When I came across the recipes for these buns, I was eager to try to make some as they are the same kind that we buy from asian bakeries. The bun is soft and fluffy, feels so light. Of course I went ahead and tried baking buns. Of course my loaf of brick ended up in the bin 😉 Trying to think back, I’m not entirely sure what went wrong that made the bread so hard so.. not bread. Probably everything went wrong. I don’t remember kneading the dough until it formed an “elastic window” and this is probably the most important factor: it was not kneaded well enough! I had little experience. Prior to that I only baked about 4 loaves of multigrain bread while tending to my gestational diabetes and refusing to pay $6 for a loaf of multigrain 🙂
This time trying, I was more prepared. Not that I have been successful at baking bread, in fact, another couple of tries with white bread left me feeling breads don’t like me, let alone love, I read more recipes and tips from successful bakers and learn from them. There are many different recipes out there so I decided to try this one first (http://dessertfirstgirl.com/2015/02/hokkaido-milk-bread-tangzhong.html). This method uses tangzhong, which is flour cooked in water to pudding-like consistency. I always ignore tangzhong recipes before because I thought it is complicated. It turned out to be quite easy and quick too. I can say it is well worth the effort for this extra step, because this tangzhong is what helped the bread to retain moisture with unbeatable soft and fluffy texture!
Full recipe from dessertfirstgirl ( http://dessertfirstgirl.com/2015/02/hokkaido-milk-bread-tangzhong.html )
Tangzhong can be made first by cooking flour and water together on medium heat, stirring constantly until it becomes pudding-like consistency. This happens very fast so watch closely. Mine came together so fast that I was surprised at the speed. Let cool to room temperature before use. If not using straight away, cover tightly – with cling wrap touching the surface – and keep in fridge until needed. Tangzhong can be kept for a couple of days.
B. Bread dough:
To make the bread dough, (see detailed recipe from dessertfirstgirl), I followed the below steps:
- To activate the yeast, microwave the milk until luke warm (about 40s in the microwave) before adding yeast and sugar. Too hot temperature will kill all the yeast. Stir to mix gently and let it foam up for about 5-8 minutes. This is also a good step to check the health of your yeast!
- Combine flour, salt, sugar in a mixing bowl. With a hook attachment, mix the dry ingredients briefly. Add the wet ingredients except butter: egg, milk & activated yeast mixture and knead for about 10 minutes. At this point, the dough came together but still sticky.
Add melted butter and continues to knead for another 10 minutes. Once butter is added, it seems that the butter can never be incorporated into the dough as it makes the dough all slippery. Use a spatula to help fold the dough and the butter. It will be incorporated just fine.
- Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until it doubles in size. The time required for this depends on the temperature really. I left mine for about 1 hour.
- Take the dough out and knead it briefly to deflate it. Cut the dough into as many pieces as you like, but pay attention to divide them into equal portions as it ensures similar baking time.
First roll each portion into a round ball and cover with cling wrap to prevent drying while working. Once done, prepare a tin to bake the bread in. It can be baked in a loaf tin but I had a square cake mould so I baked mine in that. For this purpose, I divided the dough into 9 portions to fit my square mould better. Just adapt freely to whatever mould is available on hand if lack of proper bread tins.
When the first portion has been rested for about 5-10 minutes, I started working on shaping it. Flatten a ball of dough into a rough rectangle, then fold in the side from the longer dimension so that they meet in the centre. Turn the dough 90 degrees (perpendicular to the previous dimension), start rolling the dough and shape the end to make a neat roll of dough. Place in the oiled baking tin/pan/mould. Repeat with the rest of the dough portions. Cover and let rise until doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Brush the surface of the dough with egg wash (I used the whole egg with a little bit of milk).
When ready to bake, place a tray of water on the lowest rack, then bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden.
- Turn the bread out and cool on a rack and enjoy them!