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Tangzhong to the rescue?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I learnt something last Christmas that both surprised and saddened me. I had made some braided challah bread to sandwich the meats and cold cuts that the family usually has on the day, and it was everything I've read a challah should be: slightly sweet, rich with eggs and fat, a soft crumb and a glossy crust. I expected it to go down a treat.
One of my nephews constructed his sandwich with the bread but after a couple of bites, he passed it over to his father. He said the challah was too flavourful and in competition with the meaty fillings.
Now, I appreciate the fact that many people only know bread as those bland square slices that come in a plastic bag or ultra-soft buns with sickly sweet creamy fillings in the centre, but when my own family  rejects something I made... that was disheartening :-(
This Christmas, I have been officially put in charge of bread. I can buy it, make it, whatever... I just have to supply enough bread to be eaten throughout the day. I am still bringing some "plastic" bread and a couple of those so-called "artisan" loaves from commercial producers – hah! How can every loaf purportedly made by hands look exactly alike? – but I am also trying out some tangzhong buns on the family.
Recipes for tangzhong bread – made with a roux – have been making their rounds on the web for some years now. It's credited to Yvonne Chen, the "65° Bread Doctor", and is a bread that suits Asian tastes as it is soft and sweet. Her recipe can be found on many online sites, and I used it for the 300+ slider buns (pictured right) I made for a food fair in September. I made 18 batches in all (each batch produced  17 buns; 18 if I was lucky), and by the fifth batch, I was weighing out the ingredients by memory!
Because the theme of the food fair was "yellow", I made the buns yellow with a roux that contained custard powder. The idea came from Dan Lepard's slider buns recipe, who based it on Yvonne Chen's method. But I like it so much that I have been using custard powder since then. I have also continued making buns because I like the individual portions (and I think they appeal to children too).
I also follow Dan Lepard's brief kneading method instead of lugging out the mixer. I use less yeast in this recipe and allow for a slow rising to suit my schedule. 
We'll have to wait until Christmas day to see if the fussy eaters will find these Tangzhong buns acceptable, but I have a feeling *fingers crossed* things will be okay.
Tangzhong with custard powder

Soft Buns using the Tangzhong Method
Makes 17 slider buns or 10 burger buns. This recipe is a slight modification on Yvonne Chen's, with advice and instruction from Dan Lepard.

Yellow Tangzhong (roux)
Makes enough for dough and glaze

13g bread flour
12g custard powder
125g water
1 tbsp milk powder

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and mix well. Over medium-low heat, stir until mixture starts to thicken. Keep stirring until thickened and glossy but still soft – stir the roux and the lines should remain; a thermometer should read 65°C. Set aside to cool. It can also be refrigerated for not more than two days.
Buns made for burgers
350g white bread flour 
2 tbsp full-cream milk powder
40g sugar
5g salt
3g instant yeast
120g tangzhong (from above – reserve the remainder for the glaze)
1 medium (50g) egg
100g warm water
30g butter, softened

Reserved tangzhong (about 1 tbsp)

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and yeast. Add the tangzhong and egg. Stir together with a wooden spoon or dough whisk. Add water and stir until a rough ball forms. Cover bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.
Spread softened butter on the dough and knead it in the bowl until well incorporated. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Give the dough a brief knead by stretching and folding it over on itself several times every 10 minutes over half an hour, each time forming the dough into a ball at the end and letting it sit seam side down in the mixing bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky at first but will start to lose the stickiness after every knead and will grow in size each time. After the final knead, cover the bowl and leave to double in size, 1-1½ hours. If making in advance, place the bowl in a large plastic bag and secure (or cover with cling film), then place in the refrigerator to proof until doubled in size, 6-8 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Scale into 40g portions for slider buns or 70g portions (approximate; it's actually about 67g each) for burger buns. Leave the dough for a few minutes to relax, then shape them into smooth balls.
Flatten the buns
Mist the bottom of a 10cm-diameter flat-based container with oil (I use a round plastic lid), press the bun to flatten. Press firmly – the dough is robust and can take a lot of pressure – but avoid tearing the buns. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.
Just before baking, flatten the buns again. Add a few drops of water to the extra tangzhong to loosen it. Brush top of the buns with tangzhong and sprinkle with seeds. 
Bake until the tops are lightly golden (8-12 minutes for sliders; 12-17 minutes for burger buns). The buns will dome while baking but will fall slightly when removed from the oven to cool.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I can't imagine myself baking 300 buns! that takes a lot of courage lol! Lovely color for your buns, I'll try that the next time I bake buns or bread:)


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