Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tangzhong Bread

For the second time we are hosting the January Fresh from the Oven challenge.

This time we decided to make bread using the Tangzhong (water roux) method. It was Yvonne Chen's book "The 65º C Bread Doctor" published in the 1990s that made this method so popular. We however don't have the book but took the recipe from Christine's Recipes.

It's the texture that differs this bread from any other type of bread. It's extremely fluffy, soft and tender. This is achieved due to the use of water roux – 1 part bread flour is being cooked in 5 parts of water to 65ºC. The water roux keeps baked breads moist, soft and fresh for days. The reason – when cooked to 65ºC “the gluten in the flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and become leavened. When tangzhonog is added into other ingredients of the bread, the bread dough will be heightened and produces softer bread.” - this is how Christine explains it.

We've made this recipe several times and it indeed produces the most fluffiest bread we've ever made. The only problem is that the dough is very wet and the easiest way to knead it is using an electric mixer – sometimes the 15-20 minutes of kneading are really challenging for our hand mixer. But it's been a fortnight since we're having the so longed Kmix stand mixer and she's giving us a very helpful hand in the kneading. But I still haven't come out with a name for her. For now I'm calling her “The Red Gorgeous”.

The dough is equally good as for a loaf bread as well for small buns, plain or stuffed with cheese, dry fruits, bacon, herbs, etc...

This week we even baked kozunak(rich Easter bread, no matter Easter is months away) using the tangzhong starter and it was superb.

Drop by the FFO site to see how everybody's tangzhong bread turned out.

Tangzhong Bread Recipe
Adapted from Christine's Recipes

For the Tangzhong
  • 30 gr flour;
  • 150 gr cold water.
For the Dough:
  • 350 gr strong flour;
  • 5 gr instant yeast (or 15 gr fresh yeast);
  • 55 gr sugar(for not so sweet bread we're using 15gr);
  • 5 gr salt;
  • 1 egg;
  • 125 gr milk (buttermilk works too);
  • 120 gr tangzhong;
  • 30 gr butter, melted and cooled.
For Glazing:
  • the rest of the tangzhong - it adds gloss and nice golden colour to the crust during baking.
Note: Very strong flour is needed for making this bread, because the higher the gluten content – the more moisture would be absorbed. Otherwise the dough would be extremely wet. We've tried the recipe with all purpose flour and had to add 100 more grams of flour in order to obtain a workable dough. All the same, it produced the same soft and fluffy bread.

Prepare the tangzhong. Whisk together cold water and flour (there should be no lumps) and cook over low heat (stirring all the time) until the temperature reaches 65ºC.

If you don't have a thermometer – no problem – cook until the spoon you're stirring with leaves a trace. The mixture should have the consistency of something in the middle between crème anglaise and pastry cream. For more directions look here.

Leave the tangzhong to cool down at room temperature before using it.

Prepare the dough. Dissolve yeast in the milk. Combine together flour, sugar and salt then add in milk with the yeast, tangzhong and egg. Use your hand or stand mixer equipped with the dough hooks to mix all the ingredients into a soft dough then add in the butter. Let the mixer do the kneading part for 15 – 20 minutes. You can say if the dough is ready by tearing a small piece of it and stretching it to a very thin membrane before it tears. Cover the bowl and leave it to become double in bulk.

Knock the dough down on a lightly floured counter top, give it a quick knead just to let the gas escape, then form it as desired – a loaf or small buns. We made this form scroll down to see how it's folded. Transfer to buttered loaf pan or lined with paper sheet pan if making buns. Cover with plastic wrap and let it double in bulk again.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Brush with the rest of the tangzhong and bake for around 30 – 35 minutes until nicely golden.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


“Resistance is like swimming against the current, exhausting and pointless.” I'm thinking over these words for awhile, ever since I finished Joanne Harris' Five Quarters of the Orange. It happens to me quite often, when reading a book to think over certain sentences, phrases and circumstances. To transfer them over my life and live through them. To consider them as signs. A sign searcher - this is who I am - a daydreamer, thinking too much over the matters but then doing something impulsive, unexpected, off the cuff. Not just in life, I'm the same when baking too.

It was Christmas week and we were in Vetren. Everybody was expecting from me to make cookies – something made quickly for the afternoon coffee. But no, I decided to get to making puff pastry for palmiers. Believe me, the puff pastry could be a really challenging thing to make when the fireplace is burning wildly and it's almost 30ºC in the room. The butter was melting down and the pastry was really hard to work with but the palmiers happened to be the most beautiful ones I've ever made. I really regret for not taking photos.

A fortnight later, back at home, in our 18ºC kitchen I was making palmiers again in huge doses since Ivan wanted to take them to his work and his Romanian course as a treat for St. Ivan's day. The dough was wonderful to work with but the palmiers were not as beautiful as those I made in Vetren, although the taste was better since the butter wasn't melting down while rolling out the puff.

Those palmiers from the photos you see are the third batch I'm making this month, and I'm going to make them again next week since a friend of mine ordered them for a birthday party. So I proclaim this month to be the palmier's month.

Palmiers Recipe:

Makes around 50 palmiers

  • 300 gr all purpose flour;
  • 6 gr salt;
  • 175 gr water;
  • 170 gr butter;
  • brown sugar (I never weigh it beforehand since I always measure it by eye, but it's around 200 – 250 gr).

Make puff pastry. Combine flour and salt then add in the water. Mix with an electric mixer equipped with the dough hook till all the ingredients are combined and soft dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 more minutes to develop the gluten, form a ball out of the dough then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour.

Roll out the butter between two plastic sheets to form a small rectangle, then chill in the fridge.

Lightly dust the counter with flour. Roll the dough from the four sides forming a cushion mat in the middle. Lay the butter on that mat and fold the all four sides of the dough sealing the butter inside. Roll the dough out to around 25x20 rectangle then fold it like you would fold a business letter. Rotate the “letter” short side down, roll out and fold again. Wrap in the plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill.

Repeat the rolling-folding procedure 4-5 more times with at least 2 hours interval after each procedure. You can keep the puff pastry for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking sheet with paper. Normally I use silpat when baking cookies but for palmiers I prefer paper for better caramelisation.

Generously sprinkle the counter with brown sugar, place the puff pastry on top and sprinkle more brown sugar over it, then roll out to a rectangle about 3 mm thick. Add more sugar as you roll it out. When rolled out sprinkle a final layer of sugar. At the end there should be a nice layer of sugar that will melt and caramelize during baking.

Roll up one of the ends of the rectangle till you reach the middle, then roll up from the opposite end. Cut the roll into 0,5 cm slices and arrange them on the lined with paper baking sheet leaving some space between slices as they will expand. I like to pinch the bottom of the slices to resemble hearts.

Bake for around 8 – 10 minutes or until nicely caramelized. Take out of the oven and wait a couple of minutes till the caramel hardens then move palmiers on a wire rack upside down (caramelized side on top). When cooled transfer to an airtight container.


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