Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Legacy of the French

France first began it's involvement with Vietnam as early as the 17th century, by Catholic missionaries. Along with missionary work, attributed to the Paris Foreign Missions Society, trade also became established and continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. France obtained complete control in 1887 and occupied Vietnam (part of Indochina) until 1954, when the Geneva Conference granted Indochina independence from France. The influence of the French, can be seen in the French colonial-style architecture, improved ports and drainage systems, and the introduction of coffee, tea, and rubber plantations. However, the best influence by the French was gastronomic, introducing baguettes, ice cream, pate, and crepes.

Vietnamese bread (known as banh mi) is traditionally made with an mixture of wheat and rice flour, giving it a lightness and subtle flavor. This recipe for "Vietnamese Baguettes," adapted from The Complete Vietnamese Cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, is said to be traditional, and makes an excellent Pork Meatball Banh Mi. (One of my favorite sandwiches, ever!)

Vietnamese Baguettes

Makes 2-3 loaves (I make 3, so I can fit them in my oven!)


1/2 ounce (5 teaspoons) dried yeast 
2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups unbleached white bread flour
2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg yolk


Sprinkle the yeast over 4 tablespoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Let sit until foamy. (If it doesn't foam, throw it out and buy new yeast!) 

Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Pour in the remaining 1 1/2 cups water into the well in the center. Using your hand, draw a little flour into the center and mix until you have formed a smooth batter in the center. Sprinkle a little of the flour over the top to prevent a skin from forming and leave it to froth for about 20 minutes.

Using your hand, draw in the rest of the flour and work the mixture unto a springy dough. Lift it to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Clean the bowl and lightly oil it. Put the dough into the bowl and cover it with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap. Leave to rise and double in size, at least 2 hours. Knock back the risen dough by punching it down and lift to a floured surface and knead. 

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 and roll into a log shape about 12" long. Place the logs on a baking sheet (I had to use 2, overlapping), and slit the surface lengthwise. Cover with a damp dish towel and leave to double in size. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the loaves with beaten egg yolk mixed with a touch of water, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

No comments:

Post a Comment