Oh, little-known gibassier, how I adore thee!
I’ll never forget the December 2013 morning when I met my first gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) over cappuccinos at Portland’s Pearl Bakery. While I devoured these knots of breakfast bread goodness in mere seconds, their sugar-crusted memory lingered with me long after. Best consumed with a steaming hot drink, these yeasty little fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and anise seed. Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with granulated sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s finger tips. If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand.
But, alas, my waistline doesn’t allow such indulgences and, with an overnight pre-ferment and almost 4 hours of proofing time, my usually hectic schedule does not either. So, starting in 2014, gibassier has become a special Christmas morning tradition – a crackling fire, Ray Coniff Singers’ “Sleigh Ride”, mugs of not-too-sweet mochas, and a heaping platter of oven-warmed gibassier (as well as a loaf of gratuitous marzipan stollen).
Pure contentment – It’s no wonder we’re always late to the mid-day holiday festivities.
2 pinches from a packet of instant yeast (I use Fleishman’s)
1 large egg
Remainder of packet of instant yeast
2 Tablespoons water at 107⁰ F
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoon orange flower water
200 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams bread flour
100 grams granulated sugar
85 grams unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons anise seed, toasted and slightly crushed
70-90 grams candied orange peel, cut into ¼” dice – it’s worth making your own
50 grams granulated sugar (don’t use superfine)
113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
Night before baking: Combine overnight starter ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until well combined. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm place (can be on top of an oven that is cooling from previous cooking) draft free place. Let ferment overnight. It will not rise much.
Day of Baking: Bloom yeast in 2 T. water at 107⁰ F. All remaining liquids (eggs, oil, and orange flower water) should be about 60⁰ F.
In the bowl of a mixer, combine eggs, olive oil and orange water. Mix with paddle attachment. Add starter dough and beat slowly until loose and fairly uniform. Change to dough hook and add flour, sugar, salt, and yeast (don’t let salt and yeast touch). Mix for 4 minutes. Add softened butter to dough in 4 stages, incorporating each before adding more. Mix dough until gluten fully develops – the dough will be smooth and soft. When you pull off a piece, it will pull into a “window” rather than breaking. Add the anise seed and candied orange peel and mix on low until combined. When you remove the hook, it should come out completely clean.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic. Let proof 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place.
Divide dough into 18 parts 65-70 grams each, shape into rounds, and let rest for 20 minutes covered by plastic or a dishcloth.
Shape into semi-circles about 1/2 inch thick (To make shaping easier, I shape them into a torpedo and then pat them into a semi-circle).
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and cut each semi-circle with three long slashes on the outer edge curved side, and then with four short slashes (one in between each of the long ones)*. Gently spread the “toes” and place on the baking sheets (8 each). Let proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free place, covered with plastic.
While gibassier proof, clarify 1 stick of unsalted butter for topping. Set aside. Place oven racks on two top positions. Preheat convection (fan) oven to 350⁰ F. Bake gibassier 12-15 minutes, switching baking sheets half-way through baking. When the gibassiers are golden brown (some parts may be lighter than others), remove to a cooling rack.
While still warm. brush generously with clarified butter (once), and roll in sugar (twice). I freeze leftovers and rewarm them in a 200⁰ F oven for 10-12 minutes. Before serving, I give them a final sugar roll.
*The traditional way to shape gibassier is with the three long slashes in the middle and the four shorter slashes on the curved edge.
Crunchy Cranberry Almond Biscotti stuffed and baked with cranberry jam and buttery almond crème – ummm…yes, please! I borrowed this idea from Dominique Ansel’s recipe in Food and Wine and used ingredients I already had on hand from earlier bakes of these Biscotti and Bakewell Mini Tarts – combining the best of both worlds into a very special holiday cookie, indeed!
6 oz. smooth cranberry or smooth tart cherry jam (push through a sieve if needed to ensure jam is smooth)
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Parchment and spray a sheet pan. Stir dried cranberries and slivered almonds into dough. Divide dough into two rolls about 14” long. Place rolls 4” apart on sheet pan. Flatten each roll to about 3” wide so each log should be about 3” x 14”. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are set and logs are light golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together unsalted butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Transfer almond crème to a pastry bag fitting with a small tip. Set aside. Transfer jam to a separate pastry bag fitted with a small tip. If you don’t have pastry bags, use zip-lock bags and cut a small hole in one tip of the bag.
Using a serrated knife, carefully cut each log crosswise thinly into ¼” slices. Arrange half of the slices on a sheet pan. Cover the slices with a thin line of almond crème and drizzle crème with cranberry jam. Place the other half of the slices on top and press down slightly to ensure filling is even within the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes, turn over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.
Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of an Anglophile. And, with the holidays just around the corner, I don’t simply dream of a white Christmas, but a Dickensian one. I imagine a holiday with Victorian carolers strolling snow-covered cobbled streets, a cozy Cotswold cottage lit with candles and scented with crackling roast goose and steamy figgy pudding, pulling Christmas crackers with family and friends around the table, and nibbling treats like these very British Eccles cakes.
The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table.
An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry. The origins can be traced to the town of Eccles, formerly within the Lancashire boundary, but now a suburb of Manchester. Weights are in grams, nodding to their British origin.
Stir together all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute until butter is melted. Cover and set aside for the flavors to meld and currants to soften. Refrigerate. Once cold, the filling should bind together without extra liquid. Drain if necessary.
Pulse flour, salt and butter in a food processor until butter pieces are pea-sized. Gradually pulse in about 100-125ml cold water until mixture comes together into a dough. Do not overwork.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third down into the middle, then the bottom third up over the top, then rotate the pastry 90 degrees so the fold is now vertical. Roll out again and repeat then wrap in cling-wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Repeat the rolling, folding, rotating, rolling and folding one more time. Chill for an hour.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface a little thicker than 1/8th of an inch, then cut out rounds about 3 ½ inches wide. Put a half-tablespoon of filling in the center of each, then dampen the edges of the circle and bring the edges into the middle, pinching together to seal well. Put on a baking tray smooth side up, and squash slightly until flattened. Repeat with the rest and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Remove pastries from refrigerator, brush with egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut three slashes in the top of each and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden and well-risen. Allow to cool before eating – the filling will be hot.
Me: “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”
Him: “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”
Me: “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”
Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”
Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”
We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.
I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
5 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 Tablespoon water
½ cup apricot preserves
¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
¼ teaspoon salt
To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.
Our search for Clarity occasionally demands us to set aside to-do lists in favor of prayer books. It inters us within a temple of quiet solitude, away from the dazzle of worldliness, insisting on reflection. Our weaving of elaborate plans is replaced by solemn contemplation. When I ache with this azan in my ear, I bow at my kitchen’s altar for answers often found within the merging of butter, sugar and flour.
Flavored with candied orange and anise, these cookies are a nod to the French sweet bread, gibassier
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 2 teaspoons orange flower water
– 3 eggs
– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– ½ cup almond flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted and slightly crushed
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
In a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add extract and beat well.
Add flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and mix until blended. Add candied orange peel and anise and mix until just combined.
Shape dough into two rolls the length of the sheet pan. Flatten each to 3” wide. Bake 20-25 minutes until set and barely beginning to brown. Cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls ½” thick across into 18 biscotti each. 5. Arrange biscotti on their sides on sheet pan and bake 8-10 minutes. Turn cookies over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Bake cookies until dry and crispy, but not brown. I enjoy these treats dipped in a cappuccino or glass of milk.