Baguette ( Banh mi ) – Bánh mì bột chua

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Tell me that I’m not the only one who likes freshly baked bread and don’t tell me that I’m the only amateur bread baker. Everyone can make bread himself, given he has a perfect recipe. I tried making bread a couple of years ago and had no success. I’m wondering why my bread is crunchy only when it’s out from the oven. To be honest with you, I don’t like the guidance of bread baking books in that they rarely tell you how to adapt the water to your bread flour. It’s really worth learning how much water is needed because water can make your bread go to your dinner table or is directly thrown into trash.

I’ve figured out that the age of flour decides how much water that flour needs. Thus, the experience here is that you shouldn’t follow the recipe exactly. Just remember that add around 3/4 water to the flour if you don’t know your bread flour is as old as the recipe’s flour, then adjust the remaining water slowly  to the dough just until your dough is roughly incorporated but does not stick to the bowl. The required quality of the bread is that the bread has to be crunchy on the outside but fluffy like pillow on the inside.

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Ingredients (for 3 baguettes)

Starter

– 1 cup bread flour

– 1/2 cup warm water

– 1/8 tsp active dry yeast

Sprinkle yeast in the water and let the yeast sits for 5 minutes. Then add in the flour and mix until you have a sticky dough. Cover and let the starter sit at room temperature for 10 hours. The maximum time for this process is 12 hours. After 12 hours, your yeast needs to be fed so that you have to work with the starter.

Baguette

– All the starter

– 3 1/2 cup bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour can substitute

– 2 tsp active dry yeast

– 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 cups water, depending on the flour or the temperature

– 1.5 tsp salt

– 1 tbsp oil

– 1/2 tsp sugar

Method

– Mix sugar with 1 1/8 cups water and yeast. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes until you see the bubbles on the surface of water.

– Mix all the yeast mixture, starter, salt and bread flour in a bowl (you can safe time by using a stand mixer). Using a fork, stir well until flour absorbs all the liquid ingredients.

– Knead by hand (or stand mixer) until a non-sticky dough is formed. During the kneading time, you can add more water slowly, 1 tbsp a time, to make sure the dough is not dry but no sticky to the bowl.

– Add the oil to a clean bowl and keep the dough cover for the fermenting process.

Fermentation

– Let the dough sit for 3 hours first, then deflate the dough, turn it over and let it sit for 2 hours.

– Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Fold and roll each dough into a log that fits your baking pan.

– Let the dough sit for another 1 hour or until your dough is double in size.

Baking

– Preheat the oven to 500 F for 15 – 30 minutes or until the oven reaches 500 F

– Slash the puffed baguette with a very sharp knife. This technique can help the bread evaporate the steam from the inside, thus stimulating the puffing process in the high hot oven.

– Spray water onto the surface of the breads. Bake at 10 – 15 minutes until the breads are golden.

You Tiao (Chinese – Vietnamese Crullers or deep fried crispy bread) – Quẩy chiên giòn

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Don’t tell me I’m the only one who loves crullers. These little longish, brittle like crunchy and hollowed things can be the final pieces needed to make your savory noodle or porridge a hundred percent perfect.

The story of fried crullers originates from China, when a devil couple made a bundle of evil actions to the Cantonese people. As a result, people caught and fried them in a giant hot oil wok. That’s why you see two parallel strips adjacent to each other in one cruller. It’s scary to hear this story, but the reason why ancient people ate crullers is so lovely. They ate crullers to reminisce of the evil things that their ancestors had in the past, thus avoiding to do brutal actions in practice.

I tried many cruller recipes but in the end of each time, I failed. My crullers are not hollowed inside no matter how I tried to adjust the heat. You know that it’s so annoying for me if I can’t dip a crunchy cruller into my Pho (Vietnamese Beef noodle) . I should be terse here or it’s gonna be a page of describing how perfect Pho combines with crullers. The problem in making crullers is that you have to know well about your ammonia – an old leaven in baking. Ammonia is very easy to evaporate, even though you try to tight it up in an air-tight container. Thus, don’t be greedy when you buy ammonia. A 1 or 2 oz ammonia container is enough for several months without harming the quality of ammonia.

I also figure out that do let the cruller dough rise for 12 hours instead of only 4 – 5 hours as some online recipes suggest. As long as the fermenting process is under 19 hours, your dough is still okie dokie. I almost forgot to tell you that you should be careful when open the cap of ammonia container. The smell of it would be compared to that of a baby’s diaper after she drinks a big bottle of milk.

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Ingredients  (yield around 10 – 14 crullers)

– 300 g bread flour

– 200 g water

– 1/2 tsp ammonia

– 1/2 tsp alum

– 1 tsp baking powder

– 1 tsp salt

– Vegetable oil

Special equipment:  A wok or a deep pan. Crullers will need a lot of oil to be puffed.

Method

– Stir water with ammonia, alum, baking powder and salt to dissolve.

– Add in the flour and use a fork to stir until the flour is roughly incorporated.

– Knead the dough for 5 minutes until you see a roughly smooth face of the dough.

– Slightly oil the dough and cover the dough with a plastic film.

– Keep the dough in a clean place and forget it for 12 hours.

Frying

– Add too much oil into a wok (it’s best) or a deep pan at medium heat. The cooking oil will need 10 – 15 minutes to reach the right temperature for frying.

– Roll the dough into a thin rectangular. Cut the rectangle into two smaller rectangles lengthwise. Then cut it into 3/4 inch strips crosswise.

– Atop one strip onto a strip. Use a skewer or a chopstick, dip it into the water and press the dough to make sure two strips are stick to each other.

– Gently pull the strips to elongate them to 20 cm in length ( just eyeball it) and throw it into the oil.

– Turn the crullers frequently to make them puffed totally. Fry the crullers until they’re golden brown.

Serve : you can dip the crullers in any noodle, especially Pho. Or you can even cut it to your porridge. Or you can enjoy themselves.

Brioche

sarah's kitchen

French has a significant impact on Vietnamese bakery. This airy bread would require a have to be very patient baker. Baked things like brioche contain lots of butter, which is the cause of making yeast “freezed”. Well, that hassle really gives you the lightest airy bread ever. Enjoy brioche simply with a cup of cold milk. Even the leftover of brioche can yield a perfectly tasty bread pudding!

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Ingredients (for 2 loaves)

For the starter

– 1/3 cup half and half milk

– 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

– 1 egg

– 1/2 cup bread flour + 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the dough

– 1/3 cup granulated sugar

– 4 eggs

– 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

– 1 stick + 4 tbsp of butter ( 12 tbsp)

– 1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash: 1 egg

Method

– Warm the milk + cream + 1 tsp sugar just until you can touch your finger in. Add the yeast and let it rest to foam for 15 minutes. If you can see the bubbles, your yeast is still working well.

– Add 1 cup of flour into the yeast liquid. Use one of your finger to mix. At this step, you just want the flour incorporate with the liquid roughly so it’s unnecessary to overmix it. Add the remaining half a cup of flour onto the starter and let it rest for 30-40 minutes.

– When you see your starter rising to triple its original size, add all the dough ingredients to the starter, except the butter. Be cautious, butter would “freeze” your yeast so always reminisce to add the fat ingredient to any bread recipe when all the dry ingredients are incorporated with the liquid ingredients.

– Mix the dough at the low speed of your stand mixer. Add slowly the room temperature butter, 2 tbsp at a time until all the butter incorporate with the dough.

– Let the shiny dough rest in your kitchen for 1 hour, then put it in the refrigerator overnight. This action would expand the sour flavor of the brioche

– Next morning, shape the dough into 2 bread pan and wait until they rise to double or even triple. It may need 2 – 3 hours to rise to perfect size before baking.

– Brush the brioche with egg wash. Don’t brush too much egg wash so that the bread can’t rise well in the oven.

– Bake in 15 minute preheated oven at 375 F for 25-30 minutes or until the brioche reaches the golden brown.

Croissants

When I was a small child, croissants were my all time favorite – decent bread. Not only crunchy, croissants are buttery, flaky and tangy baked things that can expand all my nose’s neuron. :D. This kind of blatantly-delicious bread is the combination of puff pastry and yeast. Not so difficult, isn’t it? These croissants in the picture I stuffed them with ham and salami, so they don’t have the crescent shape as usual.
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I luckily had this recipe from a French website (unfortunately forget its name to give it the credit) and modified it to have the best flaky croissants. This recipe has more butter than other ones, it yield a more butter-flavored bread, however.

Ingredients (yield 16 big croissants)

Dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling
2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) soft unsalted butter
1 Tbs active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
Butter block
4 sticks cold unsalted butter (around 1 pound of butter)
Make the dough:
–  Sprinkle the yeast into a 1/2 cup of lukewarm milk dissolved 1 tsp of sugar. Let it sit until it bubbly foams.
– Combine all the dry ingredients. Add the yeast liquid and milk to the dry ingredients. Mix them until you have a smooth dough (around 5 minutes if you use a stand mixer or 20 minutes by hands)
– Cut the dough a plus right at the centre of the dough to make the gluten rest. Let your dough sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Make the butter block
– Arrange four sticks of butter adjacent to each other. Use a rolling pin and pop them until it spreads. Then use your hand to fold the butter into a square, press it to form a uniform butter.
– This butter block has no flour as other recipes. You don’t like a croissant that is full of flour smell, do you?
Make the layers
– Tomorrow morning, roll you dough into a square that is double sized the butter.
– Place the butter block into your dough square and fold it in. Make sure your butter block is fully covered by the dough, otherwise it would be shredded and butter would be out while you roll the layers.
– Roll the dough into a rectangular (if you cannot, it’s okay as long as your butter is still in the dough). Fold each sides of the rectangular’s width toward the center until they meet each other. Fold again to have a small rectangular. At this time, you have 4 layers.
– Let your dough sit in the freezer for 15 minutes. Your butter can be melt down faster in the summer so be careful. Each time you repeat the folding the same as the previous step. I folded my dough 5 times, so I had 4x4x4x4x4 = 1024 layers. Is it impressive? The more you fold the dough, the better flaky the croissant is ‘coz all the flour is absorbed by the butter. It also makes more layers, thus your croissant will be puffed better.
– If you don’t want to use your dough right away, you could keep it in the freezer and thaw it 1 hour before baking. It works all the time.
Shape
– Roll the dough into 1/5 inch thick. Cut the dough into triangle, make a short 1/4 inch notch at the center of the short side of the triangle. This notch will help the croissants curl into crescents as they should be.
– Gently elongate the triangle. This move will make the croissants have more layers and tightly shaped as well. Using one hand to keep the top of the triangle and the other slightly rolling the triangle from the bottom to the top.
– Beat one egg with 1 tsp of water to make egg wash. Brush your egg wash onto the surface of the shaped croissants. Remember to place each 3cm away from others because the croissants would be risen in 1-2 hours. You should wait until they are totally double sized. At this time, you could see the croissants have many layers. Really worth your works.
– Brush again the remaining egg wash onto the croissants.
Baking
– Preheat your oven at 370 F 15 minutes before baking. It’s not necessary to spray your anti-sticky oil to your baking sheet due to your croissants have enough butter to prevent them from sticking. So economical when making yourself croissants!!!
– Bake the croissants in 20 minutes or until golden brown. They should be served warm to retain their crispiness but still be reheated well next day, however.