I’m always thrilled when people make recipes from my books or this blog and report their progress. It’s incredibly rewarding when they volunteer tips and insight for me to share! Since late last year, I’ve been keeping a stash of interesting tips. There have naturally been a number of banh mi tips so I’m unleashing them today!
Jo in Seattle has been going to town with making banh mi. We got to meet at my Book Larder event last September. For the selfie contest last year, Jo baked the bread and made the Maggi steak on page 101 of the handbook; her impressive entry is above. I encourage people to initially follow recipes in my books, then play and tweak them. That’s my approach to using recipes. Jo did just that and followed up via email and Facebook. For example, when using Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour for homemade banh mi rolls, she sent me these tips:
I replaced 3g sugar with 3g dry malt powder. I used only 10g vital wheat gluten. I also replace the shortening with butter. Follow all your directions with the exception of giving my dough an extra rise before shaping. The extra rise seem to give the dough better flavor and better structure for the long final proof. I let final proof go over the 1 hour mark and 1 1/2 hour seem to be the limit. One batch I tested for over 2 hours and it was over proof and partially collapsed back when the loaves were slashed before baking.
She also tinkered with banh mi buns – a recipe in the “Alternative Banh Mi” chapter of the Banh Mi Handbook. After making them according to my instructions, she played with the dough:
Catherine in Reno was pre-ordered the banh mi before its July 2014 release. She attacked the recipes with vigor, baking bread for the first time in her life. Like Jo, she made Viet sandwiches from scratch and even tried them out on her grandchildren. It was easy.
After Catherine saw a Facebook post from someone who thought that banh mi seemed challenging, she sent me a series of photos on how to build a banh mi to share. She used purchased bolillo rolls here, I believe.
David and Pam generously sent me a tip for how to fashion an inexpensive baguette baking pan. David wrote that there are no baguette pans sold where he lives and he didn’t want to order one online. So he went the DIY route. “This is 24-inch long aluminum heater pipe section from Lowes folded in half. It worked great!” he wrote. “And at around $3.50, it satisfied my stingy side perfectly. Perfectly shaped loaves; great internal texture; and your recipe worked the first time.”
I was curious and asked a few more questions, to which he responded:
No holes! The aluminum duct metal is thin and very heat conductive. I did turn the loaves over as the recipe suggests and next time, I may take them out of the pan altogether and let the final crust browning be on the oven racks to avoid turning them in the pan. I think that I’ll add a few minutes to the recipe to develop slightly more crust – probably oven variation.
The duct is thin enough to cut with scissors and bend by hand on the edge of the counter to form the two sections. It looks as though the metal is wide enough to make three sections for smaller loaves and I may try that – the first worked so well. Be careful – it does produce sharp edges!
So far, I’ve not used the loaves for bahn mi, but they were a big hit with home-made minestrone and are scheduled for floating on my daughter’s favorite – French Onion soup maybe this weekend.
Thanks for posting your great recipes and I hope this inspires some others to try their hand at baguette making. Homemade are so much better than what I can find in stores locally. And contrary to what a lot of cooks think, bread-making really isn’t that difficult.
And speaking of banh mi, I came across this story from Vietnam. It’s about Mrs. Nguyen Thi Loc, a 78-year-old banh mi vendor in Hoi An, a popular and charming tourist town spot near Da Nang. Many people say that her banh mi are the best around.
And Hoang Son reports in the story, Mrs. Loc is picky about her bread. She favors banh mi made on baguettes that are “tough and fragrant,” which I interpret as wanting bread with some bite. None of that super lightweight, airy stuff for her. She makes all the other components herself. Mrs. Loc reminds me of the two banh mi vendors I met in Saigon last year. Read about them in this post.
As a cookbook writer and cooking teacher, I love to hear about how people experience and use my work. Equally important is that along with the feedback people gain insights to share with others. The internet and social media allow us to build that level of community. It's one of the main reasons I started this site in 2002.
If you have ideas or tips to contribute, do email me. I may squirrel them away for a little bit but I will eventually share them!