Like any new home cook, there are certain recipes that we are anxious about. For me is anything that has yeast in it. So bread making around my kitchen is not a common thing. Which is crazy considering that if there is anything I love more is fresh made breads and pastry.
Since I started Sweetbites my recipe index has been slowly filling out with various recipes that has force me to teach myself the art of making bread, and like anything in life, practice makes perfect - or in my case, not have a freak out about yeast.
Like many others before me, I was simply intimidated by the seemingly complex and work-intensive process of making bread. Most recipes seem difficult and loaded with steps and significant work. But I have learned that, once you get pass that, you realized that bread is quite easy to make a home, and you only need a few staples ingredients to make simple loaf.
For the past couple of months I been putting more and more recipes of bread making on my to do list. Some are pretty straight forward, other have different techniques based on the end results you are seeking for.
I love crusty bread. Give me a loaf of hot French bread or crusty bread and I’m a happy. But, I also love soft, springy and fluffy bread - perfect for early morning toast smoother with jam and butter and sipping a hot latte or tea.
So when I came across a recipe posted by a fellow baker in facebook for this Milk bread and read the recipe, I was intrigue. See, the bread used a method called Tang zhong – which is describe as a “secret ingredient” which originated in Japan, to make soft and bouncy bread. It’s actually a kind of “flour paste” starter which involves cooking flour with water (or milk, or a combo of both) until you reach 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux.
Why does tang zhong (flour paste) work so amazingly that can produce fluffy bread and stay soft for many days? The gluten in the flour and liquid mixture would absorb the moisture and become leavened. When tang zhonog is added into other ingredients of the bread, the bread dough will be heightened and produces softer bread andallows bread to stay fresh longer without needing to use artificial preservatives.
Now, tell me… does this not peak your curiosity?
I thought so.
In order to give this new technique a try out, I decided to start with this Milk Bread, which is very popular and if you Google Tang zhong method, this is the recipe that comes up the most to use it with.
Since this was my first time doing this I stuck to the recipe and did not get all-gutsy with it. Unlike my “all out” attitude with all my savory cooking, I’m a coward when it comes to baking recipes, I don’t deviate much from the originals.
I read over ten different recipes and basically combined the all into my own.
HAKKAIDO BREAD - MILK BREAD
Makes 2 loaves
Tang zhong starter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour (you can use bread flour too)
- 1 cup water or milk or a combo of both (I used a full cup of milk)
- In a small saucepan, mix flour and chosen liquid together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
- Place on burner and turn on medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up. It will begin to thicken. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 65 degrees Celsius, turn off the stove and take the mixture off the stove.
- Pour it into a bowl and cover the top using plastic wrap. Place the wrap directly onto the mixture to keep it from drying out.
Tip: I used a thermometer to see the temperature, but you can sort of eye it. If you are continually stirring, the mixture will start to have “lines ” and then it is done. I started to see lines around the same time the temperature started to reach the 65°C mark. If you are not going to use the starter the same day, put it in the fridge right away. The paste does not keep well, so use within a few days.
- 540 grams all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon powdered milk (like Nilo)
- 11 grams instant dried yeast
- 1 large egg, whisked
- ½ cup milk (and a little more if needed)
- ⅛ cup cream
- 184 grams of tang zhong (at room temperature)
- 49 grams unsalted butter – melted and cooled at room temperature
- Making the Bread dough:
- Combine the wet ingredients in a stand mixer bowl and using a whisk, mix them together. Add the dough hook attachment and add the dry ingredients, flour, yeast, sugar, powdered milk and salt. Mix on low speed until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue mixing on medium to high speed. Mix the heck out of it for about 18-20 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and is elastic. You want the dough to be elastic. So if you were to take a part of it and stretch it out, you can stretch it to a very thin membrane without it breaking. When you poke a hole in the thin membrane, it should form a close to perfect circle.
- Gather the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
- Dividing and Rolling:
- Deflate and divide the dough into 3 pieces if making one big loaf (9 x 5), into 6 pieces if making 2 small loaves (6 x 4) and into 12 pieces if making mini rolls.
- Roll out each part with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top. (Like folding a paper into letter size) Turn the dough over, so that the folds face down and roll and flatten dough with your rolling pin. Flip dough again, so folded side faces up. Roll the dough up from top to bottom. Take both ends and fold down until they meet at the bottom. Stretch and move the top portion of the dough around until you end up with a ball shape at the top and the ends are tucked into the bottom. Repeat this step of rolling for the rest of your dough. With seals of the dough balls facing down, place the balls into your chosen baking pan that has been greased with butter. Then cover with cling wrap or a wet towel. Leave it for the second round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Brush the top of the bread with milk or cream. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Make note that the different size breads bake at different times, so keep an eye on them.
- Remove from oven and after about 5 minutes, invert the bread onto cooking rack and let cool completely before slicing.