What is tangzhong?
Well it is essentially a sort of roux, made by cooking flour and a liquid (either water or milk) until it reaches 65C or 150F. Most cooking blogs and websites that discuss tangzhong point to this 2007 cookbook 65C Bread (65°C湯種麵包) which I think is written by a Taiwanese and popularized this method in Asia. But the thing is, if you have ever eaten bread from Chinese bakeries, you may have noticed that it’s a lot softer than your typical ‘western’ style bread. In Singapore, the few old-school bakeries that are around make a very soft white bread – I’m guessing that the crusts are cut off or something as it is a seriously WHITE bread. So who knows, maybe all this time they’ve been using a tangzhong method or other.
Bread made with the tangzhong is softer, lighter. According to this blog by pastry chef Jennifer Field, the gel (the tangzhong) helps to hold on to water and also prevent some gluten formation, resulting in a softer bread.
I first tried the tangzhong method early last year, but I think I had added too much of the tanghzhong, resulting in too soft a dough and it was a lot harder to manipulate. Also I was far too ambitious in starting with a hot dog bun recipe, where the dough had to be rolled around the sausages. You can read more about my attempt at Chinese bakery-style hot dog buns here.
I’m not sure what attracted me back to the tangzhong method this year, there must have been a blog post that popped up somewhere, but I ended up on the blog Christine’s Recipes, which quite a few other food bloggers adapt from. This bacon and cheese tangzhong bread in particular caught my eye. But of course I didn’t have the right cheese (I wasn’t going to waste my good Brie on it!) but noticed at the end of the post she mentioned turning it into raisin bread. And in my house, there are always raisins. So that’s what I went for.
When baking I prefer to use my digital weighing machine as it’s far more accurate than scooping cups of flour
Tangzhong ingredients (enough for two loaves)
50g / 1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup milk (can use water or 50/50 water and milk)
350g / 2½ cups bread flour
55g /3tbsp+2tsp caster sugar – I increased it slightly to 4 tsp for my raisin bread
5g /1tsp salt
56g egg (1 large egg)
7g /1tbsp+1tsp milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional) – I did not have milk powder and it tastes fine without
125ml/ ½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (half of the tangzhong you make from above)
5 to 6g /2 tsp instant yeast
30g /3tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature) – my bread machine has a ‘rest’ period so I cut my butter into small pieces, straight from the fridge and put it in
I also added:
1 tsp vanilla essence
About 1 cup of raisins (soaked in hot water for about 5-10 minutes)
Making the tangzhong is easy enough. I used flour and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula.
You can use a thermometer to reach 65C/150F or do as Christine suggests and check for ‘lines’ that remain as you stir the thickened roux. In the end I did both, once I saw the lines, I checked the temperature. Just right.
Transfer to a small bowl, place clingfilm directly on the tangzhong to stop it from drying up. Cool to room temperature. This tangzhong amount is good for two loaves of bread, and can be kept wrapped in the fridge for a few days. But if it starts to change colour, toss it.
To make the bread dough:
I used a bread machine on its regular dough setting – it’s a lot more convenient, and also the recipe warns that it can be quite messy (which I guess means sticky?). If you don’t have a bread machine or mixer, please refer back to Christine’s Recipes for more details.
Because I was using a bread machine with a separate yeast container on its lid, I added in all the dry and then wet ingredients, and the yeast in the container, then let it run. The machine goes through a couple of rise cycles as well as the kneading.
When finished, remove the dough from the machine, place onto a clean floured surface or nonstick mat, cut into four pieces, shape each piece roughly into a ball, cover loosely with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes (see below for step-by-step photos)
Using a rolling pin, roll each ball out into a rough oval shape. Scatter the raisins evenly on the oval. Starting from one end, roll the dough into a kind of Swiss roll. Then use the rolling pin to roll it out into a rough oval shape again. And then starting from one end, roll the dough up into a kind of Swiss roll.
Place each roll side by side into the loaf tin. Mine is a silicon loaf tin but you should grease yours if it isn’t.
Let the dough proof again for about 40 minutes.
If you would like it to have that shiny surface, brush some egg wash or milk over the the surface. I only did this for my first loaf and forgot about it for the others. No problem there.
Bake in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. If you’ve never baked bread before, sometimes it’s easier to check the doneness of bread with a thermometer. Breads are done at about 190F/87C. Try to angle your thermometer towards the centre of the loaf – you can do it near one of the folds or from the bottom.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
I also attempted to make a chocolate bread – adding about 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the flour mixture. Instead of using raisins, I used chocolate rice, sprinkling it before rolling. My 5yo adored the chocolate bread and ate it for breakfast every day. The 3yo didn’t like it as it probably didn’t have enough chocolate for him. I would try this again with more sugar and more chocolate rice or substitute it with chocolate chips.
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