My quest to making authentic Bánh Mì is finally over! After so many trials I lost count, I’m super excited to finally share the recipe to make these super light Vietnamese baguettes! Let’s bake!
WHAT IS BÁNH MÌ
Bánh Mì is a Vietnamese bread that appeared during the French colonization, around 1880. French colonists brought bread as well as paté, coffee, crème caramel, yogurt, and more, influencing Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnamese tweaked the bread by filling it with paté, carrot and radish pickles, fresh herbs, and all sorts of meat. It is now considered one of the best sandwich in the world.
Bánh Mì, that translates to “wheat cake”, is the name of the bread itself, but also the filled sandwich.
So, what’s so special about bánh mì? The uniqueness of this bread is that it is extremely light. The inside is so airy it almost looks like candy floss, and the crust is super thin and crispy with visible cracks on it. Another difference is that, as opposed to other breads, this one tends to become soft and chewy the next day, it doesn’t really dry out.
To me, preparing a Bánh Mì sandwich starts with the perfect bread, French baguette just doesn’t compare. Traditional French baguettes have a much thicker crust and more crumb, so the weight to volume ratio is much higher. Bánh Mì is lighter (less crumb), making it easier to digest, and perfect to add a ton of fillings!
HOW TO MAKE BÁNH MÌ
I tried many recipes and I could not find a single one that gave a real bánh mì texture. Most so-called Vietnamese baguette recipes yield nice results but far from the ones I tried and loved in Việt Nam. After a lot of research, insane amount of trials, and invaluable help from Vietnamese friends, I finally nailed it! If you are looking for an authentic bánh mì that is as light as a feather, this recipe surely won’t disappoint.
What is the secret to getting this extremely light texture and thin crust? Well, there is not a single answer to that, it’s the combination of multiple things:
- A high hydratation dough. This dough contains more moisture than most bread dough. In fact, it’s so sticky you will need to work with oiled hands when handling the dough.
- A high protein flour: Aim for a wheat flour with about 12% protein. If you only have all-purpose flour (8% protein) on hand, don’t try this recipe as you will be disappointed by the results. The high amount of gluten allows the dough to get a light and elastic consistency, as well as a better rise.
- Bread improver: An essential ingredient, the addition of bread improver allows the dough to rise for a longer period, giving it a fluffier texture. I found mine online, but you may try asking a bakery if they can sell you some (they usually have it).
- The addition of vitamin C: It acts as a boost for the yeast. I used vitamin C powder, but you can use crushed vitamin c tablets.
- A high-speed kneading: For this recipe, you will need a stand mixer. We will run it at full speed to develop the gluten.
- A long rising time: You want to let your baguettes rise for at least two hours in a warm and humid environment. The baguettes will keep rising for the whole two hours thanks to the addition of the bread improver and the vitamin C.
- A lot of steam in the oven: This will allow the crust to develop cracks and stay thin and super crispy.
Do not omit or substitute any ingredient if you want the best results. And no, this recipe cannot be made gluten-free, sorry.
Quick note: Bánh mì dough doesn’t contain any rice flour nowadays, unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about that (Wikipedia included). IT IS NOT the secret to its light texture, neither is the shaping/rolling of the dough. It’s all about what is listed above.
Before starting, you will need a few essential tools:
- A high-speed stand mixer: This one is a must, I would not recommend kneading by hand for this recipe.
- A perforated baguette pan: If you want round and good-looking baguettes, a baguette pan will definitely help. It also helps the heat distribute better, giving the baguettes a more uniform, golden brown color.
- A bread lame: For scoring the loaves before baking. You actually don’t need the handle, just a standard razor blade works well.
- A spray bottle: To spray the baguettes before baking.
- And a good oven!
Alright, let’s start! First, we add all the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer: bread flour, salt, sugar, bread improver, vitamin C, dry yeast, and water. Then knead on the highest speed for 7-8 minutes.
Once the dough his silky smooth and sticky, transfer to a greased surface and let it rest covered for about 20 minutes. Then, divide it into either six pieces of about 70g each or five pieces of 84g. I went with 70g as this seems to be the norm for most bánh mì in Việt Nam.
It’s now time to shape the baguettes!
For the shaping, I would recommend checking some videos like this one to get an idea of how to do it. There are different ways to shape your baguettes, you can slap the dough into a long trapeze, then fold it in half, flatten it, and then roll. Or, flatten the dough into a rectangle and then simply roll it. Don’t be too hard on yourself, the shaping will not have a huge impact on the overall texture of your bread. Try to do your best though, but don’t worry, it’s pretty forgiving once they rise as you can see below.
Next, place your little loafs of dough on a greased baguette pan. To proof, I recommend placing your pans in an oven at about 86°F (30°C) with a baking sheet or bowl filled with warm water to keep enough humidity. I had a lot of trouble at first with the baguettes developing a crust and drying out during proofing (a dry crust stops the dough from rising more). To prevent that, you want to cover your baguettes with a wet cheese cloth. Don’t use a kitchen towel as it’s too heavy and could prevent the baguettes from rising well.
After 2 hours, your baguettes should have almost quadrupled in size! Time to bake!
A lot of moisture in the oven is the secret to that thin crust. Preheat your oven to 475°F (250°C) with an iron skillet in the bottom. The skillet will retain a lot of heat, so when you will open the oven to bake your baguettes, it will come back to a high temperature more quickly.
Once your oven is at the right temperature, spray the baguettes with water and score at a 45 degrees angle using an oiled razor blade. Pour boiling water into the iron skillet to create a lot of steam, add your pans to the oven, and turn off the oven fan. By baking with no fan, we keep a ton of moisture inside the oven.
Be careful, DO NOT open the door of the oven during the first 15 minutes otherwise your baguettes will slightly collapse. See, the high heat and steam inside the oven makes the bread rise, but if you open the door before the crust has set, it will simply collapse and you will loose that super airy crumb. We won’t spray the baguettes with water during baking as there is already enough humidity.
After 16-18 minutes, remove your golden brown bánh mì from the oven, and let it cool. You should hear the sound of a crackling fire and see cracks appear on the crust within 5 minutes!
I’m so happy with how these turned out! The crust is so thin and crispy, and the crumb is incredibly light!
I would say the only thing I could not get perfectly right are the ears, I still need to work on my scoring skills. Other than that, these little bánh mì are so close to the real ones!
WHERE TO USE BÁNH MÌ
Bánh Mì, while served as a sandwich, is usually eaten for breakfast in Việt Nam, although you can have it anytime of the day. The vegan versions usually include vegan paté, mayo, pickles, some sort of vegan “meat”, Maggi seasoning, fresh cilantro, Thai basil, and many other add-ins like peanuts, crispy shallots, etc. Here are a few recipes and ideas on where to use Bánh Mì:
- Pulled Mushrooms Bánh Mì: If you want a super meaty and juicy sandwich, this recipe won’t disappoint!
- With Vegan Beef Stew or Vietnamese Curry: Dip a piece of bánh mì to soak up the sauce, yum!
- Grilled and drizzled with chili sauce, mayo, and green onions like in this Spicy Grilled Bread. This works best with 1-2 days old bánh mì.
- To make Vegan Roast Pork: in this recipe, we use the crust of the baguette to mimic the pork skin. The thin crust adds color as well as a nice crunchiness once fried.
- Anywhere else you would use bread!
I hope you will love these little baguettes! SO light and crispy!
Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe, and tag @fullofplants on Instagram if you make it!
How To Make Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Baguette)
- Add the water, bread flour, bread improver, dry yeast, sugar, salt, and vitamin C to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Mix on speed 2 for about one minute, or until everything is combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides if needed. Now, increase the speed to the maximum (10 on a Kitchenaid), and let the stand mixer knead at full speed for about 8 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it will move because of the speed.
- Using slightly oiled hands, transfer the dough to a greased countertop or smooth surface. The dough should be elastic and very sticky, that's normal. Cover the dough with a bowl upside down and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature (about 86°F/30°C). If it cannot go that low, just turn the oven light on. Place a baking sheet filled with warm water in the bottom of the oven. Grease two baguette pans with an oiled kitchen paper towel and set aside.
- After 20 minutes, divide the dough into 6 balls of about 70g each. This is the regular size of banh mi, however if you want bigger baguettes, divide the dough into 5 pieces of 84g.
- To shape: slap a ball of dough on your greased working surface, then use your hands to flatten it into a thin rectangle. Next, roll it out into a roll of about 5-inch long (see photos and this video to get an idea of how to shape the baguettes). Transfer to the prepared baguette pan and repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
- Wet two lightweight cheesecloth and place them on the baguette pans, this will prevent the baguettes from drying and forming a crust. Place the baguette pans in the preheated oven and let the dough rise for about 2 and a half hours. Check after 1 hour and re-arrange the cheesecloth if needed (since the dough will rise, you might have to carefully remove the cheesecloth and replace it on top so it doesn't stop the dough from rising well).
- Once your dough has quadrupled in size, remove the pans from the oven but keep the cheesecloth on top. Preheat the oven to 475°F (247°C) and place an iron skillet in the bottom of the oven. This will help retain heat better. Let the oven preheat for at least 25 minutes.
- Boil about 3 cups of water. In the meantime, remove the cheesecloth and spray the dough with water. Using an oiled razor blade (or very sharp knife), score each loaf with 2-3 cuts. Tip: Hold the blade at a 45° angle (not perpendicular) and make cuts of about 1/2 cm deep.
- Spray with water once more. Now, place your baguette pans into the oven and pour the boiling water into the iron skillet. Immediately close the oven door and turn off the oven fan.
- Bake for about 17 minutes, or until the banh mi are golden brown. Do not open the door during baking. Once your banh mi have a nice color, carefully flip them upside down and bake for another 4 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown as well.
- Remove from the oven and hear them crack! Some cracks should appear very quickly, that's one of the characteristics of a good banh mi. If you want them to have a nice shine, lightly brush them with melted vegan butter and let them cool a bit before eating.
- Banh mi are best eaten the same day, the crust is super crispy and the crumb so fluffy! You can keep them for up to 3 days at room temperature in a bread bag. They will become softer the next day, but you can reheat in a preheated oven to make them crispy again.