If you’ve been following this blog lately, you’ll know that I’m participating in Aparna’s fantastic year-long festival, We Knead to Bake. Breads are my Achille’s Heel. I can barely get by a week without baking any. So far, I’ve made Pull-apart Pesto Rolls and Croissants as part of this fantastic festival, and this month, it is the Hokkaido Bread.

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This super soft, slightly sweet bread comes from Asia, and owes its texture to the Tangzhong, a leaven created by cooking flour and water together like a roux. This roux is then added to a seemingly everyday white loaf recipe but the results are softer thanks to the extra addition of milk and cream. I made one large loaf and used it as toast for breakfast, and then when it got a day or so older, dipped fat slices of it in a golden mixture of eggs and milk to make comforting French toast. I also made a small set of Nutella rolls from the dough–these, of course, were wolfed down immediately! You might want to try stuffing it with other sweet options such as marmalade or jam or savory fillings of your choice. The bread is great on its own too, and can be shaped easily. The only thing to remember, is to not add extra flour while kneading–the dough starts out rather sticky, but as the gluten develops, it becomes more manageable.

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Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

 For The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux)

  • 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 tbsp sugar
  •  1tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 2 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (and a little more if needed)
  • 1/8 cup cream (25% fat)
  •  1/3 cup tangzhong (use only half of the tangzhong from above)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 25gm unsalted butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

Method:

The Tangzhong  (Flour-Water Roux):

  1. Whisk together lightly the flour, water and milk in a saucepan until smooth. 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.
  2. Watch the roux/tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.
  3. 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 crème 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:

  1. Place the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in the food processor 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. (Feel free to make the dough by hand.)
  2. 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 teaspoonfuls 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.
  3.  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.
  4. Place the dough on your working surface. You don’t need flour to work or shape this dough.
  5. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape, about 1/8” 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, like an envelope.
  6. Roll out this folded dough to form a rectangle. Now place the roll, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
  7. To make the Nutella rolls, fold them in the same manner described above, but before rolling them up, slather with 3/4 tbsp. of Nutella on the rolled dough. Roll the dough rectangles carefully and pinch to seal the edge. Place each roll of dough on a greased baking tray and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes.
  8. Carefully brush the tops of the rolls and the loaf with milk or cream and bake them at 170 degrees centigrade for about 20 to 30 minutes till they are done (if you tap them they’ll 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.

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