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Among the world's many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread gibassier is one of the most popular in the French tradition. These fat cookie-like biscuits are concocted of a complex number of ingredients, from the standard flour, yeast, sugar, eggs, butter and olive oil to those that make it unique, like orange blossom water, anise seed and orange peel. At the end, it will be difficult to say whether what is being eaten is biscuit, a pastry, a doughnut or a cookie, but it will taste unique.
This recipe, which some call fougasse, appears to have originated in the rocky southeast of France, in Lourmarin village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village's horizon. According to Michel Suas, in his Advanced Bread and Pastry guidebook, the area's star ingredients are at the center of gibassier: local anise seed, oranges and olive oil.
The night before making gibassier bread, a fermentation process has to start among some of the flour, milk, egg and yeast. For a recipe that makes 16 of these flattened biscuits, available online from the pastry chef at the Hyatt New York Central hotel, the proportions of these ingredients are 0.75 cup (about 85 g) of flour, one refrigerated egg, 0.33 cup (about 78 ml) of cold milk and just a single standard packet of brewer's yeast. All are blended in a bowl that is then covered and left to rise at room temperature overnight.
The next day, some ambitious culinary alchemy kicks off. About 3.75 cups (about 415 g) of flour is added to the mixing bowl at low speed, to follow the Hyatt recipe. Also into the mix go three more eggs, 0.5 cup (about 118 ml) of olive oil, 0.5 tbsp. (about 7 g) of salt, 0.6 cup (about 50 g) of sugar, 1 oz. (about 28 g) more of yeast, 2 tsp. (about 8.4 g) of anise seed and two types of water — 0.33 cup (about 78 ml) of regular cold water and 2 tsp. (about 10 ml) of orange blossom water. All of this is blended at medium speed for five minutes, and then 0.5 cup (about 128 g) of candied orange peel pieces enter the mix. The last stretch involves adding 7 tbsp. (about 100 g) of softened butter, a little at a time, until the dough is firm but malleable.
The final step to making gibassier is splitting this dough ball into several smaller balls — 16 for this particular recipe. These are placed on oiled parchment paper and pressed into flattened ovals, which are brushed with more olive oil before resting at room temperature for an hour and a half. After brushing the tops with a blend of egg and sugar, the gibassier are ready to bake for about 20 minutes at 350°F (about 177°C). While still warm, tradition dictates a quick dip in honey butter before taking a bite.
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