Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf) ~ We Knead to Bake #19

Recipe and content source copied from My Diverse Kitchen

For this month's We Knead to Bake group, Aparna chose a French breakfast pastry/ bread called Gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) from the Provence region. Incidentally, 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.

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 is one of the 13 traditional French Christmas desserts that are traditionally served after Midnight Mass to signify Christ and his 12 apostles 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.

Making Gibassier is not very difficult but it takes a little time as the process involves starting with a “Biga” or pre-ferment which is made the previous night of the baking of this bread. There are recipes which do away with the use of the pre-ferment and the bread is made all on the same day. But I personally find that where there is traditionally the use of a pre-ferment for a bread, that it is better to use it because this adds to the flavour and texture of the finished bread.

There are some aspects of the Gibassier which are important because they define this bread.
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.

Gibassier (A French Anise & Orange Flavored Loaf)
  (Copied from My Diverse Kitchen)

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

For the Dough:
2 eggs
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 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp instant yeast
75 gm butter, slightly soft***
1 1/2 to 2 tsp anise seeds
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel (I used dried apricots) ****
1 tsp orange zest (use 2 tsp 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 flavor 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 candies 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.
If you don’t like candied 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 flavor.
*****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 flavor.
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.

The Process:
  • The pre-ferment has to be made the night before the Gibassier are baked. So the previous night, mix together the ingredients for the pre-ferment into a slightly stiff but smooth dough. Add a little more milk if your dough is too stiff.
  • Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover loosely. Let it stand, at room temperature, for about 14 to 16 hours. At the end of this time, the dough would have risen and have a fermented look.
  • The next morning, make the dough for the Gibassier. You can do this by hand, but it will require some effort as the dough can get a bit sticky. Using a kitchen machine or a food processor will make things easier.
  • Put the eggs, olive oil and Orange Blossom Water in the processor bowl and run a couple of times to mix well. Then add the warm water and mix. If the water is too hot, the mixture will curdle because of the eggs!
  • Now add the pre-ferment (tear it up into chunks first so it will mix easily), bread flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and knead until the dough is smooth. Now add the butter in chunks (3 or four times) and knead until the butter is incorporated into the dough before adding the next chunk. Knead well until the dough is soft and supple.
  • Add the chopped candied orange (or apricots), aniseed and the zest and knead till incorporated. Shape the dough into a round and place in a well-oiled bowl turning it to coat well. Cover loosely and allow the dough to double in volume. This should take about 2 hours.
  • When done, turn the dough out onto your working surface. Divide it into 12 equal portions, shape each into a round and let the dough rest for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then shape and flatten each round into a semi-circle or oval.  Make three cuts in the semi-circle, one in the center and two on either side of this cut from the straight edge to the arch of the semi-circle (see photographs), by pushing your implement straight into the dough. Making sure the cuts open up into neat slits. Then using scissors, make 4 snips along the arched side at equal distance.
  • Lift the Gibassier dough and transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet making sure to stretch it a little so the cuts open up well and the slits also spread a bit. Repeat with all the balls of dough, and let the shaped dough rise for about 30 to 45 minutes till a little puffy.
  • Then bake them at 180C (350F) for about 10 to 15 minutes till they turn a golden brown on top.
  • Take the Gibassier out of the oven and brush them while still hot, with clarified butter/ ghee. Immediately press the brushed side down lightly (or sprinkle with sugar instead) into vanilla sugar or castor sugar. Then let them cool on a rack.
  • Serve them slightly warm or at room temperature with coffee or tea. This recipe makes 12 large Gibassier.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fennel - Apple - Chickpeas Salad with Mint Yogurt Dressing

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Fennel Bulb - 1, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
Green Apple - 1, julienned
Small Purple Radish - 4, thinly sliced
Fennel Bulb
Cucumber - 1, small, julienned
Cubanelle or green pepper - 1, thinly sliced
Shredded carrot - 1/4 cup
Chick peas / Garbanzo beans - 1 can, rinsed and drained
Lettuce or greens of your choice - chopped

For the salad dressing:
Greek or thick plain yogurt - 1/2 cup
Fresh mint - 1/4 cup
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
Thai green chili - 1, small
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place mint, lemon juice and green chili in blender and grind to a smooth paste.
  2. Add the yogurt and pulse of couple of times.  Transfer to a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a large bowl, add all the salad ingredients and mix.  
  4. Drizzle the yogurt dressing, toss well and serve.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Avalakki / Poha ~ Savory Flattened Rice Snack

Avalakki, also called poha (Aval in tamil)  is a breakfast dish from Karnataka.  It can also be served as a quick snack.  I first tasted Avalakki at my friend Rashmi's home and instantly it has become one my favorite snack.  Thank you Rashmi for this wonderful and simple recipe.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 3
Thin Aval / Poha - 1 cup, white or brown ( I used brown poha)
Onion - 1, medium, finely chopped
Peanuts - 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green chilies - 1, finely chopped
Asafoetida - a pinch
Red chili powder - 3/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Brown sugar - 2 tbsp
Shredded coconut - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Curry leaves - few, finely chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp

  1. Place poha in a large bowl.  Sprinkle little water and moisten the poha.  Make sure not the pour the water and make it mushy.  It has to retain the crispiness.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet.  Add mustard seeds and let it splutter.
  3. Add the peanuts, coriander and cumin seeds.  Fry for 2 minuted.
  4. Add the chopped onion, green chili, asafoetida and curry leaves.  Fry until golden brown.
  5. Remove from heat and add the turmeric and red chilie powder.
  6. Add this mixture to poha along with brown sugar, coconut and salt.
  7. Mix thoroughly with hand or spatula.  Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
  8. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving to absorb all the flavors.