Updated: Aug 29
I never thought I would get over buying soft bread rolls from my local Asian Bakeries. I have been fascinated with soft bread roll for as long as I can remember, but I never expected to be the person that came around to be totally obsessed with making them myself.
Tang Zhong Bread is nothing new In Asia, but it definitely is in the Western culture and has become a baking trend especially in Australia recently. Despite the pandemic, I am seeing a lot of new Asian bakeries opening up here in Melbourne selling their own signature Shokupan. The only critic some people may have about this bread loaf is that it is a "white" bread that lacks the nutritional value compared to sourdough or whole wheat bread that is quite the main focus in this 21st centuries where consumption for wellbeing matters. Nevertheless, soft white bread has been in the Asian Bread Culture for decades and it is entirely personal. As for me, I still do enjoy a regular soft white bread rolls but in moderation, and without saying, that goes for everything else. :)
If you are not familiar with this bread, Tang Zhong means "Water Roux" in Chinese. This bread prides itself with its soft texture that stays moist and light for a much longer period of time compared to any type of bread thanks to the method that they are made often referred to as the Tang Zhong Method. The Tang Zhong method is adapted from the Japanese Shokupan which uses a similar technique, called the Yudane Method , with a slight difference in the preparation.
What is Tang Zhong Method for Bread Making
Tang Zhong is the secret why this bread loaf stays so light and soft for a long period of time. What I am about to tell you may shock you because Tang Zhong is actually really easy to make, which is literally whisking water/milk with some flour and heating it over a stove until they gelatinize to a paste.
The way the Tang Zhong works has a lot to do with science. Generally, when flour are added with any type of liquid and heated over a heat source, it will start to gelatinize and thicken. This is thanks to the starch in the flour, which swells and absorbed the water as much as five times its own weight as the temperature rises to above 85˚C. This means that, if you were to whisk flour with water below the mentioned temperature, it will not thicken. When the starch gelatinizes, it arrives at an irreversible state where it is now swollen with liquid and stays in that state all the way through the end of baking the bread loaf. This means that no water are loss due to evaporation during baking nor to any ingredients in the bread recipe that has a tendency to draw water like "gluten", salt and sugar.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TANG ZHONG AND YUDANE METHOD
The Tang Zhong and Yudane method to me yields the same quality bread with the slight difference in their initial preparation. The two method goes through the same scientific means to achieving a soft bread as mentioned above.
In Yudane based bread, an equal amount of flour (usually 20%-30% of the flour in the total recipe) and boiling water are mixed together to create a firm dough, cooled then broken into pieces before adding them into the final dough.
On the other hand, the Tang Zhong Method uses a small portion of the flour from the final dough recipe (usually 8%-10%) with an addition of 5 to 6 times the amount of liquid, which are then whisked together over a heat source to initiate the gelatinization of the starch in the flour. This more pasty Tang Zhong, is also cooled before adding into the final dough for kneading.
I have personally made both method and thinks that there isn't much difference in the end result. Both the Yudane and Tang Zhong can be made in advance and in a bigger amount for those of you who are making soft bread on a daily basis. Simply wrap them well and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Preparation time: 90 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment : 1 x 500 g capacity Loaf Baking tin
(200 mm x 105 mm x 105 mm) or smaller for a higher loaf
Yield: 1 Loaf
Recipe by Christean Ng
TANG ZHONG (T.Z)
Full Cream Milk
White Baker's Flour 13% protein
(5:1 Ratios to Water to Flour)
White Baker's Flour
Full Cream Milk (heated to 35˚C)
Skim Milk Powder
Unsalted butter- cubed - room temperature
Total Weight = 543.5 g
NOTE: Total Dough Weight = 500 g - this is slightly lower than the actual weight of all ingredients added together because some weight has been lost from evaporation during the cooking of the Tang Zhong with an approximate 8% weight loss.
The dough will not rise above the tin that I am using which is at 105mm in height. If you want for it to be a taller loaf that rises above the tin , increase the amount of the recipe by 30%.
Whisk the remainder of the eggs that you may have leftover from the final dough recipe then whisk in a few teaspoon of water. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
50 g Boiling water
30 g Caster Sugar
Whisk the two together until the sugar are fully dissolved.
1. Start by preparing the Tang Zhong (Water Roux). Place the milk, water and flour for the TZ in a saucepan and cook over low to medium heat white constantly whisking until the mixture starts to thicken and gelatinize. As soon as the mixture starts to thicken, turn the heat off then transfer the TZ into a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap touching the surface of the TZ to prevent drying.
Set aside until it fully cool. The Tang Zhong can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to use. Ensure that they are covered well to prevent from drying out.
2. Once the TZ has cooled, proceed to preparing the final dough by placing all the ingredients except for the butter into a stand mixer bowl. Knead the dough on low speed with a dough hook attachment on the stand mixer until all the ingredients come together to a wet dough. This will take approximately 3 minutes.
3. Add in the room temperature butter in two to three additions, adding each addition only until the first addition are well incorporated into the dough. Once all the butter have been added, increase the speed to medium and continue to mix for another 8 to 10 minutes, scraping the bowl down half way through kneading. The dough should start to pull away from the side of the bowl, looks shiny and has some elasticity to it.
It is completely normal that the dough is extremely soft as this is the nature of Tang Zhong dough. The dough should not, however, feel wet and is not pliable. If this is the case, simply add in a tablespoon of baker's flour while continuously kneading until the dough forms some elasticity or when you are able to stretch the dough thin enough to see through without ripping easily when tested on a small piece of the dough.
4. Lightly dust the work surface with some flour then transfer the dough over. Dust lightly with flour if necessary to prevent sticking and with the help of a dough scraper, roll the dough to a smooth ball.
5. Transfer the ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl large enough for it to double in volume. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to bulk proof at room temperature or until it double in size. The time for the Bulk Proofing can vary from 1 hour to 2 hours depending on the ambient of your kitchen.
6. Once the bulk dough has increase twice its volume, gently knocked back the dough by pressing it with your palms to knocked out some of the excess gas in the dough.
Dust the work bench with some flour then transfer the dough over. Divide the dough to three equal portion of approximately 160 - 165 g.
7. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, dust the dough with some flour then with the help of a rolling pin, roll the dough to rectangle ( I rolled mine to approximately 150 mm x 100 mm. From the longer ends, fold the top end half way to the centre, then fold the opposite ends on top.
Turn the dough around 90 degrees, you will now have two open ends of the dough towards and opposite from you. Roll the dough again to an approximately 220 mm x 50 mm rectangle (note that this estimation is not set, it does not matter is the measurement is slightly off- this is just a guideline on what I did on mine to fit into my baking tin). Dust the dough with some flour if needed to prevent sticking.
From the longer ends again , begin to roll the dough from one end to the opposite end to create a small roll. Pinch the seam to seal then place the dough into the baking tin hat has been pre lined with parchment paper in one third of the space . Ensure that the seam side of the dough is tucked underneath in the tin. Repeat the same process for the other two portioned dough.
8. Once they are done, cover the loaf tin with a damp tea towel and leave to Final proof or until it double in size again. This process takes slightly shorter time than the bulk proofing and can be between 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. Monitor the dough regularly to prevent it from over proofing.
To know if the dough is proofed enough, gently press your finger on top of the dough, it should gradually bounce back or simply judge visually. The dough would increase in double its volume and feels airy.
9. Meanwhile, pre heat the oven to 170˚C.
10. When the Tang Zhong loaf is ready, brush the top lightly with some egg wash, then spray the top of the loaf lightly with some water. Bake in the pre heated oven for approximately 30 - 40 minutes until the top of the dough turn dark golden in colour or if testing with a probe thermometer, the interior temperature is above 90˚C.
Once baked, remove the tin from the oven, brush the top with sugar syrup while the loaf is still hot. Leave the loaf in the tin for 10 to 15 minutes then remove it from the loaf tin to fully cool over the wire rack.