I'm on a real Gascony kick right now, which does tend to happen for me each fall - mainly because the last time I was there was in, well, fall. But it is also because the food in that region is very hygge (if food can be cozy) and when the weather turns colder I start thinking about packing it on and hibernating. Gascony is know for its deep fat cooking meat techniques and rich flavors, and folks in this region take their. wine. very. seriously. (Bordeaux is in this neighborhood, so, yep.) But make no mistake, the folks in this part of the world have mastered what I will call "rustic elegance", and the food is quite down to earth.
One of the most popular flavor profiles in Gascony is orange, which surprised me until I remembered that Spain's sunshine and fruit orchards are right on the other side of the Pyrenees from France. Just like everywhere else in France there are bakeries everywhere, which aside from the standard croissant and baguette, feature regional specialties. My favorite bread in Gascony is, by far, the beautiful 'Pastis Landis', which is a brioche/panettone/babka/pashka-like sweet bread scented with oranges and rum. I searched for a recipe and found wildly different interpretations (and only in French), so I got to experimenting in my kitchen to get as close to the version I enjoyed as possible. After several almost-there executions, I am proud to present you with my recipe for Pastis Landis, which I am sure is not quite like the original, but I think it is delicious (as do my family and neighbors). Oh, and I drizzled an orange glaze on top which is SO NOT French but I am American and I like my sweet glazes. Pastis Landais bread is still lower in sugar and is great for breakfast or an afternoon break.
This is yeast bread, so you will need a few hours to make it. You can bake this bread in a standard bread tin, or in one of those fancy paper bread wrappers, but I like it best baked in a brioche pan because it looks extra pretty.
This recipe does call for a couple of non-standard kitchen items - such as the brioche pans and the unique citrus flavors - but if you like to bake these are worthwhile investments.
4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons granulated yeast
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon good rum
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or orange extract
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 navel orange, washed and dried
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. (Make the sponge) Heat the milk until it is slightly warm to the touch but not hot. Pour the milk into a medium bowl. Immediately add the yeast to the warm milk, let sit for 8 minutes, then stir to combine. Stir in one cup of the flour until well combined and sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set in a warm spot for an hour.
2. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, then beat in the sugar, rum, Fiori di Sicilia or orange extract, vanilla, and salt. Stream in the butter and beat to combine.
3. Zest the orange with a fine grater and stir the zest into the egg mixture. Set the zested orange aside for future use.
4. Your sponge should now be bubbly and have doubled in size. Using a large wooden spoon, beat in half of the remaining flour. Then pour in half of the egg mixture and beat that in. Next beat in the other half of the flour and the rest of the egg mixture until you have a smooth dough. Using clean, oiled hands (you can use canola oil or some soft butter) gather up the dough into a ball. Plop back down in the mixing bowl, cover the bowl with the clean dish towel, and set the bowl somewhere warm for a hour.
5. In the meantime, grease and flour two 8" brioche pans.
6. Remove the towel - the dough should have doubled in size. Wash, dry, and oil up your hands again - punch the dough down once in the bowl, then knead the dough a few turns until nice and smooth (don't over do it.) Divide the dough into two large balls and place one each in the brioche pans. Place the pans on a baking sheet and cover with a clean towel. Set in a warm spot for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
7. Heat the oven to 375F. Remove the towel - your breads should be well risen and domed at the tops. Leaving the pans on the baking sheet, gently place in the oven on the center rack. After 5 minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350F. Place a sheet of foil on top of each bread, shiny side up. Bake for 20 -25 minutes. You may remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking for a nice rich brown crust, but be careful not to let the tops burn.
8. Remove the breads from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and place back on the rack to cool to just slightly warm.
9. While the bread is cooling, make the orange glaze. Juice the zested orange into a small bowl, then whisk in the powdered sugar. If too liquid, add most powdered sugar, one tablespoon at a time until you reach a thick but pourable consistency.
10. Drizzle the glaze over the bread. Pastis Landais is best sliced with a bread knife and is delicious warm or at room temperature.