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This soft, chewy Vietnamese Baguette is easy to make and perfect for sandwiches, subs, or crostinis!
What's a Vietnamese Baguette? It's a baguette recipe I got from a Vietnamese cooking website- to specifically be used for banh mis. AND it's the only way I'm ever making baguettes again.
Pretty standard bread ingredients: flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast. I used a quick rising yeast although I'm not sure that it makes much of a difference. The only reason I used the quick rising vs. the regular was because there's only a little bit left in the jar and I already bought a new jar of it and the OCD part of me wants to finish up this jar so that there aren't three yeast jars of only two varieties in the freezer. Ok, you can judge on that one.First, I proofed the yeast with the warm water, which only took a few minutes. Meanwhile I put all of the dry ingredients into the food processor. This seemed to weird/wrong to me on so many levels. Like making pasta dough in a food processor. It just seems sacrilegious. But hey, if the Vietnamese woman is saying do it this way for the Vietnamese bread, I'm doing it. So a few pulses of the dry ingredients, then while the processor is running, I slowly poured in the proofed yeast and water. Until the dough came together / until the food processor started making noises like it was jammed with a big ball of dough. This took only about a minute.This next part I didn't do it the way the recipe called for because it didn't seem like my food processor was big enough. It said to let the dough rise IN the processor until it doubled, which after looking at the dough and the remaining space, I decided to just raise it in a bowl. So, into a bowl big enough for it to double in size, covered with a cloth napkin / towel and left to do its thing, about an hour.After it's doubled, I then 'punched down' the dough. This is pretty much just removing any air pocket in the dough so it'll have a nice even texture. Or for sourdoughs (like my hot husband just made), it's to also allow for the fermentation to continue.
So I punched it down, gave the dough a little flip in the bowl, covered it, and let it double in size again, about another hour (I left the house at this point and went to dinner with friends so it had more like 5 hours), and then finally a third punch down and rise.
After the three risings, I split the dough in half and began to shape then. The dough is suuppeeerr soft and lovely. To shape it, I put them onto a floured surface and noticed the direction that it naturally stretched lengthwise, which is like the grain of the dough. So I flatted it out in a football like shape, then folded it up like an envelope, flipped it over so it was seam down, and then rolled it out into a log.Like these. Then I covered them with the cloth napkin and let them sit for another 30 minutes so that they'd get all their remaining rising out of their systems before entering the oven.While they rose, I pre-heated the oven to 450º and put a baking dish with an inch of water on to the bottom rack, keeping the other rack in the top third part of the own for the baguettes to cook. This water will create steam in the oven which will affect the outside texture of the bread. It'll give it that nice glossy crust (vs. the rustic crunchy crust). The steam will rest on the bread and then as it evaporates it'll leave behind sugars which will caramelize, also know as the Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids). Thanks, interwebs.After about 30 minutes the dough had risen a bit more and fit perfectly into our baguette pan. Seriously, such a great investment! Then with a super sharp knife, I sliced a few angular cuts into the dough to give it that nice "baguette look" and then misted the top of the dough. The water in the baking pan will create steam in the oven, but misting the dough will also help with that. While the baguettes were cooking, I misted the loaves at the 3 minute and 6 minute mark. We have a little super cheap spray bottle that we kept in the kitchen for some plants Dan had (that I think I killed) that required misting. Now it's become our bread mister.About 25 minutes in the oven and holy-crap look at how pretty they are!They are the perfect soft texture that is going to make ah-mazing sandwiches!! Lots of extra work but sooooo worth it. Banh mis are calling my name with these baguettes!!
- 1 1/4 ounce (2 1/4 teaspoons) package active dry yeast, Fleishman brand preferred, or fast-rise yeast, SAF brand preferred
- 1/2 plus 1 cup warm water 105-115°F
- 3 1/2 cups low-protein unbleached all-purpose flour, Gold Medal or Pillsbury brand preferred, plus extra for shaping the loaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Put the yeast in a small bowl and add the 1/2 cup water. Set aside for 2 to 3 minutes to soften the yeast.
- Meanwhile, outfit the food processor with the regular chopping blade to make the dough. Put the flour, salt and sugar into the food processor.
- Use a whisk or spoon to gently combine the yeast and water well. Pour in the 1 cup of water and gently whisk or stir again to combine. With the feed tube removed, start the food processor. Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture in processor, blending just until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from side of processor bowl, about 1 minute.
- Transfer dough to a large bowl, cover, and let rise for an hour or until doubled. Punch dough down and cover and let rise again. Punch down, cover, and let rise again. The goal is for 3 rises.
- Flour your work surface and hands with flour and turn the very soft and sticky dough out onto your work surface. Gently rotate the dough on your work surface so it is lightly covered by flour and does not stick. Use the dough scraper to divide the dough in half, setting one half off to the side.
- To shape each baguette, use lightly floured hands to gently press one half of dough into an 8- by 5-inch rectangle or football shape. It should feel lofty and soft. The dough should naturally stretch lengthwise in one particular direction. Think of that as the grain of the dough. You want to shape the loaf along the grain of the dough to promote a big rise.
- Fold the top third down and the bottom third up as if you were folding a very wide and narrow business letter. Gently seal the edges by pressing with your fingers or the palm of your hand. The result should look like a fat log. (If you have a rectangle of sorts, you can repeat the folding and pinch the edges to seal to create a log.) Your aim is to coil the dough so that when it's baking, it will spring and burst open beautifully. Try to keep as much of the air in the dough as possible without breaking the skin.
- Turn the log over (seam side down) and start rolling the log back and forth (have your hands flat facing downward) to elongate and stretch it into a 15-inch-long thick rope that's 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide. Try not to stop for long lest the dough sticks to your work surface. The dough should be very soft and easily yield to your motions. Pick up the dough with both hands and place seam side down in the cradle of one of the bread pans. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
- Loosely cover the loaves with a dish towel to prevent the dough from drying and inhibiting rising in the oven. Set aside in a warm draft-free place for 30 minutes, or until just shy of double the original size.
- Meanwhile, put a large roasting pan with 1 inch of hot water in it on bottom of gas oven or on lowest rack of electric oven. Position the oven rack in upper third of oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- When the loaves have risen enough, they're ready for baking. Fill the spray bottle part way with water. Use a razor or sharp knife to make 4 or 5 shallow diagonal slashes down length of each log. The cuts should run the length of the log, be about 4 inches long each, and ¼ to 1/2 inch deep. Angle the razor or knife at about 30 degrees. Mist the loaves with 4 to 6 sprays of water.
- Slide the pan into the oven onto the upper 3rd rack and bake for 20 minutes. After baking for 3 minutes, mist the loaves. Repeat the misting after baking for another 3 minutes. Then, let the loaves bake. At the 15-minute mark, you may rotate the pan for even browning. At the 20-minute mark, gently turn (you may have to pry it free just a tad) the loaves bottom side up in the pan to promote even crisping and browning. Bake for about 5 minutes, during which you can even rotate the loaves so that the sides brown and crisp too, or until the loaves are crisp all over. The browning happens quickly at this stage so carefully monitor the loaves to prevent burning.
- Transfer each loaf to a rack to cool. The bread is wonderful warm after having cooled for about 30 minutes. They'll remain at their best for about 6 hours after baking and can be reheated in the oven. Store overnight in a thick paper bag. To freeze for up to 2 months, wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap; defrost at room temperature and reheat in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes to refresh and crisp.
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