Confessions of a Gibassier Groupie

GibassiersBaking buddies here is a post about these lovely Provencal sweet buns called Gibassiers which I have had my first go at baking inspired by the enthusiasm of Lynne who tweets as @josordoni and is a wonderful food blogger. They are a bit like brioche, but not as buttery, a bit like a doughnut, but not heavy, lighter than teacakes and really very good indeed.

Lynne has made these several times in the last month, and after a bit of hemming and hawing and hunting down ingredients on my part and a lot of encouragement from Lynne I had a go, along with  Thane Prince and Carla Tomasi on Twitter.

On the subject of orange blossom water, this brand, Cortas, is much much more pungent and flowery than the English variety. I sourced this at Bristol Sweet Mart, in St Marks Road in Easton, Bristol. Worth looking for if you can find it. As you open the bottle you are transported to a world where the sun shines and people hang out on dusty streets on humid nights and chat because it is too hot to go to bed. I reckon though that one could zest oranges, or use whatever you have to hand or can get hold of that makes you think of oranges.

There are a few recipes around, Lynne has tweaked hers over various bakes, you can read all about her experiments on her Greedy Piglet blog and she has very generously said I can write about it too, so here goes!

I have also bought Ciril Hitz’s book, Baking Artisan Pastries and Bread, the recipe has come from there, via The Fresh Loaf, and is reproduced in several places on the internet as well if you google. The book has loads of detail in it and some brilliant information about making laminated and sweet doughs and I am going to enjoy reading it and there is a DVD with it which I would love to be able to play for you, because it explains it all much better than I can. Bear in mind if you do this from this post that I have only made this once.

The day before you want to bake

Make a pre-ferment. This simply means mix up the following three ingredients and leave them covered overnight. The mix makes a firmish ball but it loosens and softens up once it has fermented.

  • ¼  – ½ tsp of dried yeast
  • 180 g of all pupose or bread flour
  • 110 g of milk

Day 2

Make a liquid mixture of:

  • 4 small eggs plus one yolk –  about 180g of shelled eggs  ( 2nd time made these used 130 g egg in total)
  • 80g of light olive oil (2nd time used 65 g olive oil)
  • 35 g of Cortas Orange blossom water but you will need more if you use a weaker one (2nd time used a mix of obw and dry Marsala wine, Carla’s suggestion)
  • 35 g warm water

NB: this is quite a lot of liquid and if you are not sure about your ability to work with a fairly wet dough then use less egg and less water, more like 150g of egg and 25 g of water as the original recipe.

Some recipes recommend warming all these together and that is probably a good idea. I whisked quite hot water into the top three ingredients and they didn’t curdle, but it might be safer just to heat very gently in a bowl on top of a pan of hot water… ?

In another bowl sift together

  • 200 g 00 flour or all purpose flour
  • 200 g bread flour
  • 100 g sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 12 g yeast – I used less yeast than Lynne but I am using that active instant sort which is very busy stuff (Second time used 10g yeast)

You might as well get the other stuff ready now too

  • 70 g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp of crushed aniseed seeds
  • 70g finely chopped candied orange peel

All the above are going in the dough

You will also need a bit later on in the proceedings :

  • some egg wash (this is a beaten egg and a bit of milk whisked together)
  •  about 100 g melted butter
  • a bowl of caster (fine) sugar to dredge the buns in once they have been baked. (Second time used granulated and it doesn’t stick so much or melt like the caster sugar does)

I am not the best person at being organized but on this occasion I did do a proper mise en place and got it all ready. The trouble with buns is that there are lots of processes and I run out of surfaces to put things on if I don’t make a bit of an effort. Note on flour: use what you have, don’t not make these because you don’t have 00 flour, use your regular bread flour just not the very strong baker’s sort.

I freely admit I didn’t handmix this so if you are going to do this by hand do read Lynne’s blog as she is very good at this and there are ways to do it that make it easier.

I used the Kenwood as I hate handmixing sticky doughs like these, but then I have become a bit of a wimp in these matters.

I put the liquid mix in the Kenwood, added the pre-ferment which I broke into small chunks and let it all mix up for a bit to loosen the preferment. Then I added the dry ingredients first and mixed them up till it looked plausible, probably for about three/four minutes, then added the softened butter bit by bit till it was all taken up by the dough and the dough was taking on a soft and silky look and feel, that takes a fair bit of time (and forms a gluten window – yes I did that the second time. The dough also gets lighter in colour once the butter is worked in properly, a good clue to look for ) and then finally sprinkled the seeds and the candied peel into the dough and worked that in too.

Then I left it all to rise in a covered bowl. Currently I am using my little top oven as a proving chamber. I open the door and the light comes on then I put the bowl in, and close the door but keep it open a crack by stuffing a tea towel or the oven gloves in the door. It reaches a temperature in there of about 24 – 26 C which is good enough for me.

After an hour and a half, it was huge and bubbly, a very excitable dough!  I floured a board, and pressed it out gently and then cut it up into 15 x 80 g chunks, quite big buns these were, you could make smaller or bigger or make it all as one big bread, or all sorts.

I rolled the pieces into balls and then started to shape them. If you have ever made fougasse or bagels you will know that any hole you cut or shape in a lively dough will fill in as it rises and again when it bakes, so be bold with your holes and don’t forget to stretch the shapes out sideways before you put them on your parchment lined trays to prove.

Gibassiers being cut and stretchedI flatten the balls into ovals and used a little cheese knife to make the cuts. I have just watched the bit on the DVD which comes with the book and it really shows it beautifully there, as well as what the dough should look like. Aha.

Here is one of my little drawings indicating where the cuts go. The ones in the middle you need to do with something fairly short that you can push directly into the dough, not a knife.  The edge cuts you can do with the edge of a dough scraper or a knife.

Leave to prove till they are nice and plump but not deflated, I left mine for another 40 minutes this time.

Eggwash the buns before you bake them in a hot but not too hot oven. I have funny settings on mine, my fan is about 10 degrees hotter than most people’s  (Neff Circotherm settings) so I baked mine on 170 C, look up the equivalent of Gas Mark 6 for your oven. Take them out when they are golden. I checked them after 12 minutes, I think I took them out after 15 minutes and maybe they could have come out earlier.

Paint them with melted butter while they are still hot, then let them cool down a little and dredge them in sugar. If you do the sugar bit while they are too hot, I did that with one lot, the sugar starts to melt.

Instagram Gibassiers

Share them out, give them away, save a couple for you and a friend, warm in the oven a little before you eat them. That’s it!

PS here is the last one being shared with Brian for breakfast yesterday, might have to make some more soon…

PPS Update:  For those of you who come back to read this again, I have been reading Ciril Hitz’s book and am learning new stuff about mixing these doughs. It’s very exciting and I’m going to have another go. If you look at the rounds of dough in the first photo you will see that they look a little greasy, I think that is because my butter was too warm when I mixed it into the dough. Ciril Hitz says that the butter should be pliable but cold, not warm when it is mixed in. So to do that you need to take a cold piece of butter and bash it with a rolling pin or something and then mix it in bit by bit, even putting the bowl back in the fridge if it looks like it is getting too hot.  I did say this was the first time I had made these didn’t I?

Update: I made them again the following week, hence all the notes in brackets. I am sorry if it confuses anyone actually trying to bake from this. Basically if you use less egg, less oil and cold  pliable butter, and knead for longer you get a more elastic dough which is slightly easier to shape and is more bread like and less brioche like.  I wanted to try both ways and see if I could see a difference. The only other very slight change I make is that I use the small amount of water to loosen the preferment in the mixing bowl before I add the other liquid ingredients. It just made sense to me to do that. I don’t intend to rewrite the post, but if you are seriously trying to make these then do ask if I have confused you or better still buy a copy of the book!

Here are a few photos from the second time I made them, a bit fuzzy, but they show the cutter I made second time round…

Cutter made from a dough scraper

Cutter made from a dough scraper


Cut bun before being stretched out gently

Cut bun before being stretched out gently


Stretching out the bun

Stretching out the bun

A shared Gibassier and some rare sunshine!

51 thoughts on “Confessions of a Gibassier Groupie

  1. heidiannie

    I need to gather up some of the ingredients- and a little courage.
    I’ll let you know when I make them. And I’ll share a picture or two if they turn out pretty!
    Thanks, Joanne- I appreciate the work of writing this up!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Heidi you can shape the dough anyway you like that works with a softish dough, even do it as one big bread, or as a pull apart bread. Carla made one that looked like a bunch of roses.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There is milk in the preferment, but I am sure one can adapt the recipe to suit. I was wondering what it would be like without any dairy in it, i.e. all oil. I used the dough hook :)

  2. sallybr

    I was counting the hours to see this post, I was hoping you would blog about them after you gave everyone a little teaser,,,

    they seem absolutely delicious, and I had never heard of them. Live and learn!

    1. Joanna Post author

      If you and Heidi hadn’t asked I probably wouldn’t have written this. There is also a slightly different version from SFBI on Susan’s blog if you want to compare them Sally.

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s one of the Christmas breads all right, has that festive aroma and luxurious dough – I do hope you try it :)

  3. Lynne Clark (@josordoni)

    well written Joanna!! love the little pattern for the cuts. I am going to set the pre-ferment tomorrow for my 5th lot ! I shall NEVER get thin at this rate, 5:2 diet or not :(

    Celia, they DO have milk in them, in the pre-ferment. It makes quite a difference to the way the dough behaves I think.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks so much Lynne, I am glad you approve, it made my weekend such fun thinking about and making these with you over Twitter. I haven’t done much fun baking this year, and this was just great :)

  4. hotlyspiced

    These look so lovely and so unusual. I’ve never heard of them before. Or that orange blossom water – and I would like to transported to somewhere where the sun always shines (it’s been a bit grey in Sydney of late) xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      I imagine you can get orange blossom water in Sydney at a pan-asian or middle eastern store. I just looked and it is called simply orange water by some suppliers. Here is one but we could just nip off to Turkey instead :)

  5. spiceandmore

    Looks and sounds delish. What a lovely combination of flavours and I like the sound of something in between a brioche and a doughnut…yum yum. I will definitely be trying this out.

  6. Ann

    Those look absolutely gorgeous – I am positively drooling… A great idea for the Antipodean Christmas instead of the rather heavier Stollen?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Do give them a try Ann, the first couple I shaped looked a bit odd, but then I thought of fougasse and just stretched them into the shape in the photo above and they looked quite convincing. I have never tasted them in France (or here) so it was a bit of a gamble.

  7. chocveg

    hi Joanna, lovely post thanks! I was intrigued on Friday by your Twitter postings, and looked them up and thought – never heard of them, but I must must try them! I got
    hi-jacked this weekend by a communal baking afternoon (12 of us), where we made mince-pies to eact/take home and then made Christmas cakes, some to take home and some to share with local poeple who have moved out of a homeless shelter into flats, so Gibassier will have to wait until next weekend! I have got some Steenbergs orange blossom water, it always smells a bit bitter to me!
    Glad you enjoyed making them, and the eating sounds pretty good too! I might try Pulla bread (sweet bread with a bit of fruit and flaked almonds) have you ever made that?
    Hope you are not too waterlogged down there.
    Take care of yourself these tiring days.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Gosh you have had a busy and rewarding baking weekend. I haven’t made a Christmas cake yet. Pulla is one I haven’t tried yet, so do tell me how it comes out. Feet are dry here, hope yours are too x Joanna

  8. drfugawe

    As I was reading your description of working with the dough, I could not get my past panettone experiences out of my head – it is a similar dough, isn’t it? And as I’ve violated the panettone ‘shape’ rule with good success, I’m wondering if these could be make in a more simplistic shape? They look wonderful.

    BTW, with these wet, sticky doughs, I tend to use the paddle rather than the hook – seems to work the dough better.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Yes they can be made in a much easier shape, of course they can :) There is another bread, from the same tradition, called pompe à l’huile, which as far as can see is made only with olive oil and no butter, done as a loaf or an oval loaf or as a round with a small central cross and four little crosses around it. I wonder if Ciril Hitz’s recipe is an adaptation of these. I am not sure of the relationship between the two breads. The flavourings are what makes this bread so very distinctive and the use of olive oil in a soft dough too.

      I don’t know if my paddle is like yours but I will give it a go and report back. Thanks Doc!

  9. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

    I can sure see why you were longing to make these. Your description of them has me really tempted as well, now! The flavors, the pretty little shapes.. they’re almost like a crown. I’ve never heard of a pre-ferment.. but it wouldn’t be tough to plan ahead for these beauties! xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hee hee, when I first saw the word preferment, I read it as something to do with preferring something, so I always hyphenate it. Sometimes these bits of dough are referred to as biga or paté fermentée (though that has salt in) as well, another technique is simply to hold back some of your dough and use that in the new batch. It is believed to add flavour to the dough and in this case to help with overall activity in the new batch of dough. I have never done rigorous comparison bakes with and without, so I tend to just do whatever the recipe specifies. It is very hard to do comp bakes at home, as one can’t usually get both batches of dough in the oven at the same time, and if you change more than one test factor, your results would be meaningless.

      I enjoyed doing the shaping – there was a small amount of tutting and huffpuffery on my part but not as bad as when I attempt to ice biscuits, even a wonky bun tastes good!

  10. ilovelucca

    from one breadie to the next …yummy…
    Will need to get my yeast on to give these a go!! and all the other delicious you have going on….So much bread so little time:)
    They sort of remind me of big bready versions of palmiers…

  11. Jan

    These must smell really delicious whilst they’re cooking – do you think some crushed cardamom would work as well – although I do like aniseed – I was thinking of the Christmassy aroma. Big fan of wonky buns I am:)

  12. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna they look lovely. I’m all inspired to try different breads at the moment so I might just pop this one on the to-do list. Like Jan said, I bet they smelt delicious!
    The Cortas brand is the same one as I get for rose water/ orange blossom etc… all things from exotic lands far flung.
    Any Christmas baking planned?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Brydie – Thank you! So many breads to make and all the festive breads at this time of year in particular, I like to try different ones each year if I can. I have no plans, I am not good at plans :)

  13. drfugawe

    These look so good I’m going to try them – is there anything sacred about the shape? (I’m thinking of how I eventually made pannetone in a muffin tin! So much easier, and not a bit less delicious.) What if each bun was just 4 arms? What do you think?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Nothing sacred but they really aren’t that hard to do. I cut a scraper to give me a tool to make the cuts, use a credit card or similar. I would go with reduced egg and oil, my preference.

      I made some into one big disk about 450g of dough, fkattened it, put in a cake pan on some parchment and just cooked it like a loaf, the big bun. Just watch the egg wash doesn’t get too dark, maybe a foil hat..

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think they are quite popular! I am sorry that I don’t give American measurements for recipes as they are not something I grew up with and I only use them if I am following an American recipe, I run into similar dificulties the other way round!

      I have had a quick look and this blogger has done her version in cups

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