French Bread Mini-Loaves
I found the recipe for French baguettes from a wonderful bread baking website, www.breadtopia.com. I have learned most of what I know about bread baking from this site. I took Eric’s recipe and adapted it to use the sourdough starter I always have handy in my refrigerator. I also doubled Eric’s recipe and divided it into eight portions in order to have the perfect size for making Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches. Check out Eric’s excellent website for more great sourdough recipes. I hope you enjoy this version.
While, admittedly, this is not a whole food recipe (since all-purpose flour is highly processed), I make this recipe exclusively to use in my Vietnamese-Ethiopian Banh Mi fusion sandwich. This sandwich is over-filled with nothing but whole food ingredients, which I feel mitigates the use of all-purpose flour in the bread while allowing for an authentic Bahn Mi experience. I have discovered since creating this recipe, you can substitute 200 grams of the all-purpose flour with 100% whole wheat pastry flour to get some whole grain into the mix without sacrificing the crunch and airiness of real French bread.
This recipe seems more difficult than it is because of the number of steps it takes to create it. It also takes several hours to achieve your final product, but most of that time passed allowing the dough to rise. Your patience will be rewarded with the aroma of freshly baked bread filling your kitchen and crusty French loaves to sink your teeth into! Nothing is more intoxicating than the smell of baking bread.
Making eight loaves allows you to freeze several for later use. Just allow them to cool thoroughly before transferring to a freezer bag. To reheat, lay them directly on a middle oven rack in a 400º oven for seven to ten minutes for a crusty loaf, or pop them into your microwave for one minute for a softer bread.
French Bread Mini-Loaves, Po-Boy, or Submarine Buns
- 500 grams sourdough starter (50/50 flour and water)
- 600 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 280 grams warm water (about a cup, measure!)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (1 gram)
- 1 teaspoon salt (2 1/2 grams)
- To fully understand the instructions, it is a good idea to watch the video of this recipe before beginning.
The night before, feed your sourdough starter and refrigerate.* If you don't have a sourdough starter, you can easily prepare a Poolish the night before by simply mixing together the following ingredients in a glass bowl and covering it with plastic.2 g instant yeast (1/2 teaspoon)250 g warm water (1 cup)250 g unbleached all purpose flour (2 cups)
- In the morning, fill a medium mixing bowl with 500 g sourdough starter. Allow it to come to room temperature for at least an hour. It should be bubbling and active. You can use a seedling mat to assure your countertop is warm enough to allow the yeast to become active.
- Stir in yeast, salt, and warm water until fully incorporated. Stir in flour until it no longer stirs. Knead the rest together to form a ball.
- Cover and allow to rest ten minutes.
- Pull sides towards the middle and knead for about ten seconds using a kind of stretch and fold technique. Cover and allow to rest another 10 minutes.
- Repeat the stretch and fold action four times with ten minutes of covered rest in-between. After the fourth kneading, cover and allow to rise for one hour.
- Deflate the and weight the dough, then divide it into eight equal sized balls. Take each ball and flatten into a rectangle. Pull the dough by each end, stretching it over until the sides meet in the middle of the rectangle. Pat down and fold the top over one-third of the dough. Turn the bottom over the previous fold and pat down. It should look like a small log (almost like a pig-in-the-blanket).
- Turn seam side down and allow to rest. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Next, take one of the logs and gently flatten it out into a rectangle. Try to not totally deflate it.Fold top edge over half-way. Then fold the bottom over the previous fold to the top edge, pinching the edges together at the top.
- With both hands, roll the dough into a loaf, about eight inches long and about two inches wide. Unlike French baguettes, we will not be tapering the dough at the ends.
- Lay on a cloche, separating each loaf with a piece of the cloche. If you don't have a cloche, place on French bread baking sheets.** Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise an hour or until doubled in size.
- After thirty minutes has passed, preheat oven to 475ºF. Allow the dough to rise another half hour.
- Transfer four dough loaves from the cloche with a baguette flipping board to a parchment paper lined bread baking sheet staggering them so that they will not touch once they rise in the oven. You will have to do four at a time since there will not be room on the baking sheet for all eight loaves. Leave the remaining four on the cloche covered with the damp cloth until the first four have completed cooking. You can use the same baking sheet and parchment paper for the next batch.
- With a serrated bread knife, slash one long cut down the length of the dough.
- Transfer baking sheet with loaves to the preheated oven and bake for twelve to fifteen minutes, or until golden brown. They should sound hollow when tapped.
- Transfer loaves to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting into them.***
- Repeat with remaining loaves.
Below are the equipment and products I used in this recipe. Click on the photo to order yours through my affiliate link with Amazon.com, for which I receive a small advertising fee. Please visit my Store for more information.