I got a free baguette from somewhere a few months ago. It’s been sitting in my freezer since then, desiccating, apparently. I got it out to make banh mi yesterday and discovered that it was rock hard. I would’ve given up on the whole idea except that I’d already bought all the other ingredients.
To attempt to rehydrate the bread, I… steamed it. It mostly worked. Soggy on the outside and still pretty hard on the inside = delicious, right? Fortunately, panfrying got rid of the sogginess.
Bread down, onto the hacked-together filling! The main components of banh mi are some protein (I used fried tofu and scrambled egg), cilantro, mayo, fish sauce, and marinated veggies. I had trouble with the fish sauce (don’t have it) and the marinated vegetables (don’t have vinegar), so I made some wild substitutions like usual.
Julienned carrots and radish are supposed to be marinated in a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I didn’t want to buy a whole container of vinegar (and it’s not available in bulk) just as I’m about to move out, so my plan was to use lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar. Lime would be especially fitting – it’s commonly used as a topping. But… the grocery store didn’t have either 🙁 The closest alternative I could find was grapefruit. I still don’t know if that was a good choice.
I added bonito flakes to the marinade to substitute for fish sauce.
The sandwich was actually pretty good, considering. The vegetables only have the faintest hint of grapefruit-bitterness flavor… 😀
A while ago, I need to use up a pound or so of sour cream (left over from some event) and some over-cooked sweet potato. I steamed it into sweet potato mush 🙁 I had the bright idea of making pancakes (really good, super tender and fluffy) and biscuits (not so great, but edible).
The original biscuit recipe, which is much better than my modification, is from Joy of Cooking:
20 2-inch biscuits
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (might need more salt)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Mix dry ingredients. Add the cream all at once. Mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently 5-10 times, adhering any loose pieces in the process, until the work area is clean.
Roll or pat the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into desired size (2-inch squares is standard). Reroll and cut any scraps.
Bake in center rack at 450°F for 10-12 minutes until biscuits are golden on top. Set biscuits close together on baking sheet for joined biscuits with soft sides.
(To cook on a griddle, roll dough out to 1/4-3/8-inch thick. Cook in griddle until brown on one side, 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook until brown on the other side.)
I don’t really use cornmeal for anything, so I decided to make cornbread to use up the haul-cornmeal. It had the added benefit of using up the rest of my flour. I’m moving out in a month and am trying to not have any food left. I’m down to my freezer stash of carby foods, like biscuits, brownies, low-tier garlic bread, low-tier baguette (which is gonna be upgraded to banh mi :).
Anyway, my mom provided the Cook’s Illustrated “Northern cornbread” recipe that she likes. (The “Southern cornbread” recipe has more cornmeal and, I believe, less sugar.)
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (I used yoghurt)
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 425°F. Grease a 9-by-9 pan.
Stir together dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until just combined.
Pour batter into greased pan. Bake until top is golden brown and lightly cracked and edges have pulled away from side of pan, about 25 minutes.
For Hot Cross buns, use the cinnamon roll dough recipe. Add some amount (just eyeball it) of candied fruit and currants when you are ready to shape the dough and make about twelve rolls. For Hot Cross buns, the egg wash is very important to give the right look. Whisk together a whole egg with a bit of salt; this is brushed on just before baking. You can use the other half of the egg or a previously saved egg white can be used.
1/2 package of yeast (this would be 1 1/8 teaspoon but my mom uses 1 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 Tab water
1/2 cup milk (can be whole or low-fat)
2 1/2 Tab butter
1 1/2 Tab sugar
1/2 of a large egg
1/2 teas salt
2 cups (or a bit less) bread flour
1/8 teas cinnamon
1/16 teas nutmeg
1/16 teas ginger
For cinnamon rolls:
1 Tbsp (or maybe less) softened butter to spread on the dough
Cinnamon and sugar mixed — heavy on the cinnamon
nuts — preferring pecans and preferring cookie-size pieces
1 teas butter (this keeps the icing soft)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk or cream
Well-buttered (glass is good) baking pan about 7×11 inches.
Use a standard bread maker mix cycle to make the dough, or without a bread maker: Make the dough and let it rise until doubled, the punch down and shape. Once the dough is ready, roll it into a rectangle about 14×12 inches. Butter the dough with the softened butter. Sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar, then the nuts and the currants. Roll up and then slice off the cinnamon rolls. Nine or twelve rolls is about right but this can vary quite a bit, depending on your preference. I like to refrigerator overnight so that the rolls are ready in the morning. In the morning, warm the oven to a low (not yeast-killing) temperature, turn off the oven, and put in the roll pan. I like to cover with a cloth. When the dough is light and the pan warmed, remove the pan from the oven. Then heat the oven to 425°F. (If you like the look of an egg wash, see the Hot Cross bun instructions.) Bake for 15 minutes. If the rolls start to get too dark, make a foil tent to protect them.
After the rolls are done, swirl on icing and serve.
There are some good foraging opportunities near my apartment. The best is a pear tree – I believe it is ornamental since the pears are small. It wasn’t clear to me if the owners were interested in the pears, so I just collected ones that had fallen onto the sidewalk, and made pear-sauce! I strained the cooked pears through a mesh strainer, and used the remaining fibrous matter to make alcohol.
There are also a ton of sugar maples. If I had tapping equipment, I could make maple syrup.
And lastly, there are a ton of chestnut trees. Unfortunately, they are horse chestnuts, not true or sweet chestnuts, which were largely killed off in the early 1900s by chestnut blight. The only trees that survived were those far enough (about 10 km) away from other chestnut trees.
Horse chestnuts contain high levels of naturally-occurring saponins, which make them taste really bitter. Apparently, they are also poisonous. Before realizing this, I collected a bunch. I was super excited to find chestnuts since they’re pretty expensive to buy.
As far as I’m aware, horse chestnuts only have one use: making liquid soap! You can soak the nutmeats in water to dissolve the saponins, and use the soaking liquid as liquid soap or detergent.