I have mentioned the gibassier several times since I first purchased one from Truly Scrumptious at the Camas Farmer’s Market a year or so ago. When I first discovered this elegant pasty I could scarcely comprehend the name and I could not guess how to spell it. Soon, however, drawn by the subtle taste and texture of these delicacies, I familiarized myself with the name and made an Internet search to learn more about them.
On-line I found a lyrical post that praised Portland’s Pearl Bakery as a haven of the hard-to-find gibassier. It seems that people will go to great lengths to sample, even horde a freezer full of, the gibassier from Pearl Bakery. Living so close to a famed source of my newfound favorite pastry I had to go and have a taste of this locally available French inspired muse.
On a weekday morning, my husband and I drove to the Pearl District early, ready for a good breakfast before accomplishing a list of errands in the city. The sun was out giving our early summer venture a novel twist. As we arrived the city was waking up and moving to a pre-coffee pulse. Outside there were a few people sitting at sidewalk tables taking in the early morning light. Bicycles were parked by delivery trucks, walkers passed by with their dogs and a unicyclist pedaled circles around the neighborhood.
Inside the cafe space of Pearl Bakery is spare but inviting. The ceilings are rugged and high. A tile floor adds charm and light to balance the sturdy wood bar counters and display space. Calla lilies adorn a window counter beside the newspapers. A rack displaying breads scales up the back wall beside the opening to the large busy bakery workspace beyond. Up front a regular coffee shop crowd sips from steaming cups while attending to computers, iphones, companions and the occasional newspaper.
At the pastry case, displayed among a host of alluring pastries I saw the gibassier, big and beautiful with obvious chunks of candied citrus peel bulging along the sugar-swept crust. They fit the ambiance of the café: inviting, artisanal and calmly efficient. I ordered the gibassier and a café au lait. My husband chose a cinnamon crown and a latte before I added a chocolate croissant, feeling I needed to taste this standard by which I usually judge my favorite bakeries.
Pastries in hand we chose a table and settled. When our coffees were ready we tore into our pastries. All had a nice texture. The cinnamon crown had a definite but not overbearing snap of cinnamon to balance the sweetness. The chocolate croissant was crisp but buttery with plenty of filling. The gibassier was sturdy but giving with definite bits of candied fruit and anise seeds. It was wonderful and, as I had read, steps beyond the stollen and other fruited European breads we all find in abundance around the holidays. It tasted fresh and substantial, a fruited bread that filled and satisfied with a touch of lightly, even exotically, spiced sweetness.
Kim’s gibassiers are different. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Pearl Bakery. The coffee was faultless. The atmosphere was interesting and satisfying. The cinnamon crown and chocolate croissant were irresistible and the baguette we bought on the way out was perhaps the best I’ve had in Portland. The gibassier was delicious too, and yet, I found that when I thought of wanting a gibassier the one I wanted was from Truly Scrumptious. Kim’s gibassier was more delicate. It was softer and finer in texture and went down with a slightly lingering spiced citrus tang that challenged me to contemplate the ingredients, the process and the poetry of the pastry. That was the gibassier of my dreams.
When I saw Kim at the market I shared my experience and asked her about the difference. She smiled. She offered that she had tweaked her recipe a bit, adding elements of a Scandinavian coffee bread. She also felt the texture of her gibassier benefitted from a slow overnight rising. Then she added that in her experience there was a world of difference between home crafted candied orange peel and the candied fruit she could obtain elsewhere. She assured me she always makes her own.
Whatever the difference, I will continue to buy the gibassier from Truly Scrumptious when they are available. And, when I can, I'll stop by the Pearl Bakery in downtown Portland for a fine cup of coffee, a choice of delightful French inspired pastries and a loaf of artisanal bread. I am the richer for my exploration and thrilled with my discoveries, a home town masterpiece and a new morning destination of choice.