top of page

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

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

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

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 :)



Yeast substitutes

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



Bakers Flour

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.










 

RECIPE
Preparation time: 90 minutes
Baking time: 50 minutes
Equipment needed : 1 x Pullman loaf baking tin (21cm (length) x 9.5 cm (depth) x 10.5 cm (width)), pastry brush, rolling pin
Yield: 1 Loaf



RECIPE


TANG ZHONG (TZ)

60 g 15% Water

90 g 23% Milk

30 g 8% White Bread Baker's Flour (13% protein content)

(5:1 Ratios to Water to Flour)

FINAL DOUGH

270 g 71% White Baker's Flour (13% Protein)

80 g 21% Whole Wheat Baker's Flour (12.5% Preotein)

140 g 37% Full cream Milk

5 g 1.3% Instant Yeast

50 g 13% Castor Sugar

15 g 4.2% Full Cream Milk Powder

50 g 13.2% Egg (1 egg)

4 g 1.05% Fine Salt

60 g 15% Unsalted Butter (cubed) - room temperature


 

Method


For the Tang Zhong

1. Place the water, milk and flour into a pot over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture starts to thicken in to a gooey mass.


2. Turn off the heat, transfer the Tang Zhong into a bowl, cover with cling film touching the surface and leave to cool at room temperature or in the fridge.



For the Dough

Once the Tang Zhong has cooled, proceed to preparing the final dough.


1. Gently heat the milk to 32 °C and stir in the instant yeast and 15 g of sugar from the recipe until well combined. Leave the yeast mix at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes or until the yeast starts to turn frothy.


Note: Alternatively, you can add the instant yeast straight in with the rest of the ingredients. Mixing them in the room temperature liquid just wakes the yeast up a little to expedite the process.

2. Once the yeast is ready, place the Flour, cooled Tang Zhong, Egg, the remaining 35 g Sugar, Milk Powder and Salt into a stand mixer bowl with a dough hook attachment.


Mix on low speed for 3 minutes until all the ingredients are combined. Turn the speed to medium and keep mixing the dough for a further 8 - 10 minutes or until you have developed enough gluten. The dough should start to build some strength and begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. (The dough at should still be quite sticky).


At this point, you should be able to stretch the dough when you pull them gently with two hands without it tearing too easily.


3. Gradually add in the softened room temperature butter into the dough a little at a time. Make sure that the butter is at room temperature and is well incorporated into the dough before adding the next lot of butter.


Continue mixing on medium speed until all the butter have been well incorporated. The process take approximately 8 to 10 minutes of mixing at medium speed after all the butter has been added.


4. Transfer the dough onto the work bench lightly dusted with baker's flour. Fold the dough from its corners to the centre to tighten the dough. Flip the dough upside down so that the seam side in underneath. Roll the dough in to a tight ball then transfer the dough (seam side down) into a lightly oiled bowl.


Cover with a tea towel and let it bulk proof (or double in size) at room temperature. This process can takes roughly around 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the ambient of your kitchen.


5. When the dough have risen or double its volume, lightly dust the work bench with some flour and transfer the dough on to it. Gently deflate the dough with your palm. Portion the dough in to 2 equal portions of approximately 400 g each portion.


Roll and pre- shape each portion into a slightly tight ball. Cover with a tea towel to rest for 10 minutes on the bench before final shaping.


Generously grease your loaf pan with oil or to ensure that they come out of the tin, you can grease the loaf tin and like them with parchment paper.

6. Once the pre- shaped doughs have rested, press and roll each portion of the dough flat and in to a rectangle with the help of a rolling pin (refer to below video for visual instructions). Fold both ends lengthways to the centre until both ends meet, then turn it to 90°. Now, the folded sides are on your left and right. Roll the dough slightly to flatten then with both your hands, fold the top ends then roll it towards you to form a small log. Lift the bread roll and place into one side of the prepared baking loaf tin with the seam side underneath. Repeat the same process with the second portion and place it on the opposite side of the tin.

Cover the loaf with a tea towel for final proofing. This process can take around 1 hour more or less depending on your kitchen temperature.


7. Meanwhile, pre heat the oven to 180°C fan force.


When the loaf is ready or have risen 50% its original volume, cover with the well greased lid and bake in the pre heated oven for 40 - 45 minutes.


8. Once the loaf is ready, remove from the oven and leave the lid on for 10 minutes before removing it. Turn the loaf tin to release the bread on to a wire rack to fully cool.


9. Slice and ENJOY!



Note: If you do not have a Pullman bread loaf baking tin, you can simply use a 500 g or above capacity loaf baking tin. For a better shine on top of your bread, simply brush them with some egg wash with equal amount in weight of Full Cream Milk and Eggs (whisked together).