Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bahn Mi Rolls

Okay, okay, I know that "bahn mi" actually refers to the rolls, so the Bahn Mi Rolls is redundant.

I know that. But this recipe was named by Andrea Nguyen, the author of The Bahn Mi Handbook.

Ah yes, we Americans have co-opted another word and made it our own. That's what we do.

While the intent is to use these rolls to make bahn mi sandwiches, they're good for so much more. Like sub sandwiches, hoagies, grinders, muffalettas, Italian beef sandwiches, or pretty much anything else you want to put on a crusty roll.

Leftovers, after a few days, could be sliced into rounds and toasted for bruschetta or crostini. Or cut up for croutons or turned into panzanella. Yup, these are versatile. If you like baking bread, I suggest you give these a try.

The recipe in the book is quite a bit longer that what I've adapted, with much more detail, including photos that show how to shape the buns. So if you're not super-comfortable with making bread, go check out the book for more instructions.

The book suggests using a Vitamin C capsule or tablet, but I used sour salt. It's the came thing, but less trouble. You can find sour salt at some supermarkets and for sure online. It's handy to have on hand if you want to add a little tartness to foods, but you don't want actual lemon or lime flavor. My mom used it for her tomato soup if the tomatoes weren't tart enough.

You can knead this by hand, of course, but a stand mixer is sooooo much easier.

Bahn Mi Rolls
Adapted from The Bahn Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (one envelope) instant or rapid rise yeast
2 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1 pound unbleached all purpose flour (3 cups plus 3 1/2 tablespoons), plus more as needed
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening at room temperature
1 1/4 cups very warm water (110 degrees)

Put the sour salt, salt, sugar, yeast, gluten, and flour in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low to combine. Add the shortening and mix until it disappears into the flour. Stop the mixer and add the water. Mix for a minute, or until the dough forms a shaggy ball around the paddle. Let it sit for 5 minutes.

Pull the dough off the paddle and attach the dough hook to the mixer. Knead on medium-low speed (2 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) for about 2 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and somewhat firm.

Transfer the dough to your work surface. No flour is needed unless the dough feels soft and moist. Knead the dough briefly. When you're done, it should be barely tacky ad not sticky at all. When you press it, it should immediately bounce back, but leave a little indent.

Drizzle a little oil on the dough, put it back in the stand mixer bowl, turn it around a few times so it's evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot for 45 minutes, or until doubled.

When the dough has risen, uncover the bowl and turn out the dough onto your work surface. Divide it into 6 equal pieces, then form each into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let the rest for 10 minutes, then form the balls into torpedo shapes. (The book goes into great detail about how to make this shape, but you can use any method you're comfortable with.) The torpedoes should be 6 1/2 inches long and 1 3/4 inches wide at the plump center.

Place the finished rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. I opted to just use a second baking sheet as a lid. Let them rise until more than double. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Set up the oven for steaming with a broiler pan or heavy pan on the bottom of the oven (or on a bottom rack, if your oven had exposed heating elements.)  Place a baking stone on a rack above the pan.

When the rolls have nearly doubled, remove the plastic wrap and let the surface of the rolls dry for the final 10 or 15 minutes.

Bring about a cup of water to a boil and keep it warm. Have a spray bottle filled with water standing by.

When the rolls are porpoise-like (my favorite description!) slash each each one with a sharp knife, nearly horizontal to the roll at the midline. It should be a very shallow cut.

Mist the rolls with the spray bottle and put the baking sheet in the oven on top of the stone. Carefully pour about 1/2 cup of water into the pan, then close the oven door. Lower the heat to 425 and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.

At this point, my oven malfunctioned, the door locked shut with the oven turned off and cooling down. I had to rescue the rolls using a coat hanger to unlock the oven. So I didn't finish the rolls according to instructions. Instead, I took the par-baked and cooled buns to a neighbor's house to finish baking. Fortunately, it worked just fine.

If you're not dealing with a dead oven, turn off the oven when the rolls are done, leaving the rolls inside for another 8 to 10 minutes to brown and crisp a little more.

Let the rolls cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes.

About the book:
I have to admit that I've never actually eaten a bahn mi sandwich, so I can't really say if these buns are right or not. But they are really good.

I have a pate recipe bookmarked, as well as pickles. Both are traditional on bahn mi. When those are done, I can make a sandwich.

But to be honest, the pickles and pate and bread all look like I'd find other uses for them aside from sandwiches.

And this bread? Yes, I'll make it again. Well, I will when I have an oven.

Considering the narrow subject matter of this book, there's a good variety of recipes. There are sandwich ingredients, like the bread, pickles, and pate, but also mayonnaise, sauces, sausages, and terrines. Then there are sandwiches. And finally, non-traditional bahn-mi-like foods, including a bahn mi salad.

So even if you don't want to make a lot of bahn mi, there are recipes you can use for other purposes.