams (about 3 tablespoons) instant yeast
- 100 grams (7 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
- 15 grams (7 teaspoons) anise seeds (whole, or as I prefer, ground)
- 97 grams (1 1/3 cups) chopped candied orange peel
- Melted butter, as needed for brushing
- Sugar for topping, as needed
The next day:
- Pre-ferment: The night before, combine the pre-ferment ingredients, mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature overnight. Take the butter out of the refrigerator to bring it room temperature overnight
- Pour the liquid ingredients and the pre-ferment into a stand mixer bowl (or regular bowl). Add the dry ingredients up to and including the yeast to the bowl, except for the salt. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, incorporate all ingredients in the bowl slowly for about four minutes, then more briskly for another 2 minutes. Then, slowly add the butter about a tablespoon at a time as well as the salt until it is all incorporated. Keep kneading at medium speed until a ball is formed around the dough hook. This may take about 10 minutes depending on the temperature of your ingredients, and the temperature and humidity of the room. If you do not have a stand mixture, follow the above instructions, but knead the dough by hand for a total of about 15 minutes, This is a very sticky dough, so use a bench scraper and resist adding more flour
- Add the candied orange peel and anise seeds to the dough and knead them in until fully incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it prove for 2 hours at a warm room temperature
- Using a floured working surface, gently roll the dough into a 15 X 30 inch (38 x 76 cm) rectangle. Cut the dough into diamond (or candy corn) shapes and roll each diamond from the wide end to the narrow end so that they look like croissants
- Place the shaped dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats and cover them with plastic wrap at room temperature for 90 minutes
- Pre-heat the oven to 400F (200C). Bake until golden, about 12-14 minutes
- Brush melted butter on the top of each Gibassier and toss or sprinkle each with granulated sugar.