Bahn Mi - Vietnamese Baguettes (High Altitude Recipe)
- 350 ml (milliliter) Warm water
- 1 tablespoon Yeast
- 550 grams Bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Put the yeast in a small bowl and add 1/2 the water. Set aside for 2 to 3 minutes to soften the yeast. (It will look kind of blotchy as the granules break down. It may also get a bit foamy too.)
- Meanwhile, outfit the food processor with the regular chopping blade to make the dough. Put the flour, salt and sugar into the food processor.
- Return your attention to the yeast. Use a whisk or spoon to gently combine the yeast and water well. Pour in the remaining 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.
- Replace the feed tube and let the dough rise until it nearly fills the bowl, about 1 hour. Pulse 1 or 2 times to slightly deflate the dough. Let the dough rise again and deflate. Let the dough rise one more time. You're shooting for 3 risings. As you progress, each one will take less time.
- Flour your work surface and hands with about 1 tablespoon of flour. Detach the processor bowl from the machine. Holding the bowl upside down above your work surface, turn the very soft and sticky dough out onto your work surface, taking care to notice where the blade is in the blob of dough. (The dough scraper is handy for removing the dough from the walls of the processor bowl.) Remove the blade from the dough. 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. (If it's unwieldy, use the scraper to move it around the work surface, lest the dough stick to your fingers!
- 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.
Preparation Time is approxmiately 2 hours.
Cooking Time is approxmiately 30 minutes.