We Knead to Bake # 3 - Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzong

(Original Recipe from 65 Degrees Tangzhong “65C Bread Doctor” by Yvonne Chen, and adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings

Last month's Croissant gave me the confidence to enjoy my journey with We Knead To Bake. The opening words of Aparna's post on this month's "Hokkaido Milk Bread" was very comforting - "a relatively easy recipe to try".
Apparently the Hokkaido Milk Bread is a very popular bread in South Asian bakeries across the world. It is also known as Asian Sweet Bread and Hong Kong Pai Bo. It is soft, fluffy and addictive.
The Hokkaido Mild Bread owes its texture and height to the use of an interesting ingredient called Tangzhong - a mixture arrived at by cooking 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux. At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and create a “leavening” action. When added into other ingredients to make a bread dough, it produces light, tender and fluffier bread.

The roux or "Tangzong" looked similar to a cornflour paste I make and I was OK with the challenge. Aparna's Bread was beautiful. With two quick posts on FB, I decided not to delay further. Working into the night, I made mine! It was soft and Amma said that the place was smelling like the neighbourhood bakery.

Hokkaido Milk Bread With Tangzhong

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 tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoon Powdered Milk
2 teaspoon Instant dried Yeast (If using active dry yeast, use 25% more)
1/2 cup Milk (and a little more if needed)
2 tablespoon Cream (25% fat)
1/3 cup Tangzhong (use HALF of the tangzhong from above)
25 grams Unsalted Butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
1/2 to 3/4 cup Chocolate Chips - if making the rolls

The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux):
Whisk together lightly the flour and water in a saucepan until smooth and there are no lumps.
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 and leaves a trail. Cool completely.

If you have a thermometer, cook the roux/ tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If like me, you don’t have a thermometer, then 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.
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. If you refrigerate the Tangzhong then let it come to room temperature before you use it.

The Bread Dough:
The dough can be made by hand but it is a bit sticky and can take some time and effort to knead by hand. If you have some sort of machine which will do the kneading for you, use it. And do not add more flour to make it less sticky either! This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9” by 5” tin), 2 small loaves (6” by 4” tins) or 1 small loaf (6” by 4”) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins). Depending on what you are making, divide your dough. 
If you are making 1 loaf, divide your dough in 3 equal pieces. 
If you are making two smaller loaves, divide your dough into 6 equal pieces.
Or, make one small loaf and 6 small rolls. First divide the dough into two equal pieces first. Then divide the first half into three equal pieces to make the loaf. Divide the other half into six equal pieces for six rolls.

Take the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in a bowl and whisk a couple of times to mix.
In another small bowl mix the milk, cream and Tangzhong until smooth and add it to the bowl with the flour mixture.
Mix gently until the dough comes together.
Now add the butter and knead till you have a smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky.

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 teaspoons 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. When it does break, the tear should be a circle-ish (round)  one.
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.
Place the dough on your working surface. You don’t need flour to work or shape this dough. It does not stick.

The shaping of the portions, whether for the loaf or the rolls, is the same.
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.
Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle.
Roll the rectangle from one short edge to the other, pinching the edges to seal well.
Do this with each of the three larger pieces and place them, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
To make the rolls fold them in the same manner described above, but before rolling them up, place some chocolate chip on the dough.
Roll the dough rectangles carefully and pinch to seal the edge.
Place each roll of dough in a well-oiled muffin cup and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes.

Shaping the “hedgehogs” and “tortoise” rolls -
For the hedgehogs, divide the dough as for the rolls above and shape them so they are a little narrower at one end (the nose of the hedgehog).
Use black currants or whatever you have (chocolate chips will melt and fall off) for the eyes and nose making sure they’re pressed well into the dough or they will fall off when baking.
You can also use edible markers to draw the eyes and nose after baking the hedgehogs.
Using small pointed scissors, randomly make small cuts all over the body (if the cuts are too shallow the pattern will disappear when the dough rises and bakes) for the “quills”.

To make the tortoise, take ball of dough and shape it into a smooth ball.
Shape a head and four limbs from smaller pieces of dough.
To make the “”shell/ back/ carapace” take another small piece of dough, and shape into a thin round (1/8” thick) and mark it with a knife. The marks should be deep enough but don’t cut through the dough.
Wet the underside of the dough with water or milk and attach it to the “back” of your tortoise.

Carefully brush the tops of the rolls and the loaf with milk (or cream) and bake them at 170C (325F) 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. Serve or else store in a bread bin.
This bread stays soft and delicious even the next day.
Bunny Chow - Hollow out a portion of the bread and fill with a curry of your choice.
Though it has some sugar in it, this bread is only mildly sweet. If you want to make a savoury version, with or without filling, you can cut down the sugar to 1 tbsp and add another 1/4 tsp of salt.
This is a very versatile dough. You can make into a plain loaf, or dinner rolls. You can fill the rolls with sweet or savoury fillings. You can even shape the dough into knots, or cute little animals. This dough also makes the softest Pav/ Pao for Pav Bhaji.


Rafeeda AR said…
looks really soft!!!
The chocolate filling is what i got to try sometime. I use the microwave too, a cool safe place for the dough to rest and rise :) great post !
Roshni said…
love the bread Minu
anusha praveen said…
I love the filling Mam! looks terrific
Finla said…
Love that filling and love the idea of hollowing them and using your fav curry.
Reshmi Mahesh said…
Loved the filling here..Bread looks too yum...
Anshie said…
Lovely Bunny chow!! For the Bunnies .. I basically just snipped the tops for the ears and then flattened them a bit and inserted black pepper for the eyes. I am trying them again to get a better shape.

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