I learned 2 new things! One is how to use the “tangzhong’ method of making dough. The other is in the shaping. I love how this takes pieces of the dough, rolls each one into a mini loaf and puts them together in the pan. It makes pulling it apart fun and groovy.
Now this is also a beautiful loaf of bread…
Anyway, back to tangzhong.
Below I will tell you what makes this bread different. I get this info from reading several different online sources. None of my extensive collection of baking books even mentions this method or the name tangzhong. It should be called ‘magic pillow bread of happy dreams’ or some other snazzy name worthy of this bread.
In a nut shell, you take some of the flour and liquid, in this case milk and water, cook it up together to make a pudding like goo (or roux actually) and use this in your bread, adding the rest of the flour, yeast and so forth. This pudding like mixture changes the flour proteins. Instead of providing glutenous strands, it creates a kind of gelatin out of the milk and flour proteins. So whereas gluten strands release moisture and they develop to hold up the bread, the gelatin in the dough acts like a million tiny sponges that hold in moisture. You do need to knead the dough longer to get the gluten you need, since some of the gluten proteins are being traded in for these spongy gelatin bits, but the results are amazing. Soft, moist, delicious bread. And no artificial ingredients involved. Just natural wholesomeness, albeit it lacks whole grain. So eat a carrot after eating the bread. There, fiber!
MAGIC PILLOW BREAD OF HAPPY DREAMS
(or “Japanese Milk Bread”)
this recipe makes 2 loaves and you will be glad you did
for the roux:
- 1/3 cup of bread flour
- 1/2 cup of milk & 1/2 cup of water (or use all milk)
for the dough:
- 4 1/2-5 cups bread flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup warm milk
- all the tangzhong (roux)
- 1 Tbsp. yeast
- 1 cube soft butter.
For the Tangzhong:
Whisk together the flour and milk/water in a small saucepan. Whisk over low heat until no lumps remain and keep whisking until the mixture has thickened up. Do not go read your email at this time! Watch over your mixture! It should be thick, but not too thick. It should still be pudding like and if you read the temperature, read about 150 degrees. It should still pour slowly off the whisk.
Now set this aside to cool, or store in fridge for another day.
For the Bread:
- Whisk the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the tangzhong and the milk.
- Add in all the rest of the ingredients except the butter.
- Now I strongly suggest using a standing mixer for this part. This dough needs a long kneading time. Mix on low-speed for one minute with the dough hook. Dont worry if it looks dry. (You are still going to be adding the butter, remember?)
- Let the dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes. This allows some gluten to form. This rest time is called “autolyse” and is especially useful when making whole wheat breads.
- Now turn the mixer on medium-low speed and add the butter, a bit at a time, while it gets incorporated into the dough. It might be sticky and messy, but not to worry. After all the butter is in, push the speed up to medium and knead for 7 minutes. Cover again to rest for 20 minutes. Mostly to give the mixer a rest. You don’t want to overheat the little darling.
- Uncover and knead again on medium speed for 7 more minutes.
- Test the dough for elasticity. It should be tacky and bouncy and smooth. Try out the windowpane test where you tear off a piece and pull it gently, like silly putty. If you can see light through it before it pulls apart, if it stretches out nicely, then it has the gluten development it needs. Put the piece back.
- Now oil the top and cover the dough (I like to use old bread bags, cut open on one side and top) and let it raise for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Turn it out onto a work surface, using very little flour sprinkled over it. Cut into 2 equal size pieces.
- Working with one piece at a time, cut that piece into 4 equal pieces. (Don’t lose sleep over the ‘equal’ part. Just eyeball it if you don’t have a kitchen scale.) Cover the pieces and let them rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll out each little piece into an oblong piece. Then fold 1/3 from the bottom to the middle and press. Fold 1/3 from the top to the middle and press. Then with the sealed edge up and starting from short side, roll it up, pinching the edges to seal.
- Place the rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Do the same thing to the other pieces of dough until you have the 4 rolls in the loaf pan. Repeat with the other half of your bread dough.
- Spritz with oil and cover, letting rise 30-40 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush the top of the dough with an egg wash. (An egg whisked with a Tbsp of milk or water). Put into the preheated oven and bake 35-40 minutes. If it starts getting too brown you can cover it with foil to finish baking.
- Remove from oven. Let rest 10 minutes and remove from the pan. Let cool on a rack. Cool before slicing. Watch it pull apart beautifully! Enjoy with some Irish butter on top!