Tag Archives: french

Vietnamese Baguettes (Banh Mi)

PICTURE HEAVY POST:

These tasty breads are a product of the French colonization of Vietnam and similar to the French baguette. They’re usually filled with sweet and tangy pickled vegetables and an assortment of cold cuts or warm grilled meats.

I made a trio of baguettes using the recipe posted on “Danang Cuisine” website. Though I weighed the all purpose flour and water carefully, my dough ended up much wetter than in the pictures posted or on the accompanying video so I added another 1/2 cup (~60 gm) in order to get a dough that was no longer sticky and firm enough to  shape easily.

Pictorial Recipe

Creating the sponge … just mixed, two hours later, and after addition of the reserved flour

Additional flour/kneading, after doubling and shaping

Baguettes ready for proofing, proofed, slashed and ready for baking

Baked baguettes with a shot of the underside

Interior of the baguette

 

Banh Mi filled with flaked Sriracha mayonnaise, basted and baked, salmon, romaine and extra mayo (actually Miracle Whip)

Cross-section and crumb of the baguette

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Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

My last post of 2017 is a testament to the diversity of cooking … plain home style cooking made with basic ingredients and fancy dishes that you’ll find in elegant restaurants or serve to special guests at your table.

Paprika Potatoes – a PLAIN Hungarian inspired potato dish commonly served in the home kitchen and often meatless. If you want something more meaty, add the pork sausage of your choice, smoked or cured. Hungarian kolbasz (sausages) are delicious but you can use Polish sausages (kielbasa) or Romanian carnati afumati (smoked sausages).

The dish is not a stew but you may leave it more ‘soupy’ if you want to have something to dip into with fresh, crusty bread.

Paprika Potatoes (Paprikas Krumpli) – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 pound (500 gm) potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 pound (~250 gm) cubed or thinly sliced sausages, cut in half if too big
1/4 -1/2 (1/4 cup) sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red), cubed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice or one medium sized tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup ham broth, or water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
1 1/2-2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in the bacon fat until it starts to pick up some colour, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced sausage and continue sauteing until it renders out some of the fat and picks up some colour as well, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced pepper and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.

Push the contents to one side and if the pan seems dry, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the cleared area. Add the paprika and toast for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and stir through to coat with the paprika.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the contents and then pour the broth over everything. The broth should almost cover the potatoes and sausages. Bring the contents of the saute pan to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir gently after 5-10 minutes to make sure that all the potatoes are in contact with the broth.

Test to see if the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and continue simmering if the contents are too soupy. If they’re too dry, add a bit more water and cook for another minute or so.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve.

This is actually a very simple dessert, even though it looks FANCYpuff pastry split and filled with pastry cream. It’s the presentation that makes it special. The French version (millefeuille or Napoleons) uses an icing sugar glaze and a decorative drizzle of melted chocolate. The Hungarian version (kremes) has a very thick custard cream filling, often with gelatin added to give it a firmer texture. I chose a simple Romanian version (cemsnit, krempita or placinta cu crema de vanilie ) with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Custard Squares

Puff Pastry Squares – Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8th of an inch thick, cut into desired size (2 1/2 inches by 4 inches) and bake in a preheated 400 deg F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown in colour.

Cool and split in half. Fill as desired.

Tester vanilla custard square

I’m sure I posted the pastry cream filling before but this is a thicker version.

Thick Pastry Cream Filling

2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (or 2 cups if you don’t want it TOO thick) milk, warmed slightly
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

Beat whole eggs and yolks slightly in a separate bowl.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in the beaten eggs.

Gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Place the sauce pan on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils; boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in the butter a bit at a time. (NOTE: If your mixture is a bit lumpy, strain through a fine metal sieve.)

Place a sheet of saran wrap over the filling so that it touches the surface, preventing the formation of a skin.

Cool to room temperature.

Sourdough French Baguettes, Naan and Popovers

I know … you’re probably thinking I should rename this LJ/blog “The Sourdough Fanatic” with all the sourdough baking I’ve been doing. It’s addictive even though, as I’ve said before, I don’t actually like sourdough bread that much. At least not the ‘artisanal’ high hydration doughs with the big holes. However, feeding that jar of starter on the top of my fridge and watching it double in a couple of hours, and then triple, before finally collapsing as the gas produced stretches the gluten strands past their limit is something that must be experienced.

And I really liked the sourdough tortillas I made so, when I ran out, I had to make more on which to serve the chicken fajitas from a recent purchase of boneless, skinless breasts.

And, let’s be honest. Baking bread is cheap.

Even if it’s not the greatest bread in the world, you can turn it into croutons or bread crumbs, or dressing as I did with some of the jalapeno-old cheddar cheese sourdough I baked recently. Not that it wasn’t good, I just needed some bread to go into the giblet and rice dressing I made to serve with my roast turkey.

Did I post a picture?

No?

Well, just one of the outside of the loaf.

I tried making French baguettes out of Carole L’s no knead sourdough using the shaping technique I used in my previous attempt at sourdough French baguettes. They tasted great and the crunchy, chewy crust and toothsome interior can’t be beat fresh out of the oven. But they don’t hold up. By the second day, the crust has softened and the interior is dense. You can warm it up in the oven and it’s edible, but no where close to its previous state. Still, it was an interesting experiment. And I had fun practicing my slashing technique.

I also used some of my sourdough starter to make Indian naan or flatbread. The first batch was plain but I fancied up the second batch by adding dried fenugreek leaves (methi) and powdered garlic. A bit of melted butter on the warm naan and it’s a wonderful snack or vehicle with which to pick up and eat a saucy curry dish.

And, before I dried the last of the sourdough starter I had revived this time, I used the King Arthur recipe for a quick batch of eggy sourdough popovers. Whether you serve them with a roast beef dinner or enjoy them with honey and a cup of coffee for breakfast, it’s a great way to use up some of that sourdough starter.

Well, that should satisfy my craving to nurture sourdough for a while

French Baguettes 2 Ways

ETA: The 2nd version, with sourdough, would be considered the ‘best’ of the bunch. I like the first version.

I’ve made ‘baguettes’ before using regular bread dough, and even sourdough, but the attempts didn’t really conform to the traditional recipe (no sugar, just yeast or starter, flour, water and salt) and shaping of the real thing. I wanted to join a recent sourdough French baguette event on a FB group I belong to but didn’t have any active starter as it’s been either frozen or dried.

An attempt to thaw and build up some of my first sourdough starter from the freezer was a failure as I rushed things and overfed the small amount of live yeast in the frozen starter. I ended up adding some of the failed starter to a regular yeast bread recipe because I didn’t want to waste the flour. I even made a “lame” with a razor blade (package of 5 for $4) and a bamboo skewer so I could I could do proper slashes. I rehydrated some dried starter for the second try.

Lame

Comparison between the two baguette trials … the baguette on the left of the picture (yeast one) was pulled from the freezer so it looks a bit shriveled.

French baguette Trial #1 – yeast (plus failed starter from the freezer so as not to waste the flour). I used Kat’s French bread recipe from FB as a base but omitted the Vital wheat gluten.

 

The slashes opened up during baking but the placement was a bit off.

French baguette Trial #2 – sourdough using the recipe here and referring to the YouTube video for shaping

Crumb of the yeast (left) and the sourdough (right) baguettes

  

Broccoli and Danish Blue Cheese Souffle

I hate wasting food, but for some reason, I seem to be discarding broccoli stems. Just one stem and a few florettes and you have a delicious addition to a plain cheese souffle. This is a variation of my basic cheese souffle recipe for two. Over the years, I’ve made it with leftover shredded salmon, spinach, sauteed mushrooms and various cheeses.

Lovely moist interior

Unlike the usual souffle recipe, in which the eggs are separated and the eggs whites are beaten until stiff and then folded into the souffle mixture, whole, beaten eggs are added in this version. The souffle won’t rise as much as the regular method, and will fall quicker, but you can make the souffles, bake one and refrigerate the second one for the next day.

If you don’t like the strong taste of blue cheese, replace the 2 oz of blue cheese with 1 oz grated Parmesan and 1 oz crumbled blue cheese. I used a generous pinch of dried thyme instead of the chives.