This quarantine has made it the perfect time for me to start a sourdough starter, but the cooler temps in my house and me running out of rye flour and unable to go buy any have made it slow to mature. I was hoping to make a sourdough loaf by now, but unfortunately, have had no such luck. We almost never buy bread from the store but I’m sure all the aisles are empty anyway.
Cue this recipe. This is the crusty bread recipe to end all bread recipes. It’s my go-to and it turns out beautiful every time. It’s a famous recipe by Jim Lahey and highlighted by Mark Bittman on NYT Cooking. To my initial disbelief, it’s also the easiest bread recipe I’ve ever encountered as it requires no kneading, no specific shaping, and no scoring. The only thing that it requires is time. It’s very little effort on your part but you do have to prep about 24 hours in advance and let it sit. You’ll impress everyone (even yourself) with this bread, and you won’t ever have to spend $7-11 for a similar loaf at the local bakery ever again.
This bread is perfect for sandwiches, dipping into balsamic vinegar and olive oil, a side for soup, or just by itself. It’s very crusty, which I love, but this isn’t the bread for you if you don’t like a supremely crunchy crust.
A Brief History of Bread
Bread (flour mixed with water) in its various forms has been a staple in many cultures for centuries once people were able to mill wheat (although more so in naturally fermented forms). The invention and popularization of commercialized yeast has made it easier and faster to leaven bread, hence the many kinds of yeast breads (cinnamon rolls, croissants, doughnuts, buns, etc.) and the loaves you see in the bread aisle. While naturally leavened sourdough loaves will always be the more nutritious option, there’s no dispute that yeast makes bread-making much more accessible and simple for those who don’t have the desire or time to keep up a starter.
4 cups of all purpose or bread flour (I like bread flour and substituting up to 2 cups of whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups lukewarm water
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 2 cups warm water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. If your house is warmer, a couple hours less; cooler, a couple hours more.
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to a work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a piece of parchment paper with flour and place the dough ball seam side down. Sprinkle the top with flour and cover with a towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450F degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. You can also use the bowl of a slow cooker covered with a flat baking sheet. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Grab onto the parchment and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 20 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
I don’t know exactly what made me decide to make banh mi for dinner recently. I think I was craving them and knew that I had some carrots and cucumbers in the fridge. So I went on a Google quest to look for recipes on how to make banh mi at home. There is a surprisingly few amount of Vietnamese banh mi baguette recipes out there–I went for one that was detailed and reasonably easy to make. I’m not going for 100% authenticity here, mainly because I know it’s not possible to do at home. But the results of this baguette recipe were SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. Crispy on the outside with a nice and fluffy interior. Please ignore my total bread scoring fail; we don’t have any sharp cutters or razors to slash the dough well enough…
I whipped up the pork with some fail-proof Asian seasonings and it was the perfect pairing with the pickled carrots and onions. I also had some leftover roasted garlic aioli I made the day before and used that as the mayo-based sauce. It was honestly so delicious–I was incredibly pleased with this meal. I don’t often say that about my cooking but this is a definite winner in my book. J and I both had 1.5 sandwiches because we’re gluttons it was that good. Don’t let the daunting amount of components deter you!! I promise it’s worth it.
Roasted Garlic Aioli
1 bulb of garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup mayonaise
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 small sweet onion
1 small daikon
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons pure cane sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 pound pork loin, minced
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/8 teaspoon five spice seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Red chili flakes, optional
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small fresh jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
I followed Danang Cuisine’s recipe to a T. Her video is really helpful too.
Roasted Garlic Aioli
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Chop off the top of the garlic bulb just so the tops of the cloves are showing. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Wrap in aluminum foil and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Carefully remove the cloves of garlic into a small bowl.
Add the mayo and lemon juice and stir until all is incorporated and the garlic cloves are mashed. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
Cut up carrot, onion, and daikon into small matchsticks and place in small bowl.
Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the veggies and massage for a few minutes until the salt starts to draw moisture out. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until liquid pools at the bottom.
Strain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly with water.
Return back to bowl and stir in vinegar and sugar until dissolved. Cover and let set for at least an hour before serving. Place into a jar and refrigerate for storage.
Heat oil in a skillet and add onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.
In a bowl, mix together the pork and all the rest of the ingredients.
Turn the heat high and add all of the pork mixture into the skillet. Let the pork cook and caramelize on the bottom before flipping. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the meat until brown and fully done.
Slice the baguettes in half, leaving a “hinge” to stuff the ingredients in.
Add a layer of the roasted garlic mayo, then add the pork.
Stuff the rest of the sandwich with your desired amount of the pickled veggies, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Enjoy!
I’ve been wanting to make homemade cha shao bao for a while now. I finally got my hands on some good BBQ pork (thanks mom!) and asked my grandma for her amazing man tou (steamed bread bun) recipe. Combine the two, and voila! You get these steamed pork buns.
When I called my grandma asking about her recipe, I should’ve expected that she would say she doesn’t have one. She just eyeballs and throws a bunch of things together. I was trying to listen to her list off her “recipe” in mandarin and translating it into something I could put numbers to. She said things like 3 spoons of oil and an unknown amount of warm water haha. I decided to give it a shot and it actually turned out!
This was my first time making them so they definitely didn’t come out 100%. I’ll continue learning with each time, but they’re still tasty either way. My first steam batch was a huge fail. I called my mom to ask what could’ve happened and she made me realize that I didn’t let the buns rise long enough the second time. My grandma didn’t mention a second rise so I’m glad my mom came to the rescue with that, saving the rest of the buns!
Steamed Bun Dough
3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
3/4 teaspoon yeast
Pinch of salt
1 cup warm water (90-110 F)
BBQ Pork Filling
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
3/4 pound BBQ pork, diced
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
Red chili flakes, optional, to taste
2 bunches scallions, chopped
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dough with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. It should come into a shaggy ball and most all the flour should be absorbed. Add more water or flour in small increments as necessary if not the right consistency.
Place dough on clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, just a few minutes.
Return dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
In the meantime, make the filling. Add the sesame oil into a large pan and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent and fragrant, several minutes. Add in the rice wine and let it cook and evaporate. Then, add in the pork and cook together for a few minutes.
In a small bowl, combine all the rest of the filling ingredients except for the scallions. Stir well to dissolve corn starch and make a slurry.
Pour the sauce mixture into the pan and cook until filling has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add in the scallions and stir. Set aside.
Cut up 16 little squares from parchment paper or gather 16 cupcake liners.
Once done rising, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 equally sized balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each dough ball into rounds that are approximately 3.5″ diameter, making the middle portion thicker than the edges.
Add 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the round. Fold by pleating the tops and then pinching it all together at the center.
Place the bun onto a parchment square and set aside. Repeat for all 16 buns and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until double in size, between 15-60 minutes, depending on the temperature.
Prepare steamer (preferably bamboo) with water and place over high heat to get it boiling. Add buns to the steam basket and steam for 12 minutes on high heat. Be sure not to check on the buns/remove the lid.
Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes before enjoying!
I bake a lot of bread because if J could choose one food to eat exclusively, it would be bread (followed closely by cheese). I have a classic no knead bread recipe that I use all the time–it’s foolproof and produces an amazing loaf every time. That recipe is not this one, haha. But this one is good in that it produces a great loaf in a shorter amount of time if you’re crunched for time!
We invited my sister-in-law and her boyfriend for dinner and board games one night and I had planned to make my normal crusty bread with soup and pasta. I totally forgot to prepare the starter the night before though and had to improvise last minute. That’s when I found this recipe for a no knead crusty bread. While I do like the other one slightly better, this one is quick and easy and still produces a great loaf of crusty bread. We also left half of the starter in the fridge to develop and baked it off after 6 days. It has a wonderful flavor after sitting and fermenting!
1 1/2 tablespoons (14g) instant or active dry yeast
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir until everything is combined.
Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot.
Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.
When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.
Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log.
Place the loaf on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.
Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool). It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven to 450°F while the loaf rests. If you’re using a baking stone, position it on a middle rack while the oven preheats. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.
When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.
Place the bread in the oven — onto the baking stone, if you’re using one, or simply onto a middle rack, if it’s on a pan — and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.
Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.
Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.
In my endeavors to make less waste in the kitchen, I’ve been taking day old bread and making them into croutons, one of my favorite snacks! While stale bread may not be particularly enjoyable, just adding some olive oil and seasonings instantly transform it into a delicious snack or topping on salads.