There are few things I enjoy more than the smell of freshly baked bread in the kitchen on a Sunday morning. I like to bake at least one loaf of bread a week, but no matter how many times I do it, I still get really excited when I see the dough proofing (the final rising before baking). And I relish the nervous anticipation of waiting to see how it will eventually turn out every time I place a blob of dough in the oven.

Having grown up in a country that has been colonized multiple times, I’m no fan of colonization. But the best thing the French brought to Vietnam during the colonial era is the baguette, which is the key component to the Bahn Mi (ie: the most delicious sandwich in the world). The Vietnamese baguette has a different texture than the French baguette. Not only does it have a thinner crust, but it also has a unique chewy texture. It took me some time before I finally figured out the secret ingredient that differentiates the Vietnamese baguette from a French baguette — glutinous rice flour. These days people tend to have a prejudice against fusion food as the foodie scene tries to find what’s the most authentic food out there. Personally, I enjoy fusion food, and sometimes when two cultures collide, out comes some of the most delicious food. Anyway, with globalization it’s almost hard to define what is real authentic food anymore.

A few weeks ago I shared with you my Bahn Mi recipe inspired by our trip to Vietnam, so this week I thought I’d share with you my easy recipe to make freshly baked Vietnamese baguette.

Ingredients:

(makes 6 baguettes)
3 cups bread flour (divided)
1 cup glutinous rice flour
112 cup water
1 Tbsp. sugar
112 tsp. salt
14 tsp. yeast

Directions:

Make the dough by mixing 112 cup bread flour, water, sugar and yeast together. Mix well until no lumps remain. Cover it up and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. (photo 1)

Once the dough starts to bubble and has formed all the gluten, mix in all of the remaining ingredients. Kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover it up and let it rise for an hour or until the dough doubles in size. The glutinous rice is what gives the baguette its unique chewy texture and fragrance. Glutenous rice is also called sticky rice or sweet rice and you can find it in Asian grocery stores or your local specialty food stores. (photos 2 & 3)

Once the dough has doubled in size, divide the dough up into six pieces. Let the dough rest for another 15 minutes before you shape them. (photo 4)

To shape the baguette, first flatten the dough, then roll it up into a log shape. Using your palm, roll the dough back and forth while stretching it out sideways until it’s shaped like an eye. Cover it up and let the dough rise one last time for an hour or until it doubles in size. (photos 5, 6, 7, 8)

Preheat your oven to 450 F and place a pan in the bottom of the oven. Boil some water and set it aside until the bread is ready to bake. (photo 9)

Once the dough has doubled in size, score the dough using a sharp blade. (photo 10) Quickly place the bread in the oven and pour the boiled water in the pan. This will create steam in the oven, which is what makes the crust on the outside of the bread. Bake for 20 minutes and let it cool for at least five minutes before serving.

While these baguettes are perfect for making Bahn Mi, they’re also excellent for hoagies or pretty much any other type of sandwich.

For Bahn Mi and other Vietnamese recipes visit www.thewayriceshouldbe.blogspot.com.