Weekend Cooking: Chinese bakery-style sausage buns and tangzhong

So I have to know, am I the only one who thinks, ok, since I’ve got the oven on to bake (this thing), I might as well go ahead and figure out what else I can bake (especially if it has to do with chocolate)?

Or is that just me?

I have been wanting to make Chinese bakery-style sausage buns for the longest time. They are my absolute favourite thing to buy from the Hong Kong-style bakeries here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kee Wah bakery, which is originally from Hong Kong, has the best of these hot dog/sausage buns. The buns are so pillowy soft, slightly sweet, and the sausage inside is yummy. It makes for a delectable savoury breakfast, protein and all. So whenever we’re in Milpitas, we make sure to stop by and grab several buns for each of us!

While I’ve grown up with these Chinese-style buns, I have never attempted to make them. Probably because they’re so easy to find all over Singapore. Why bother to try making them?

But last year or so, I started looking into how these soft buns are made. And it turns out that there is something called tangzhong (湯種), a kind of cooked flour paste, that helps create a soft pillowy bun! And it’s really not that difficult. If you know how to make a roux (e.g. for bechamel sauce), it’s kind of like that, except it’s just flour and water. You can read more about it in this post on the Fresh Loaf. 
I used this sausage roll recipe from Christine’s Recipes and she has more details on the tangzhong recipe here. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, it’s simply cooking flour and water (1 part bread flour to 5 parts water) on the stove and stirring until it thickens. She mentions a temperature of 65C, but I didn’t bother with a thermometer, I just followed her instructions to stir until it thickened, and essentially when you drag your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pot, it leaves a line behind. Then remove from the heat, place some cling wrap directly on the tangzhong and let cool to room temperature.

Then simply add to all your other ingredients and follow the rest of the instructions in the post that I linked to.

I used my bread machine to work the dough and left the dough in there to finish rising.

And that’s where I began on my other baked good of the day. After all, the oven was going to be on anyway, I might as well make full use of my morning! The only problem was I only had three eggs so while I lusted after a pound cake recipe and a butter cake recipe, I was one egg short. It would have to be a chocolate loaf (recipe from King Arthur Flour) then! Good thing this was a quick everything in the mixer kind of recipe. Beat together butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder, espresso powder, cocoa. Add eggs. Add half of the flour. Add milk. Add the rest of the flour. Pour into loaf tin (and in my case, throw some chocolate chips on top). Bake! 


Then as it was nearing preschool pick-up time, I turned back to the resting tangzhong dough, which I had already removed from the bread machine and divided.

It was a softer dough than I was used to, so I found it a bit awkward to work with at first. And since time was running out, I quickly wrapped the dough around my sausages. They had to rest for an hour. Good timing as the kids would come home, wash up and have lunch. Then while they played, I could get the buns in the oven. (I goofed on the time required for the whole process and had initially thought it would make a great lunch for the kids. Oh well, they had chicken salad pitas instead. And were pleased with the chocolate loaf for a very rare lunchtime dessert.)

So that was my first time trying tangzhong and I am really excited to see what else I can make with it. Apparently, once it is cooked and cooled, the tangzhong can be kept in the fridge for a few days, but it just took a few minutes to get to that thick line stage, so I don’t really foresee the need to make it in advance.

Hokkaido Milk Bread seems to be a popular tangzhong recipe. But it looks like whole wheat bread can be made with tangzhong too. Cook’s Illustrated even tried out tangzhong in dinner rolls. And here’s a cardamom and orange brioche using tangzhong.





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  1. Well, tangzhong is totally new to me. But the sausage rolls you made look amazing and the other recipes you cited sound good too. I’ll have to add this to my techniques to try list.

    And lucky kids with that fresh-baked chocolate loaf. Yummmmmm.


  2. I really shouldn’t have read this post at 11:16 pm (IST). I am drooling like my furry friend Boo. There is nothing interesting to munch in the stash, and it is too late order anything. Your pictures, and descriptions are drool-worthy, and I succumbed. 🙂 I am going to read your weekend-cooking post during the day next time. 😉


    1. Oh yes. There’s yeast and plenty of other ingredients. If you click on the link you can get all the details. The tangzhong itself is just flour and water.


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