Soft and Fluffy Milk Bread Loaf | Tang Zhong Method
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
There is something about soft bread loaf that makes the perfect toast and sandwiches. This bread uses the "Tang Zhong Method" which was adapted from the Japanese way of bread making called the "Yudane" technique. Learn the tips and tricks to making the ultimate soft sandwich bread loaf. You will love it, I promise!
Tang Zhong means "water roux" in English which refers to heating up liquid and flour together to transform them in to a thick sticky mass and is then cooled before adding in with the rest of the dough ingredients.
The preparation TZ as an extra step for making Shokupan Bread is what gives the bread that soft fluffy crumb that stays soft and moist for days and do not dry out like most generic bread would.
Tang Zhong can be used for any type recipe for bread if you are looking for moist, soft crumb and good keeping quality in your baked loaf.
The whole idea of Tang Zhong is to "pre-swell" the starch in the flour which enables the TZ mass to hold on to the liquid. When the starch is swelled, the transformation become irreversible and when added in to the rest of the ingredients, there is little to no chance of other hygroscopic element like salt, sugar and even the gluten in the protein of the flour from stealing the water from the TZ. Pre swelling the starch also makes it hard for the water to evaporate as steam during baking as the swelled starch are clinging on to them for life. This is why bread made with the Tang Zhong method are incredibly soft and moist.
Formula for Tang Zhong Bread
This is my formula for working out how to turn a regular bread recipe to a Tang Zhong base bread recipe if you are interested. I usually take out 6-8% of the flour from the recipe as a whole to use for Tang Zhong (this will mean that the amount of flour that you extract from the recipe as a whole for the Tang Zhong need to be balanced out by decreasing the same amount you will use for the final dough recipe, otherwise you will have way too much flour).
Now, to work out how much liquid (water/milk) for the Tang Zhong, the typical ratio for flour : liquid for TZ is 1 part flour to 5 or 6 parts liquid. If you have decide what ratio you are going for, you will then need to subtract the amount of liquid needed from the recipe as a whole and balance it out with the final dough recipe.
Gluten is a protein that is mostly found in the starch of wheat flour. The starch on its own, do not produce the gluten protein. In order for the gluten protein to form, it needs to be in the presence of some form of liquid and through mixing.
Gluten is the protein that helps the dough become extensible and pliable and is important as a structure builder for bread to be able to hold on to itself during baking without collapsing. This protein is also what helps to hold on to the Carbon Dioxide gas produced by the active yeast to create light and airy baked loaves.
If you are a sufferer of Celiac Disease, it is not recommended that you use any type of flour that contains gluten.
Yeast is the good natural microorganism that lives in the water, the air and often in the bread flour itself, and is widely used in bread making. There are different variations of yeast in the market that you can use to make bread but some of the most common ones are Instant Dry yeast, which usually comes in individual packets in tiny pulverised granules, and Fresh yeast, which usually comes in a block and is required to be stored in the fridge to preserve the shelf life.
The ones that we will using for this recipe is Instant Dry Yeast.
Using either of the yeast will not yield a different result although some may claim that using Fresh yeast will give a better flavour to your bread. In my opinion, I have used both of the two types of yeast mentioned, I do not find that the flavour are relatively distinctive. I prefer using Instant Dry Yeast at home as it has a much longer shelf life compared to Fresh Yeast. The brand that I use is Saf Instant Yeast.
Another options is to cultivate your own natural leavened called the "Yeast Starter". Although this will require an in depth knowledge and patience for cultivation and regular feeding of the culture. Bread made with natural yeast starter often takes a much longer fermentation time that can sometimes takes up to 16 hours before you can bake the loaf, which is not what we will be doing here :)
You can use any type of yeast for doughnuts with the only significant difference in the amount that each type of yeast is required as their strength differs, and time it takes for the yeast to do its magic. Fresh yeast or naturally leavened takes a much longer fermentation time, whereas instant dry yeast and active dry yeast needs a less fermentation time. Choose the type of yeast or natural leaven to suit your preference and applications.
To interchange between the different type of yeast, just know that you generally need more of fresh yeast or naturally leavened compared to instant or active dry yeast. The simple formula for interchanging different type of yeast are as follow:
Compressed Fresh Yeast x 0.5 = Active Dry Yeast
Compressed Fresh Yeast x 0.33 = Instant Yeast
Active Dry Yeast x 2 = Compressed Fresh Yeast
Active Dry Yeast x 0.75 = Instant Yeast
Instant Yeast x 3 = Compressed Fresh Yeast
Instant Yeast x 1.33 = Active Dry Yeast
*This formula is taken from On Baking Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Eddy Van Damme
In a lot of my bread recipe, I like to make a combination of bread flour with plain flour which most people call it the "All Purpose Flour". The reason why I often do that is because I find bread made purely with Bakers flour can yield a tough loaf. Although, this is not always the case. Apart from the type of flour used, the quantity of water, which bakers call it the "hydration percentage %" plays a role as well in determining if your bread is going to be soft or dry.
In the below recipe, the hydration stands at approximately 75% (I add the amount of water/milk as a whole, including the ones used in the TZ and divide it over the total amount of flour to work out the percentage), and this is relatively high hydration taking into consideration of the eggs that is in the recipe which also contains water.
Depending on the height of your loaf, it is often best to use bread/bakers flour that has a high gluten protein as this helps strengthened the structure of the loaf and prevents it from collapsing during/after baking. It is purely for this purpose that only Baker's flour with at least 12% protein content is used in this recipe.
If you are making individual buns, you can mix baker's flour with plain flour but this will require you to do your own experiment and testing as all different brand of flours can yield a different outcome.
When buying Baker's Flour, they often range from 12-14% protein and if you are attempting to make this recipe, do not stress too much about whether this will work out with the flour you are using as most of the time, the difference is quite mild and all you may need to do is just a slight adjustment.
Tips for Adjustment
If you are using a different type of flour to mine (I am using Australian Lauke Wallaby Baker's Flour), and during mixing, you find that the dough is too wet to work with, start by increasing the amount of flour by 10 g and mix until the dough fully absorbs into the addition of flour and keep doing that until you get the desired consistency.
The dough should be still soft and sticky but is able to be handled on the workbench to be rolled in to a ball. If the dough is slack, wet and do not seem pliable at all, add more flour.
Do not be tempted to add too much flour at once though as this can cause the dough to become too tough.