Soft, sweet, light and buttery orange and anise flavoured breads (Gibassier), shaped like snowflakes. Perfect for Christmas and the festive season.
I can't believe that Christmas is less than a month away already...November disappeared in the blink of an eye and now Christmas is nearly here and I don't even know what we're doing for it yet; I am feeling decidedly non-festive and more than a little Grinchy...
So I decided to do a spot of festive baking in an attempt to make myself feel less unenthusiastic about the whole thing. I made these delicious orange and anise snowflake breads; and while I didn't end up feeling any more festive (I think more mulled wine may be needed), they were incredibly tasty and satisfying and would be perfect as part of a Christmas breakfast or brunch.
I based them on Gibassier (or pompe à l'huile), which is a French sweet bread from the Provence region; it is similar to panettone and is enriched with olive oil and flavoured with anise, orange blossom water and candied peel.
It is beautifully soft, light, buttery, fragrant and full of flavour; It makes a fantastic breakfast, especially around Christmas, and can be eaten as it is or smothered in butter. I got the idea for the snowflake shaping from here; it is easy to do and the result is an impressive festive loaf; it also makes for a great tear and share style bread.
As with most breads it does take a while to make, mostly just waiting for the dough to rise; and as it is enriched with eggs, sugar, olive oil and butter the dough is very soft and sticky so if you have a stand mixer I advise using it, otherwise prepare for some very messy kneading!
If you want to serve it for breakfast I would advise baking it the evening beforehand then storing it in an airtight container overnight and gently re-warming it in a low oven before serving; it wont be quite as soft as if it were freshly baked but is still delicious and you don't have to wait around hungrily for it or start baking ridiculously early in the morning.
It can also be frozen, pop it in the freezer as soon as it is cool then when you want to serve it, allow it to defrost then re-warm in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
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Orange and Anise Snowflake Bread
- 100 ml (⅓ cup + 1tbsp + 1tsp) full fat milk
- 80 g (⅔ cup) strong white bread flour
- 7 g (2 tsp) fast action yeast
- 2 eggs
- 50 ml (scant ¼ cup) olive oil
- finely grated zest of 1 large orange
- 2 tsp orange blossom water
- 280 g (2 + ⅓ cups) strong white bread flour
- 85 g (⅓ cup + 1tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 60 g (¼ cup) softened butter
- 1 tsp ground star anise
- 75 g (2.65 oz) candied peel
- 1 egg beaten, to glaze
- melted butter and caster sugar to finish
- To make the starter, heat the milk until it is lukewarm (not hot), mix together the flour and yeast in a large bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one), beat in the milk until smooth then cover and leave in a warm place for 30 mins - 1 hour until risen.
- To make the dough, beat the eggs, olive oil, orange zest and orange blossom water into the starter (use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook). Add the flour, sugar and salt and mix on low for 6 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Increase the speed to high and mix for 2 more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the butter gradually while the mixer is on medium speed and mix until smooth. Finally add the star anise and candied peel. You can mix the dough by hand if you don't have a stand mixer but it is very sticky and messy and will need to be kneaded for at least 10 minutes until very smooth and elastic before mixing in the butter then the anise and peel.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Knock back the risen dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces and shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5cm thick and place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into six sections, leaving them connected at the center.
- Make a cut through the center of each section; don’t cut all the way through to the edge; it is best to use a straight, rigid piece of metal or plastic to press straight down through the dough, guillotine-style rather than dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate and elongate them a little. Use your fingers to open out the slits and form a V-shape in the top of each section.
- Cover each loaf loosely with oiled clingfilm and set aside to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour until puffy, if you press the dough lightly with a fingertip it should feel light and spring back slowly, if it springs back quickly it needs to rise for a little longer. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Brush each loaf with a little beaten egg then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through (a skewer inserted should come out clean and the internal temperature should register 94C/200F), rotate the trays halfway through baking.
- Slide the loaves onto a wire rack and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with caster sugar (or dust with icing sugar) while still warm.
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