The Fresh Loaf

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The things I'll do for a great sandwich

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Franko's picture
Franko

The things I'll do for a great sandwich

 

A few months back while I was browsing some Vietnamese food sites, particularly [this one] I found myself lingering on the pages featuring Bahn Mi sandwiches with all their various fillings, the most common being pork in some fashion, fried, grilled, pulled etc, as well as ones using chicken, prawns, crab, there doesn't seem to be any hard and fast rules when it comes the protein component of the sandwich. However the only bread to use for making them is a typical French baguette, a bread I seldom bake at home, mainly because of their very short shelf life. I love a fresh baguette just a few hours out of the oven, but if I can't finish it in a day, well... not so much. Regardless, I was determined to make the bahn mi using a fresh baked demi baguette and deal with whatever leftovers remained as best as possible. The first item on the agenda was to pickle some thin slices of carrot and daikon for garnishing the sandwich. I wasn't in any rush so they had a good 3 weeks pickling away in the garage before I was happy with the flavour. The next item was to get in some practice actually mixing and hand shaping baguettes. We used to make our own baguettes in our shop years ago but they were always shaped using a molder so my hand skills definately needed some upgrading. I decided to use Jeffrey Hamelman's Poolish Baguette from "Bread" for the first mix since I've always found his formulae so reliable. The results were just OK, a fact I chalked up more to my lack of experience with the process than Mr Hamelman's formula. The crumb was too tight, lacking the larger irregular sized holes that it should have, but it tasted allright, considering. I should note that the flour I was using was Canadian Organic AP flour, a generic brand from the local supermarket, but more about that later on. For the second batch I went with the poolish baguette formula from Michel Suas' "Advanced Bread & Pastry", which resulted in almost the same type of crumb as the one from "Bread". The shaping was better, it tasted fine, but not there yet. Next I tried my own version using a levain with 100% rye starter that had a great flavour, not like any French style baguette I'm familiar with, but tasty and with a better crumb structure than the previous two. Still not what I wanted for the bahn mi though.Not one of the demi baguettes made so far had been used to make a bahn mi with, instead used for sub sandwiches which I eventually grew tired of. The project was put on hold while I did some other things and in the meantime gave some thought to blending a softer (10%) Cdn. pastry flour with the AP to see if that might help things along. Our Canadian AP flour typically has a protein content of 13.3% so a little higher than U.S. AP flour, and higher still I'm guessing than French flour or whatever type is used in Vietnam. Based purely on speculation I used a 75/25% blend of AP and pastry flour in the next mix, this time using Steve B's Baguettes a la Bouabsa from his very good site [breadcetera.com].

That the formula uses a straight mix, retarded for 21 hours, held a lot of appeal for me schedule wise, being able to mix it an hour or two before going to bed, and have it ready for shaping an hour after getting home from work the following day. The only changes I made to the formula/process were to substitute the AP/Pastry blend for Meunere Milanese flour in Steve's formula, and to give it two stretch and folds on the bench over it's one hour bulk ferment, rather than the 6-8 in the bowl every 20 minutes Steve calls for. This time all the pieces came together to produce something I was happy with, a light,crusty loaf with a toasted wheaty flavour and enough irregular holes in the crumb to do the sandwich justice.

Many thanks to SteveB for making this recipe available!

From here on it was easy. Two small pieces of pork shoulder, say 60-65 grams total, pounded very thin with a mallet or rolling pin, marinated in lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, and sweet dark soy sauce for 1-2 hours, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried till crispy. Toast or grill the bread, spread with a lime flavoured mayonnaise, add the pork and sprinkle with course sea salt, top with fried shallots, a [Vietnamese Slaw], and fresh pea or sunflower shoots, a sprig or two of fresh coriander perhaps...and that's it!

Some of the items mentioned above such as the pickled carrot-daikon, and fried shallots aren't visible in the photo, but they're in there somwhere, just buried under everything else. 

I know it may sound like a lot of time and effort to go to just to make a sandwich, but take my trials and tribulations of making the right sort of demi baguette out of the equation and it's no more trouble than making many of the world's great sandwiches. Give or take a few minutes, it's right up there with the likes of such classics as the Rueben, Cubano, Croque Monsieur, Porchetta, Philly Cheese Steak and Lobster Roll, to name just a few. Now that I have a baguette formula and process that I'm happy with, this sandwich goes on my All Star list of street food to be made again.

Cheers,

Franko

Comments

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim

I'd say that's definitely time well spent, Franko! It sounds totally delicious. And great bread too! All you need is a little advance planning, but so do most good food, right?

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Hans!

Making something different and delicious is always time well spent, I agree. That I learned a few things along the way added even greater value to the experience. 

Best Wishes,

Franko

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Yum!

David

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks David!

Next time you make baguettes, save one for making this sandwich. I'd be very surprised if you didn't enjoy it for it's unique combination of flavour and textures.

Franko

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Franko,

This is a post written by a patient man.  I am totally impressed by anyone who can spend weeks creating a meal that will be eaten in a fraction of the time it took to create it and clean up the dishes without a fuss only to do it all over again time after time....Methinks your sandwich was a work of art and a very attractive one at that.  Even fits the season with all of the greens.  Beautiful, simply beautiful.  Thanks for sharing!

Take Care,

Janet

Franko's picture
Franko

Wow Janet!

Thank you for the wonderful compliments. :^) As for being patient, I think living in a small town for as long as I have has contributed to that a lot. It took a while to get used to the fact I couldn't just go out and find what I wanted, when I wanted, as I did living in Vancouver. The mind set of it'll happen when it's time, or hurry up and wait has carried over to other aspects of my life it seems. If I was still living in Vancouver I would just gone out and bought the sandwich and missed out on the satisfaction of making one from scratch.

Thanks again Janet,

Franko 

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

You really put a lot of patience into making your Vietnamese sandwich.  I love the slaw with addition of pork on a toasty roll.  The sauce sounds delicious.  It's was not easy to find pea shoots when I last looked for some..they were usually mixed with other sprouts..those look like sunflower sprouts?  I ended up having to order some seeds and sprout my own..how fun and healthy.  I love the addition of healthy fresh sprouts piled high on a sandwich.  Your slaw is over the top mouthwatering. The baguette turned out very nicely and what a perfect combo.  The change of season brings along refreshing changes in our taste buds..how nicely your sandwich reflects these changes.

Thank you for the link to the foodie site :)  Loved the expo in Vegas..I'll be in Vegas Thursday...getting warm there!

Sylvia    

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Sylvia,

We're fortunate here on Vancouver Island to have an organic sprout producer that keeps all or most of our supermarkets supplied with a variety of high quality fresh sprouts. [Link here] The sprouts I used in the bahn mi were the dark green pea shoots you'll see on link page. The sunflower sprouts below them are a little lighter in colour. Thanks about the baguette turning out nicely! I'll need to play around with it some more see if I can't improve it, but it's a good place to start from I think. Have a great time in Vegas Sylvia, and thanks again!

Franko

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

yourself - grow your own sprouts, it is super inexpensive and a lot of fun.   This is what I use:

http://www.amazon.com/Victorio-VKP1013-Three-Tray-Kitchen-Sprouter/dp/B000N03EK0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337816625&sr=8-1

The container came with a starter package of seeds but they can be purchased easily by doing a google.

Best,

anna

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Anna,

Thanks for reminding me! We do have a sprouting gizmo in fact, but I totally forgot about it when I was planning for the bahn mi. I'll have to dig it out for next time.

Franko

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

as it looks.  A masterpiece !!

 

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Anna!

It was very tasty, and disappeared rather quickly I might add. One day I'd like to visit Vietnam and try out the real thing from the pros who make them every day.

Franko

isand66's picture
isand66

Great looking sandwich!

I admire your perseverance in trying to perfect your bagguet and it looks like you settled in on a winner.  I have use 00 Style flour mixed with AP flour in making baguetts with some good results so that's something you may want to try if you can get your hands on some good Italian style 00 flour.  I have also used KAF French Style flour which is fashioned after the traditional French flour used for baguetts.

Regards,
Ian

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Ian, and thank you!

Thanks for your suggestions as well. Unfortunately Italian oo flour is difficult to find in my neck of the woods and big $ to purchase if you do. KAF is unavailable in our local markets and having it shipped is prohibitively expensive, so it's a matter of learning to work with what I have I'm afraid. As mentioned in the post, baguettes are something I make very very seldom, and even now that I've found a good use for them I don't anticipate making them more than a few times a year, if that . I think the best thing I can do to improve the product is be extra vigilant during fermentation and continue to work on handling technique.

Cheers,

Franko 

merlie's picture
merlie

Hi Franko, I don't know if you can get Roger's flour on the island  but the last time I was in their mill store (just a few minutes from where we live near Armstrong) I was told that they now have 00 flour.

I am going to try your baguette formula. Mine taste fine but are rather hit and miss as far as the crumb goes!

As for any leftovers , I usually wrap tightly in foil over night , unwrap then wet with water and reheat in 350 degree oven.  Comes out just like new.

Best regards,  Merlie

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Merlie, 

Well that's interesting! I wonder if they'll make it available to the domestic market or if it's aimed at commercial users that want it for making pizza dough. I'll have to check the site and see what I can find out. Thanks for the tip! 

SteveB's formula and process are definitely worth a try. It's easy and convenient with better flavour than poolish versions I've tried. The 21 hour cold ferment has a huge impact on the flavour.

All the best,

Franko 

merlie's picture
merlie

Hi Franko,

I know a lot of the flour on their website is not available to the domestic market but the 00 flour was posted as being available in the store - big notice by the checkout !

Good luck -

Merlie

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Merlie,

I sent them an email asking if it was available for consumer retail and if I could buy 5-10K. When/if I get a response I'll let you know. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thanks again,

Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Wow Franko, so many great things in your sandwich, not the least of which is the bread!
The lime mayonnaise and fried shallots sound wonderful, too...
Thanks for a wonderful sandwich idea!!!
:^) breadsong

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi breadsong,

Your comments are greatly appreciated, especially regarding the bread!:^) It was an interesting exercise trying to get a reasonable result, and fun to do as well. The lime mayo is just commercial mayo that I added a drop or two of lime oil, (Boyajian, great stuff!) some fresh squeezed, and zest to. Next time I grill or plank halibut, I'll be making some of this mayonnaise from scratch to serve with it. Glad you liked the sandwich idea.

Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Franko,
Aren't those Boyajian citrus oils the best?
Lately, I've been using the lime oil to make a lime vinaigrette (4 drops lime oil, 3 Tablespoons grapeseed oil, 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar (tarragon-infused is nice), fresh-grated lime zest, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste) - tasty, and equally good with lemon oil/lemon zest.
Your lime mayonnaise, or a citrus aïoli...lovely to accompany something on the grill!
:^) breadsong

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I will go to any length to have a good sandwich for lunch every day.   Steve B had made a comment to Varda about his baguette process and I too used it with good success for my last baguettes.  They look very much like yours even when made with Yeast Water.

Your baggies and sandwich are very nice.  My sammy's tend to be portion controlled to half your size though :-) The last really decent Bihn Mi I had was in Saigon in 1973.  It was what they called  mud crab and shrimps with a really nice salty, sweet, hot chili, fish sauce, with green onions and those Vietnamese roadside greens you can't even get here at the Vietnamese market.  The bread was as good as any anywhere.  Glad you make them too!

 

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks dabrownman!

Oooh, that mud crab and shrimp bahn mi sounds good, I'm envious! This sandwich is about twice my normal portion as well, but figured wth, I've waited this long, I might as well make it my main meal and have the full experience. I think I had a small green salad for dinner that evening. :^) 

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

That's a corker of a Bahn Mi going by your description and the drooly pics. Anyone who puts the effort you have into getting everything set to produce the optimum result has my respect and admiration.

I embarked on a similar quest when I got back from a travelling stint in Vietnam a couple of years ago, but most of my energy went into getting the filling right. The baguette you finished up with looks spectacularly good.

Pssst: don't have your expectations too high re the real deal in Vietnam. Bahn Mi is everywhere, sold in the street from little push carts, and most I had were pretty damned delicious - but honestly, your take on this Vietnamese classic is special. The Vietnamese baguettes are very light and rather tasteless in Saigon and the south, but improve markedly as you move north - to my taste, at least. However, the fillings I sampled were better in the south!  That said, as I understand it, the pickled daikon and carrot preparation is a fast affair, done on the day of eating (just about everything is fresh fresh fresh in Vietnam).

I didn't get to Hanoi that trip, which is revered for its food, so should add that as a disclaimer. Also, it's possible there are some high-end versions in restaurants, but I sorta doubt it, unless it was one catering to tourists. Bahn Mi is a street food staple.

Issues of authenticity aside, I reckon your creation is probably as good as it gets!

Thanks for a fascinating post.

Cheers
Ross

PS: The pork sounds incredible!

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Ross, 

Thanks for sharing your insights on the real McCoy bahn mi, as well for your super compliments of my own effort. If you think it's a good one then I'm positively thrilled to hear that from someone who's had the genuine article. Interesting about the carrot-daikon pickle having such a short time in the brine. I tasted mine after a week and they hadn't taken on any acid flavour at all. I wanted something pretty sharp tasting to contrast with the sweet flavour of the mayo, which I eventually got after 3 weeks. I don't know what it is about street food but I tend to get more of a kick out of it than just about any other type. Marie and I are going back to Prague next summer, she for a month to teach English and I'll come over in the last week. The first place I intend to visit is the stall in Old Town square that sells slabs of incredible wood smoked ham on rye bread. Can't wait!

Cheers Mate,

Franko

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Right with you on street food, Franko. It's always the main focus of our travels in SE Asia. And if not street food, regional specialities in affordable local restaurants packed with locals. That's about as close as travellers can get to local mama's downhome cookin' (assuming mama is a whizz!), and for me, great home cooking is the best there is. I suspect your tastes are similar to mine in this regard.

Your summer Prague visit sounds terrif! And that ham on rye you mention - I can only imagine how damned amazing that is. Have heard nothing but raves about Prague, and when your voice emerges from the chorus, I listen! Maybe one day...

Franko, here's a link to the bahn mi I made when I returned from Vietnam. I thought aspects of the filling were pretty close to the real deal, including the pickled carrot and daikon. Quite a nice sauce, too, which rang pretty true. You might like to give this quick pickling method a go (but I wouldn't be changing much about your superb-looking sandwich!).

Best, mate!
Ross