As with the lemon that studs them, these loaves are one of those breads I thought would be one thing, but of its own accord (with maybe a little bit of gentle and experimental nudging from me) it turned out to be another thing. Sometimes it’s fun to just let things unfold and see where you end up.
The thing I thought it would be was gibassier, a French olive oil brioche traditional during the Advent season, scented with oranges and anise seed, shaped in flat round loaves. It is an amazingly good bread, and ranks among favorite sweet breads for nearly everyone I know who has tasted it.
But thanks to my generous crop of lemons just now, my bread asked for candied lemon peel rather than orange. Because I had lots of lemon syrup as a byproduct of the candying of the lemon peels — and also because I was out of orange blossom water — the bread wanted the syrup to stand in for both the sugar and the orange water in a traditional gibassier recipe. Because I love putting candied ginger in things, this bread begged to be loved that way too. And the shaping was just me playing around to see what showed up, and perhaps longing for the December snow(flakes) I used to know in Vermont but rarely see anymore.
The result turned out to be something slightly less sweet and less citrus-y than gibassier, and a fine way to enjoy a delicately-flavored sweet bread with your morning coffee or tea. The ginger is very subtle, and I might add more next time.
I shaped these loaves in two ways. Since their explanations are rather photo-laden, I have put them both on a second page of this post. There are also two ways of sugaring the crust: either sprinkle with sanding sugar (coarse sugar that won’t melt in the oven) before baking (after egg-washing), or, after baked and while still warm, brush lightly with melted butter and dust with finely granulated sugar. The first way is sparklier, the second way is snowier.
As with most sweet breads, the sugar (or syrup, here) is added in stages, and the butter at the end of mixing. This allows the gluten to develop without too much interference by sugar and fat, gluten’s notorious enemies.
Between the sponge and the final dough, the amount of egg required is 84 grams, which is less than two large eggs. You will also need egg for the wash that is brushed onto the loaves prior to baking. I suggest whisking two eggs together, measuring out what you need for the sponge and final dough, and reserving the remaining egg for the egg wash.
Lemon Anise Snowflakes
Yield: 750 g (2 small loaves)
- Ferment sponge: 12 – 16 hours
- Mix final dough: 20 minutes
- First fermentation : 1 hour
- Preshape, rest, and shape: 30 minutes
- Refrigerate: overnight
- Proof: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Bake: about 25 – 30 minutes
Final Dough Ingredients:
- all of the sponge
- 270 g flour
- 22 g cold water
- 7.6 g (2.5 t.) osmotolerant yeast
- 5 g (7/8 t.) salt
- 76 g cold egg (see note above)
- 51 g olive oil
- 84 g lemon syrup from candied lemon peel
- 51 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 46 g candied lemon peel, diced
- 27 g candied ginger, finely diced
- 5.4 g (2.5 t.) whole anise seeds
Egg Wash Ingredients:
- whisked egg
- dash of water
- pinch of salt
- sanding sugar
- melted butter
- fine granulated sugar
- In a bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Cover and ferment at cool room temperature for 12 – 16 hours, or until approximately doubled in volume.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, combine the sponge, final dough flour, water, yeast, salt, egg, olive oil, and about one third of the lemon syrup. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, adding a little more syrup if necessary. The dough will be very stiff and dry at this point.
- Increase the mixer to medium speed and continue adding the syrup little by little, mixing for a minute or two after each addition, until all of it has been incorporated into the dough. The dough should now have a medium consistency.
- Continue mixing in medium speed until the dough has reached a high level of gluten development. (You should be able to pull a very thin, even, and translucent windowpane from the dough.)
- Add the butter all at once and continue mixing until it s evenly incorporated into the dough.
- Add the lemon peel, ginger, and anise seed and mix in low speed until they are evenly distributed.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly-olive-oiled container. Cover and ferment for about an hour at room temperature.
- Divide the dough into the proper size pieces for the loaf shape(s) you want (see page 2). Shape each piece into a ball and let rest, covered, for about 20 minutes.
- Shape the loaves (see page 2) on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Slip the sheet into a large plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and place a bowl of hot water in the bag with them. Proof for 1.5 – 2.5 hours, warming the water every so often, until the dough feels very light to the touch of a fingertip.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F on the convection setting or 375F on the regular bake setting.
- Combine all egg wash ingredients. Just prior to baking, brush the loaves lightly and evenly with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar (optional).
- Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, until the crust is evenly brown. Check the loaves at 20 minutes; If they are getting to dark before they are evenly baked, reduce the heat by 25 degrees.
- Remove to a wire rack. If they were not previously sugared, brush the loaves lightly with melted butter and dust with fine sugar while they are still warm.
Continue to page 2 to see how I shaped the loaves.
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