Hokkaido Milk Bread (Tangzhong method)

Is it just human nature or just so that grass is always greener on the other side? First I really didn't like Japanese bread: it was all too soft and fluffy with no proper crust and the taste was always too sweet. Then I got used to the sweet bread, but I still longed for "proper European-style bread". And back in Finland every now and then I have a craving for shokupan: the fluffiest, softest (toast) bread there is. The problem is I can't buy it here and no attempt to bake it has yet succeeded (one attempt led to utter failure actually).

I've tried a couple recipes and one for Hokkaido Milk Bread has been best by far. I still haven't been able to produce the bread I'm looking for and I'm falling to believe that I need the flour they (=Japanese) use in order to obtain the same kind of fluffy texture. So much depends on wheat. Finnish wheat flour is all high-protei, strong flour.

Don't be frightened by the term "tangzhong". Despite the Chinese name, it's a Japanese technique used to create a soft bread that also stays soft and fresh for days. Usually around 10 % of the flour is used to make a "predough" / custard in 1:5 proportion to liquid. The flour and liquid are heated to 65 C (though I've never measured the temperature, the consistency will tell you that) as wheat is gelatinized in 65 C. You will get a "custard" which is allowed to cool and then is used as a base to dough.

You can use tangzhong for different kinds of breads or buns (if soft texture is wanted). Just calculate 5-10% of total flour, multiply that by 5 to get the liquid and then cook that to custard. And when you want to make the dough, remember to substract the liquid and flour used for tangzhong from the total ingredients. I'll give an example: It says in the recipe that you'll need 250 ml liquid (water or milk) and 350 g bread flour.  To make calculations easy, I'm using now 10% tangzhong ratio to total flour (but you could start with 5% ratio too):
Tangzhong (TZ): 350 g x 10% = 35 g flour -->> liquid 35 g x 5 = 175 g (~175 ml)
Dough: TZ + (250ml-175 ml = ) 75 ml liquid + (350 g - 35 g = ) ~315 g flour

The texture of the dough will be different compared to a dough made without TZ, so you might need less or more flour. The dough will be more sticky (as part of the gluten will be destroyed in the process of making TZ).

I'm reporting my adventures with tangzhong as I've experienced, so the first recipe is just for information (or for those strong-hearted) as it was epic fail: too dense (the yeast might have been dead or my flour is too strong).

(Update 29.6.2015: You might want to check this too: it's the one I'm most pleased with among the versions I've tried with tangzhong, at least temporarily.)

Epic failure bread 

!!don't try unless you want to be experimental!!

60 ml water
60 ml milk
25 g bread flour
125 ml milk
300 g bread flour
1 tsp salt
30 g sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
25 g butter

liquid:flour -ratio: 245/325 = 0.75 (not including 25 g butter)

Not-epic-failure-but-not-perfect bread

With this recipe (with minor changes) I got better results (actually quite a nice bread: good rise, but not enough fluffy and too salty). I decided to use more water instead of milk and put some milk powder instead as I read that milk prevents gluten formation. (And actually I've noticed before that milk-based breads are different from those water+milk powder -based.)

60 ml milk
60 ml water
24 g bread flour
125 ml water
250 g bread flour (seems my flour is extra-strong this time, I used less this time)
1.5 Tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt (next time 2/3)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast (in fear of no rise this is more than I would usually use)

25 g butter

--> liquid:flour -ratio: 245/274= 0.89 (not including 25 g butter)

Mix the ingredients for TZ in a (nonstick) pan. Heat up while stirring. When the wheat gelatinizes (the mixture thickens), take away from heat. Let cool to room-temperature.

Mix TZ, milk, flour, dry yeast, salt and sugar. Knead until elastic and smooth. Add soft butter and knead some more. Leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in size. Fold the dough down a couple of times, divide to 2 pieces. Flatten them into appr. 30 x 10 cm pieces and roll them up. Place side by side into bread pan. Cover and let rise until double. Bake in 175-200 C oven for 40 min.

(I was cheating a bit: I actually used my bread machine (program 1, the final proofing time +10 min)).

The quest continues...

Foxtail too wants to find a perfect shokupan

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