When I lived in France, I never saw gibassier at the bakery. It’s probably because I lived in northern France near Paris. Gibassier, or a buttery breakfast bread made with orange and anise, is more common in southern France near Provence.
So it wasn’t until a month or two ago that I discovered gibassier. Honestly, I don’t know how I found it. I think I googled “orange blossom water” because I was looking for more recipes to make with it, and this bread came up. My first thought was, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. My second thought was, I need to make this immediately.
Some recipes will tell you that making gibassier is difficult. I guess it is if you don’t have a stand mixer, if you’ve never made bread, or if you follow M.F.K. Fisher’s recipe, which is more complicated than the one I found. If you stick to the recipe I’ve included below, though, I think you’ll be okay.
Gibassier is similar to brioche. It’s buttery, cake-like, and rich. It has orange blossom water, which is fragrant and slightly sweet, tart orange zest, and anise inside. If you can’t find anise powder, I’d recommend adding five spice powder instead (you can find it at Whole Foods or a specialty store). Five spice powder has cinnamon, fennel, anise, and white pepper, so it’s not a basic as just using anise. I liked the cinnamon and fennel in the loaf, though. It complimented the sweet and tart flavors and gave the bread a cinnamon roll-like quality. I bet some French people would berate me for saying that.
I don’t care because the bread I made is really, really good. I think you’ll like it, too. It’s the perfect thing to make on a cold winter night when you don’t want to leave your house. It keeps tightly wrapped for a few days, too, so you can enjoy it for breakfast for a few mornings. Or you can do what I did and eat half the loaf in one sitting.
ANYWAY. Make this gibassier as soon as possible. Here’s a song to get you started.
Le Gibassier (slightly adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine)
1⁄3 cup whole milk, lukewarm
2 packs dry active yeast
1⁄3 cup sugar
2½ cups bread flour
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp orange blossom water
zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp softened butter
2 tsp five spice powder
powdered sugar, for dusting
honey and butter for serving
Combine the milk, yeast, and half the sugar in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, salt, and the rest of the sugar. Change the whisk to a dough hook and add the milk/yeast mixture, eggs, olive oil, orange blossom water, and orange zest to the mix. Mix on medium-high speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go. This will take about 10 minutes.
Add the softened butter and five spice powder. Mix on medium speed until fully incorporated.
Lightly oil a large bowl and place your dough inside. Cover the top of the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for an hour and a half, or until doubled in side.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and punch it down. Roll it into a 9×11 inch rectangle. Cut slits into the top of the dough and pull them open slightly.
Place the dough on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow it to sit for another hour or so, until it’s had a chance to rise a bit.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the gibassier for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let it cool slightly on the baking sheet and then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy!