I’ve always had a preference for asian style bread. The breads usually have an incredibly soft texture and stay soft and fresh for days. I’ve looked up recipes a couple of times and it seemed that a lot of the recipes required a “bread improver” to keep the bread soft. I don’t believe this ingredients is available here in the U.S., but apparently is more common in Asia.
Then I read about the “Tangzhong method.” It’s been popular for a few years now, but since I don’t read chinese, I didn’t learn about it until recently. One of the blogs I follow is Christine’s Recipes. I really enjoy her blog because she makes a lot of chinese recipes and her blog is in English and in Chinese, which has allowed me to try recipes of a lot of my favorite chinese desserts.
I first read about the Tangzhong method on her blog. Basically, a few years ago, a woman named Yvonne Chen wrote a book entitled 65 degrees, which details her secret ingredient to keeping bread fresh and soft. She uses a flour and water mixture, cooked to 65 degrees, to make a flour paste called “tang zhong” which is added to the bread. What I loved about this idea is that it is natural and doesn’t use chemicals.
As soon as I saw the beautiful, soft and fluffy breads that Christine had made, I knew I had to try making my own. I read up on the tangzhong method on a few other blogs and also a few different recipes.
I decided to try making a simple milk toast, which is one of my favorite breads to get from chinese bakeries. It’s sweet and has no filling, so you can just enjoy the plain, soft bread.
You need to make the flour paste ahead of time and give it a few hours to cool, but it’s not too hard. I made mine in the morning, put it in the fridge and then used it that evening.
The bread portion was a little harder to make. It took several hours of proofing my bread and kneading it before it was ready. But it was totally worth it. When my bread came out, the crust was shiny and it looked and smelled like I was in a chinese bakery. After I let the bread cool, I peeled off a section of the bread and the texture was so fluffy. Even the next day, the bread remained as soft and fresh tasting as the day before.
I can’t wait to make this bread more often. Now I just need a bread maker for the kneading. The recipe allows you to knead by hand or use a bread maker. I highly recommend using a bread maker for the kneading because it takes quite a while.
1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup water
1. Mix flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
2. Pour mixture into a small pot 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 to let it cool. I used a thermometer but I’ve read from Christine’s website and several others that 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 reached 65C.
3. Once the mixture is cooled, 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 and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The paste does not keep well, so use within a few days.
Update: Since my first attempt, I’ve got a better understanding of how the texture should turn out, how long the kneading should be, and I’ve taken better step by step photos. You can view the updated post here.
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (about half of the tangzhong made)
2 tsp instant yeast (instant!! not active dry yeast!)
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. If you own a breadmaker or a food processor powerful enough to knead dough, I HIGHLY recommend using it. The dough takes a long time to knead. About half an hour by hand. The dough will start out to be extremely sticky. Keep kneading until the dough is no longer sticky and is elastic. You should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away.
2. Knead 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.
3. Transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. (Christine took great step by step photos. Mine are a bit rushed and in bad lighting) 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.
7. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.