Dear Readers, sorry for the yet another long hiatus. There have been a number of recent life-changing events, and another is still to come; but I will return momentarily with at least a post or two.
Yeast has intimidated me ever since I started baking. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because of the long hours of waiting and kneading and the feeling of disconnection between any changes/mistakes made at the beginning. But it was probably just a simple lack of familiarity. Over time, the interest grew, and it took a desperate craving for "char siu pork buns" to tackle that fear (the recipe still requires some tweaking, so the post may come later in the future). It was only then that I realised how "easy" and fun it is to work with yeast. Just a few inexpensive ingredients, a bit of yeast, some (at times) therapeutic kneading, and patience can lead to a magically fluffy bread. Of course, inexperience meant insufficient results and lots of research to understand why; but it was certainly a start. The most recent endeavour was the "Hokkaido Milk Bread".
I was itching to bake, but as neither hubby nor I are too interested in desserts now, I had to find something else. The Hokkaido milk bread has been a staple for hubby growing up, and I wanted to bring the soft fluffy Asian types of fresh sweet bread to him after the many years of hard crusty Western fresh bread (a source of envy for some, I know, but one can't help missing foods from back home as well!), preservative-laden loaves, and the recent buttery French pastries (blasphemy, I know!). I found a very good recipe from Christine's Recipes (don't get confused, like I did, with the "Hokkaido cake"); but as I had neither a stand-mixer nor a bread machine, nearly zero experience, and a tendency to change recipes, I was bound to hit difficulties.
One of the key components to this soft bread was the "tangzhong (湯種)" that purportedly originated in Japan. It was a mixture of flour and water that helps the bread retain moisture and greater lift to yield a soft and fluffy interior. Instead of normal flour (all-purpose/bread) that the recipe required, I used rice flour as I had plenty leftover in the pantry. Thinking its low-gluten nature would help with the softness, I failed to realise that it absorbed more moisture than normal flour. I also replaced the butter with olive oil and used evaporated milk for the cream/milk combination. The resulting bread was successful but a bit dry due to these changes. Next time, I'll stick with normal flour but still avoid the animal fat and see if it improves.
Hokkaido Milk Bread (based on Christine's recipe) -- Yields 1 loaf
- 25 g rice flour
- 125 ml water
- 270 g all-purpose flour
- 43 g sugar
- 4 g salt
- 5 g instant dry yeast
- 43 g whole egg (= 1 egg)
- 60 g evaporated milk (1/2 fat)
- 92 g roux / tangzhong
- 25 g olive oil
- Tangzhong: Mix flour in water well without any lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning and sticking, until see “lines” appear in the mixture for every stir you make with the spoon. Remove from heat.
- Transfer into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking to surface to prevent from drying up. Let cool and chill in fridge for several hours. (Note: When ready to use, let rest in room temperature before adding into other ingredients. The tangzhong can be stored up to a few days as long as it doesn’t turn grey. If so, you need to discard it and cook some more.)
- Bread: Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a mixer bowl. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg, butter and tangzhong. Add to dry ingredients.
- Knead dough with dough hook for 20-25 minutes until the dough is smooth, no longer sticky and elastic. Knead into a ball shape. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel or cling wrap. Let proof till doubled in size, ~40 minutes.
- Transfer to clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into 3-5 equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Shaping: Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Fold top third down, then the bottom third upwards. Flip dough over (seam down) and flatten into a rectangle. Flip dough over again and roll up into a cylinder (seam will be facing up). Arrange in a greased loaf pan and leave for 2nd proofing, ~40 minutes, or until the dough rises up to 3/4 of the height of loaf pan. (For photos, please visit Christine's recipe.)
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Brush surface with whisked egg. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and loaf pan. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Slice to serve or place in an airtight plastic bag or container once thoroughly cooled.