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Day 10: A Visit to Provence

We are back in France today to sample a Christmas bread that I had never heard of until a week ago and, of course, have never tried. Isn’t this fun?! I love learning and trying all these new things. Anyway, Gibassier is considered by some to be the best enriched (meaning made with butter and eggs and good stuff like that) bread out there. Better than challah or pandoro or (gasp!) panettone? Well, of course, you understand, I Just Had to Try this one.

Here is the recipe I decided to try.

Gibassier requires one special ingredient: orange blossom water. Knowing that I did not have the time to drive all over town to look for it, I ordered it from the internet. (On a side note, I have pretty much ordered all my Christmas present this year off of the internet. I have hardly stepped foot in a store to shop this whole month!)

The bread also has a generous amount of anise seed in it and I also used citron, instead of the usual candied orange peel. I ran out of candied orange peel a couple of weeks ago and have not had the chance to make more. I compensated a little by adding the grated zest of one orange.

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The dough was a little tricky to mix up. I was really worried at first that my mixer would blow up and give up the ghost because the dough was really, really stiff at first. As a result, I think I may have not let the dough develop properly before adding all the rest of the ingredients. The final dough was a little greasy feeling to me. This could have been caused by the large amounts of olive oil and butter that went into the dough. Doesn’t this sound like an interesting bread so far?

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I chose to do an overnight rise in the fridge, and I have to say, there was no apparent rise when I looked at them this morning. I began to be a little anxious that this bread was not going to turn out well. Nevertheless, I pressed on and set it in a warm place to rise for a couple of hours.

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This bread is reminiscent of a foccacia. It’s flat, and you cut slits in it to create its final shape. The traditional shape is these crosses to symbolize Christ. I chose to do three crosses to further symbolize the trinity and also because I think they fit better in my more oval shaped breads.

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The bread ended up puffing nicely and baked up rather well. It has a nice brown crust when you pull it out.

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Then, you brush the breads with clarified butter and cover them with a fine coating of sugar. I am pretty happy with the way they look, but how do they taste?

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They taste like nothing I have ever had before. Ever. The orange blossom water gives the bread a wonderful floral aroma. Unlike many of the sweet breads I have been baking lately, this one actually has a crusty crust, but the inside of the bread is soft and citrusy with the citron and orange. The anise seed is not too overpowering (I was really worried about that) and lends a nice texture to the softness of the crumb. Biting into it is a little like biting into a freshly made doughnut; slightly crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside. It’s not as airy as I would like, but it is not dense either. Next time, I might try letting them proof a bit longer or maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be. In any case, I still have a lot of orange blossom water left, so I think I am going to have try this again. I can’t wait until the husband tries it. I think he’s going to love it.