Tag Archives: bread

Banh mi, baguettes, and me

13 Mar

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Only people who know me incredibly well know that I can be a perfectionist.  I try my best to hide it with cloak of nonchalance but sometimes people still get a peek.

Probably the main way that my perfectionism comes out is that I have the hardest time challenging myself.  One time I won a Guitar Hero contest at a bar in the medium level bracket.  I got 100% on a song I’d never even heard before.  (I won a rubik’s cube and about 20 minutes worth of bragging rights.)  I’m so ready for a harder level that it’s borderline pathetic but I just can’t bring myself to make the leap!

Basically, I have the hardest time bringing myself to do something that I might be mediocre or even (*gasp*) fail at.  I’d rather not attempt something than risk the possibility of failing at it.

For a while, it’s been time for me to take the next step in my bread-making.  It’s been time for me to tackle the world-renowned baguette.

Two freshly baked baguettes in a metal baguette pan

The first time I tried my hand at making baguettes, I tried the technique in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book that I won’t stop talking about. (It was even recommended to a caller by Lynn Rosetto Kasper on this week’s episode of The Splendid Table, so it must be good!)  They recommend rolling some refrigerator dough out into a 2-inch wide tube, letting it rise for 25 minutes, and then baking it on a preheated baking stone.

Well, I tried this technique but I don’t have any photos of the results.  I don’t have any photos because, quite frankly, the baguettes were awful!  They were horribly lumpy and misshapen and far too flat.  To top it all off, they had neither the crunchy crust nor the soft interior that baguettes are known for.

What was that I said again about how I feel about failing?

Thankfully, this is one kitchen mishap that can be avoided with the proper tool.  A baguette pan.

Freshly baked baguette in a metal baguette pan

We received this baguette pan from Nate’s uncle Mark as a wedding gift.  It’s non-stick, perforated and it will cook up the crustiest, tastiest baguettes you’ve ever made (although I confess that in my case that’s not saying much).  What I especially love about this pan is that you proof and bake in the same pan; there’s no need to make a complicated transfer and clean up is easy (just remember to hand-wash it)!

My baguettes still aren’t the prettiest things ever.  They’re still a little knobby and misshapen, or as Nate said “funky and chunky.” I prefer to think of them as “rustic.”  Whatever their looks may be, they definitely taste like winners.

So then what do you do once you have fresh, homemade baguettes?  You partake in the current culinary craze and make banh mi.

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Everyone is always ragging on colonialism (myself included) but banh mi and other fusion foods are, I believe, concrete examples that there are some benefits to imperialism and globalization.  The combination of French baguette and Vietnamese fillings is awesome; if you haven’t had banh mi before, there is no time like the present to remedy that.

The banh mi you see here is a homemade baguette topped with mayo, sauteed mushrooms and onions, grilled marinated tofu, pickled carrot and daikon radish, plus chopped fresh cucumber, cilantro, and jalapenos.  Don’t worry, it sounds like way more work than it actually is!  That said, there is a lot of chopping so this recipe may be one to make with a cooking buddy if you aren’t super speedy with a knife.

Stack of grilled, marinated tofu and piles of chopped cilantro, cucumber and jalapenos.

Both the pickled carrots and daikon and the sauteed mushrooms and onions were made using a banh mi recipe from my lovely and hilarious friend Caroline.  We added grilled tofu to her recipe because we were hungry.  For the tofu, we grilled it in a grill pan on high heat after marinating a few large slices in a mixture of rice vinegar, Sriracha hot sauce, brown sugar, and light and dark soy sauce.  If, like us, you have left-over fillings, you can cook up a little jasmine rice and, wham-bam, you have a perfect lunch (or two) for the next day.

The coolest thing about this recipe is that you don’t even realize that it’s vegetarian.  If you leave off the mayo (or use a vegan product instead), this would be a very satisfying vegan meal.

Banh mi sandwich (baguette with tofu, mushrooms, pickled carrots and diakon radish, cucumber, and cilantro)

Actually, I take that back.  The coolest thing about this recipe is how freaking good it is.  Feel free to add extra Sriracha to taste (Nate certainly did)!

Breaking bread

27 Feb

Two loaves of homemade white bread on a cooling rack with a container of strawberry freezer jam in the background.

If you’ve been following along, you might recall that last month Nate and I threw a party that left me feeling like we probably needed to ask our neighbors for forgiveness.  At my house growing up, apologies and forgiveness could go a long way towards ending an argument and fixing a damaged relationship.  I’m not sure if keeping the neighbors up until two in the morning really counts as an argument but I was feeling guilty.  Apologies work wonders on that, too.  Never underestimate the power of a heartfelt apology, people!

And what could make a better apology than some homemade bread?

Two loaves of homemade white bread on a cooling rack with a container of strawberry freezer jam in the background.

The really awesome thing about this apology bread is that, while impressive, it’s really easy to make.  A few years ago for Christmas I picked up a book at a local used bookstore for Nate that has really changed the way that we bake bread at our house.  While Nate sometimes does things the old fashioned way, with all the kneading and multiple rises, I almost always use the method featured in “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

In all honesty, it takes me longer than five minutes to make this bread.  Still, I’ve found that it takes a fraction of the time of traditional bread-making. Also, just as a heads up, five minutes refers to the recipe’s prep time.

The general technique consists of mixing up a large batch of dough in a container (no kneading necessary) and letting it rise for 2-5 hours.  You can bake right away or keep it in the refrigerator up to two weeks.  Each batch of dough makes four 1-pound (medium sized) loaves.  You cut off a piece of dough, quickly shape it, and let rise for 40 minutes.  Baking in a hot oven takes about half an hour.  Let it cool.

Did you know that if you want to slice your bread, you should let it cool almost completely?  Warm bread will get squished and compressed if you try to slice it.  If you can’t wait to dig in, you should tear the bread.  Besides, tearing bread is way more “artisan” anyway!

Loaf of bread being torn in half

In respect for the authors of the book, I’m not including the detailed recipe here.  Lucky for you, a quick Google search returned a companion blog to “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” that features the master bread-making recipe.  I would definitely recommend that you check this out ASAP, even if you don’t need it for an apology.  If you have any homemade preserves, this bread is the perfect vessel for them.  It’s great for breakfast, served with something like an omelet.

As an aside, I have to confess that I haven’t had much luck with omelets in the past.  A while back I posted something on Facebook like “I’m pretty much the worst at making omelets.”  One of my school buddies (Hi, Patrick!) shared this Julia Child video and it changed my life.  Here’s the proof:

Salmon omelet with torn bread with homemade strawberry preserves

This photo is of an omelet made by yours truly, stuffed with cheese and some leftover salmon.  I’m still excited about this breakfast; the bread and strawberry preserves were homemade, the eggs were local, and the salmon was line-caught in Alaska by someone I’ve met before.  We aren’t able to eat like this every day, but it’s so awesome when we’re able to!