Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Fluffy Bread Recipe (Using Tang Zhong, Kneaded by Hand)

I have been making bread for a couple of months now. It's a routine. My kids and partner love bread for breakfast. I am not really a fan of bread, but homemade, fresh from the oven, oh my, they are mouth-watering. I often end up eating three or four before I realize what I am doing and stop myself. 

When I was a child and a teen, I often helped my Ma make bread by forming the dough or filling the buns. I thought making bread was a nuisance--so many steps!--and didn't feel like making bread. All the ingredients, measuring, baking. Just buy the bread from the bakery instead! My family seldom eats bread, anyway.

That changed when I was married. My partner loves bread. And my kids, too. They prefer bread for breakfast. One day I thought of baking my own, so at least I know what ingredients that I put there. I found a recipe that I think would work. The result? Not bad! It was nice enough, hooking me to try again and again.

And then someone told me about tang zhong method, and it changed my perspective. Bread with tang zhong is so fluffy and moist. I end up trying several recipes and tweaking them to our liking.

This works for me. Hopefully it will work for you.

What is tang zhong, you might ask? Tang zhong, or water roux, is made from a combination of fluid (usually water or milk) and flour. The best combination is 5:1. Combine them in a pan, stir well until the flour dissolves. In low heat, stir continuously until the mixture thickens. You'll know it's ready when the mixture becomes thick and when you stir, the mixture will form lines. Set aside to cool, cover

For 3 days, this recipe is enough for a family of four (providing you eat the bread for breakfast only).

You will need:
- 400 gr strong flour
- 1/2 sachet of dry yeast (5-6 gr)
- a pinch of salt 
- 25 gr powder milk
- 100 gr sugar (for sweet bread. If you prefer a plainer version, 25-50 gr of sugar should suffice)
- 150 ml milk
- 1 egg 
- 20 gr butter (in room temperature)
- Egg, 1 tsp honey, 1 tbsp water, stirred well (for coating)

Combine flour, yeast, sugar, powder milk, a pinch of salt. Combine milk and egg to tang zhong, stir well. If clumps appear, don't worry. You'll knead them later. Pour bit by bit to the dry mixture, kneading constantly.  After five minutes or so, add butter. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour, be careful not to add too much.

Usually it takes about 10 minutes of kneading. When the dough has become soft and pliable, form into a ball. Cover with moist napkin. Wait until the dough doubles in size. It should take 40 - 60 minutes, but it might take longer in cold weather. 

When it has doubled, punch the dough, divide into several portions (according to your liking). Cover with moist napkin again, let rise for 15-30 minutes.

Coat the pan with margarine or butter. Form the dough to your liking. (In my case, regular ball. Take some dough, flatten it, then roll it, or make a ball by combining the edges.) You can fill them with cheese or jam. (Reduce the sugar if you want to fill the bread.) Make some space between dough. Cover with moist napkin and wait until they rise. (40-60 minutes)

Coat the top of the dough.
Put the pan in heated oven (mine is an old one, so I am not too sure of the temperature, perhaps 180-200 Celcius degrees) and bake for about 40-45 minutes. The bread should be ready when the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven immediately.

Let cool on the wire rack. (You might want to munch one or two buns at this point!) Store in airtight container(s). They should last for 3 days (maybe more, but I am not sure because my bread never lasts that long).

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