After last month’s Classic Croissants which involved quite some effort in making laminated dough but almost fool-proof and flaky Croissants, this month’s bread is quite easy. I had bookmarked this bread not just for texture and height, but because of its slightly unusual method of making the dough. When I first came across it, I had never heard of the bread or the slightly unuual method of making the dough.
This month’s bread, the Hokkaido Milk Bread is known for its soft cottony/ pillowy texture. Apparently it’s very popular bread in South Asian bakeries across the world.
It is also known as Asian Sweet Bread and Hong Kong Pai Bo. Some people say this is a Japanese bread while others say it’s because the milk used in this bread is from Japan while some others have suggested its pure white colour and the texture resemble the pristineness of Hokkaido!
I’m not sure if these hold much water when you consider that the credit for this method of making bread goes to a Chinese woman.
The Hokkaido Mild Bread owes its texture and height to the use of an interesting ingredient called Tangzhong. Basically, the Tangzhong method involves cooking 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux.
At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and create a “leavening” action. When the Tangzhong is added into other ingredients that go into a bread dough, it produces light, tender and fluffier bread.
This method of using Tangzhong is often seen in South Asian breads and was created by a Chinese woman, Yvonne Chen, who describes this method in her book which translates to “65 degrees Bread Doctor”
The Hokkaido Milk Bread is very easy to make. First you make a Tangzhong (flour-water roux, and milk in this case) and then let it cool completely. You can use it to make the dough after it gets a 2 hour rest. It also keeps for a day or so refrigerated.
Then make the bread dough using the Tangzhong. If you refrigerate the Tangzhong then let it come to room temperature before you use it. The bread dough is made like any other dough. It is a rather sticky dough initially, but kneading it well will make it smooth elastic and easy to handle.
This is a very versatile dough. You can make into a plain loaf, or dinner rolls. You can fill the rolls with sweet or savoury fillings. You can even shape the dough into knots, or cute little animals. This dough also makes the softest Pav/ Pao for Pav Bhaji
Though it has some sugar in it, this bread is only mildly sweet. If you want to make a savoury version, with or without filling, you can cut down the sugar to 1 tbsp and add another 1/4 tsp of salt.
The recipe below asks for a small amount of cream as an ingredient. The cream does make a slight difference in texture, but you can use all milk instead. I have tried it both ways and the bread turns out just as good.
If you would rather not use cream, just omit it and add 2 tbsp of milk instead. If you would like to make this vegan or milk and milk product free, then replace the milk with water and the butter with oil. Of course, then this loaf will no longer have the typically “milky” taste of a milk bread but will still be a pretty good bread.
The recipe requires making Tangzhong and using only HALF of it (the other half keeps refrigerated for about 3 days), probably because it’s not very easy to halvea 1/3 cup of flour. If you can eye-ball half of a 1/3 cup of flour, then make the Tangzhong using that and a 1/4 cup each of water and milk. I’ve done this and my Hokkaido Milk Bread has turned out just perfect.
Here’s a video on making Tangzhong and the bread that might be useful. (The recipe in the video is a different one) **
Hokkaido Milk Bread With Tangzhong
(Original Recipe from 65 Degrees Tangzhong “65C Bread Doctor” by Yvonne Chen, and adapted from Kirbie’sCravings)