Tangzhong Bread

soft and squishy

The peculiarity of Tangzhong bread seems to be the starter made up of what is essentially a roux or béchamel, cooked ahead of time and left to sit for a while, before mixing in to the rest of the dough. the resulting bread is very fine grained and extraordinarily springy. Will spring back from being squished right down.

The basic recipe seems to be as follows, first the ‘tangzhong’ itself.

  • 40 g Flour
  • 200 g water

This gets put in a skillet or sauce pan, stirred and cooked like you might make a smooth roux until it gels pretty thickly and can hold it’s shape. In the end, it should end up weighing slightly less than the weight of the water it started with. Aim for about 180 g. Every reference I’ve seen so far suggests that it is important for the ‘tangzhong’ to sit in a refrigerator for at least 6 hours, then allowed to return to room temp for an hour before using. (It has been noted that it can be made a couple days in advance too.) I have not tested to see if the 6 hours is actually important or not. I may try it out just for comparison.

Then the rest of the bread, first mix all the dry ingredients:

  • The tangzhong that you made earlier
  • 580 g Flour (about 4 cups)
  • 60 g sugar (about 1/4 cup)
  • 12 g salt (2 tsp)
  • 10 g yeast (flexible, a packet is good but you might have to raise longer)
  • 10 g dried milk powder, (optional, about a tablespoon, don’t have any myself, and can attest that the bread is delightful and very rich without it.)

Then the wet ingredients:

  • 260 g milk (about 1 cup plus 2 tbsp)
  • 50 g egg (about 1 egg. I’ve seen this skipped and replaced with equivalent amount of milk. This makes for a whiter loaf, but less rich.)

mix together and knead until quite smooth. then knead in:

  • 50 g softened, room temperature butter

Knead thoroughly. Techniques I’ve seen tend to recommend coating your hands and table with a bit of oil rather than flour. This is a pretty sticky dough. The resulting dough should be quite smooth and elastic.

Set aside to raise until at least doubled in volume. In a bowl with a light coating of oil seems to be a good idea. Given that you’ve just been kneading it with oiled hands on an oiled board seems like it should be enough.

Parcel out and shape. There seems to be a tradition here of breaking a single loaf down into separate rolls. this is left as an exercise to the reader, as you can see I did it and it came out nicely. The separate rolls can be torn apart and stored separately. The important part about shaping here is that this is supposed to be a fine grained bread, so degassing thoroughly is advised. Most examples of this that I’ve seen around actually use a rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough before rolling back up into the cylinders.

Raise until doubled

Brush on an egg wash. (this will make it shiny and keep the upper crust flexible enough to rise without tearing.

Bake at 350º-355º for about 25 minutes

What you end up with (assuming you use the egg) is somewhat like a brioche, in that there’s a bit of the egg flavor and yellow coloring in the final loaf. it’s a very moist bread with a quite soft crust. One of the best homemade breads I’ve ever made for French toast, and sandwiches in general. They remind me a bit of the Hawaiian sweet rolls I’ve seen at the store.

[NB: this post was updated to specifically add the tangzhong to the dry ingredient list and call out the cooking time]

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