Baked on January 15, 2012
A little history: I have been enjoying a very particular kind of sandwich: the Vietnamese "Banh Mi", a sub that is greater than the sum of its parts: a baguette - inspired, crispy-crusted toasted hoagie shaped bun filled with a few variations of pork, some pickled vegetables, a savory mayo, some thinly sliced jalepenos, and some cilantro. Every bite is DELICIOUS, and I am always wondering, "How do they get it to taste SO good?" The bread is particularly intriguing, and not like anything I have ever seen in a bakery around here.
A web search (surprise!) showed I was not the only one wanting to replicate these rolls. The best websites that have inspired my two previous experiments to date can be found below:
Banh-Mi Baguettes from Drfugawe
Viet World Kitchen recipe
A Bread a Day Blog
The last link also has great recipes for the sandwich filling components. I am not sure if I will ever go to the trouble of making them myself, but who knows? I just bought a couple of them the other day for Peter and me at our favorite little Vietnamese joint, Mi Li Cafe, Columbus Square shopping Center. (161 & Cleveland Ave., Columbus.) There seemed to be less filling than what I remembered from previous visits, so I might have to start making the entire sandwich afterall.
The fun challenge here was to use Pete's Starter and to continue to fiddle with the amount of rice to be incorporated. The crust was very crispy, although a bit thick on the bottom. The loaf had a LOT of flavor. I'd like to bake this side- by- side with an Italian loaf that only differs by not having any sugar or rice flour in it, everything else being equal. That would be the only way to really know if those two ingredients make the difference. The other thing I need to try is to use all AP flour, since it has a lower protein content than durum semolina. That was one variable that seemed to be common in the recipes I found online: use a "soft" flour, not a "hard" flour.
14 oz. Pete's Starter (PS), refreshed overnight
2 1/2 c. fine durum semolina flour (from Carfagna's)
1/2 c cooked medium grain white rice slurry *
3 T finest white rice flour
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t salt
Method, Mixing, etc.
I mixed all in my big stand mixer on slowest speed with the bread hook and kneaded it by machine for about 5 minutes. I let it rise in a plastic proofing container with a lid. The dough weighed in at 2# 3oz. It rose nicely in four hours, a soft dough that was easy to handle even though a bit sticky. I shaped an Italian-style loaf and let it rise in a floured towel-lined basket for about 45 minutes. 30 minutes before baking, I pre-heated the Caphalon fish poacher with lid in a 450F oven. After using the towel as a sling to slide the bread into the hot pan, I gave it a long slash down the middle and spritzed it with water. I covered the pan with the heated lid and baked it for 25 minutes, then lid off for five minutes more.
Lots of oven "spring"- it kind of exploded. I didn't bother to take the temperature of the finished loaf- it's possible I could have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. My notes said this: "Nice, crispy crust, gorgeous color, soft inside, nice, even crumb, GREAT flavor!" I also think this is a perfect ratio of starter to flour/slurry. as the texture is not rubbery in the least. (Which is what I think happens when there is too high a ratio of starter to other ingredients.)
*rice slurry: I cooked a few tablespoons of leftover cooked medium grain rice in about a cup of water until it made a thickened "slurry" liquid. I used the stick blender to turn it into a kind of a loose paste. Hard to be exact here; I guess I should be measuring a little more exactly - but the point is, some rice gets incorporated into this recipe in an invisible fashion. You won't be able to taste it or see any cooked grains.