Saturday, 14 January 2017

Bake some sandwiches

Huh? Bake some sandwiches?

Surely you don't bake sandwiches? After all, they're just a couple of slices of bread (and that's already baked) with something edible stuck between them. Indeed, look up "sandwich" in Wikipedia and you'll come across a long article describing that item in just that way, and including the following explanation as to the origin of the use of that word:
It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and others began to order "the same as Sandwich!" It is commonly said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage [an excellent game, incidentally] , while eating, without using a fork, and without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.
Well, that's not what a sandwich is in Belgium!

There, that type of sandwich is called a boterham, whereas the word "sandwich" (with the "ch" pronounced more like "sh") refers to a soft, elongated bread roll, made from an enriched dough.

A Belgian sandwich is something like a Spanish medianoche, though, from the recipes I have found, seems to be rather richer, incorporating more eggs.

It is quite difficult to find a decent recipe for sandwiches, even with the amazing search-and-find capabilities of the Internet. And even if you find a recipe, it is very likely to be written in Dutch (the majority of Belgians speak Dutch), which is a tad difficult to follow if you are not able to read that language.

I have, however, come across a couple of recipes, and by far the best is provided by a Belgian television chef by the name of Roger van Damme here. See what I mean about the Dutch?

But never fear! Here's a translation.

Ingredients for 15 sandwiches (I had a couple more)
500g strong flour
225g milk
35g fresh yeast (or 12g dried yeast)
3 egg yolks
50g sugar
10g salt (I used less, so suit your taste)
80g unsalted butter + a little extra in order to grease the baking tray


(I prepared my dough in a mixer, so have adapted the method here). Place the flour in the mixing bowl and add the milk, yeast and 2 of the egg yolks. Mix with the dough attachment on a medium speed until everything is incorporated. Add the sugar and salt, followed by the butter, which should be cut into small cubes and added gradually.

Allow the machine to continue kneading at a medium speed until the dough is smooth and supple (the time will depend on your mixer, but reckon on about ten minutes).

Empty the dough out of the bowl and, if necessary, complete the kneading by hand. Make a ball of the dough, place in a bowl and cover with cling-film and a clean kitchen towel. Leave to rest for 35 minutes.

Knock the dough back and cut into portions of 50 grams, forming these into balls. Place these bottom-side up, cover with cling-film and allow to rest for ten minutes.

Press each ball flat and then roll the dough back onto itself to form the long sandwich shape. Grease a baking tray (I used two) with a little butter (I didn't do this, to no ill effect) and place the sandwiches on it, leaving sufficient space between them (they will rise a lot). Cover with cling-film (I used a clean kitchen towel) and allow to rise for 60 minutes.

Beat the remaining egg yolk (actually, I used a couple of quail eggs, including the whites) and carefully brush the tops of the sandwiches (this will provide the typical glazed finish).

Bake in an oven preheated to 230ÂșC for 8 minutes.

You should end up with some deliciously soft rolls, which are good to eat with either savoury or sweet fillings.

Enjoy them, or, as we say in Belgium, "Smakelijk!"

(If you wish to see Roger van Damme preparing the sandwiches by hand, a video is available here. Roger speaks Dutch, of course, but at least you can see what he does, and particularly how to roll the sandwiches.)

Here are the ones that I made:

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