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)
We Knead To Bake #3 : Hokkaido Milk Bread With Tangzhong
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk
For The Dough:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3 tbsps sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsps milk powdered
- 2 tsps instant dried yeast
- 1/2 cup milk (and a little more if needed)
- 1/8 cup cream (25% fat)
- 25 gm unsalted butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cups chocolate chocolate mini chips if making the chip rolls
- The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux):
- Whisk together lightly the flour, water and milk in a saucepan until smooth and there are no lumps. Place the saucepan on the stove, and over medium heat, let the roux cook till it starts thickening. Keep stirring/ whisking constantly so no lumps form and the roux is smooth.
- If you have a thermometer, cook the roux/ tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If like me, you donu2019t have a thermometer, then watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing u201clinesu201d forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.
- Let the roux/ tangzhong cool completely and rest for about 2 to 3 hours at least. It will have the consistency of a soft and creamy crxe8me patisserie. If not using immediately, transfer the roux to a bowl and cover using plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for about a day. Discard the tangzhong after that.
- The Bread Dough:
- I made this dough in the food processor. This dough can be made by hand but the dough is a bit sticky and can take some time and effort to knead by hand. If you have some sort of machine which will do the kneading for you, use it. Donu2019t punish yourself. And do not add more flour to make it less sticky either!
- Put the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in the processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. In another small bowl mix the milk, cream and Tangzhong till smooth and add to the processor bowl. Run on slow speed until the dough comes together. Now add the butter and process till you have a smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky.
- The dough will start out sticky but kneading will make it smooth. If the dough feels firm and not soft to touch, add a couple of tsps of milk till it becomes soft and elastic. When the dough is done, you should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away. When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
- Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning it so it is well coated. Cover with a towel, and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or till almost double in volume.
- Place the dough on your working surface. You donu2019t need flour to work or shape this dough. This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9u201d by 5u201d tin), 2 small loaves (6u201d by 4u201d tins) or 1 small loaf (6u201d by 4u201d) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins). Depending on what you are making, divide your dough. If you are making 1 loaf, divide your dough in 3 equal pieces. If you are making two smaller loaves, divide your dough into 6 equal pieces.
- I made one small loaf and 6 small rolls. So I first divided my dough into two equal pieces first. Then I divided the first half into three equal pieces to make the loaf. The other half was divided into six equal pieces for six rolls.
- The shaping of the portions, whether for the loaf or the rolls, is the same.
- Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape, about 1/8u201d thick. Take one end of the dough from the shorter side of the oval and fold it to the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold. (See the collage)
- Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. Roll the rectangle from one short edge to the other, pinching the edges to seal well. Do this with each of the three larger pieces and place them, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
- To make the rolls fold them in the same manner described above, but before rolling them up, place some chocolate chip on the dough. Roll the dough rectangles carefully and pinch to seal the edge. Place each roll of dough in a well-oiled muffin cup and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes.
- Shaping the u201chedgehogsu201d, the u201calligatoru201d, the u201csnailu201d and u201ctortoiseu201d rolls-
- For the hedgehogs, divide the dough as for the rolls above and shape them so they are a little narrower at one end (the nose of the hedgehog). Use black currants or whatever you have (chocolate chips will melt and fall off) for the eyes and nose making sure theyu2019re pressed well into the dough or they will fall off when baking. You can also use edible markers to draw the eyes and nose after baking the hedgehogs. Using small pointed scissors, randomly make small cuts all over the body (if the cuts are too shallow the pattern will disappear when the dough rises and bakes) for the u201cquillsu201d.
- To make the alligator (mine does look a bit like a very well fed gecko!), roll a piece of dough into a cylinder of sorts. Shate the head, a slighter thicker body which tapers into a tail. Shape 4 smaller pieces into limbs, attach to the body and make small snips at the end of each limb with scissors, for claws. Make similar snips across the back all the way to the tail for the u201cscalesu201d. Use currants or raisnd for the eyes.
- To make the tortoise, take a ball of dough and shape it into a smooth ball. Shape a head and four limbs from smaller pieces of dough. To make the u201cu201dshell/ back/ carapaceu201d take another small piece of dough, and shape into a thin round (1/8u201d thick) and mark it with a knife. The marks should be deep enough but donu2019t cut through the dough. Wet the underside of the dough with water or milk and attach it to the u201cbacku201d of your tortoise.
- The snail can be made by rolling a piece of dough into a long u201cropeu201d. Curl one end into a coil and shape the head and back to resemble a snail. Add the eyes.
- Carefully brush the tops of the rolls and the loaf with milk (or cream) and bake them at 170C (325F) for about 20 to 30 minutes till they are done (if you tap them theyu2019ll sound hollow) and beautifully browned on top. Let them cool in the tins for about 5 minutes and then unmould and transfer to a rack till slightly warm or cool.
- Serve or else store in a bread bin. This bread stays soft and delicious even the next day. This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9u201d by 5u201d tin), 2 small loaves (6u201d by 4u201d tins) or 1 small loaf (6u201d by 4u201d) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins).