When Lena from Frozen wings proposed baking Hokkaido milk toast as one of our bake-along with Joyce from Kitchen Flavours, I know that this is going to be an exciting bake for me!
Hokkaido milk toast (北海道牛奶麵包) is popular Asian bread which is well known for its beautiful soft-pillowy texture and sweet-milky taste. If you Google the word "Hokkaido Milk Toast", you will see this recipe from Christine's recipes which is always the first hit from the search. No doubt that this recipe is a highly rated recipe and many bloggers reckon that the success of Christine's recipe is due to the addition of Tang Zhong (汤种).
What is Tang Zhong (汤种)? It means water roux in Chinese language. It is Asian bread-making technique which believes that it can produce softer and fluffier breads without the addition of bread improver. Accordingly to this website, Tang Zhong is made by mixing 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water at 65°C to form a wet and cooked dough.
How Tang Zhong works? In theory, gluten in the bread flour fully absorbs moisture / water better at 65°C and become leavened. When Tang Zhong is added into bread doughs, it produce softer bread as it can retain extra moisture.
Does Tang Zhong really works? Previously, I have tried baking and comparing breads with and without another Asian bread-making technique, flour gelatinisation. Honestly, I have mixed feelings with flour gelatinisation and wouldn't change my opinion until now. I reckon that flour gelatinisation might work but strongly believe that having adequate proving time is equally important. To find out if Tang Zhong works, I'm also baking another highly reviewed Hokkaido milky loaf recipe by Angie's Recipes and her recipe does not contain any TangZhong at all. Both recipes are quite similar containing nice milky ingredients such as milk, milk powder and cream. The only significant difference is that Christine's recipe contains Tang Zhong and butter and Angie's Recipe doesn't. Please see the table below for better comparison.
Excited? I am. I need to enjoy the joy of these baking and taste goodness of these breads. And most importantly, I need to know too if Tang Zhong works for these bread baking...
|Hokkaido milk toast - Indeed very soft and delicious!|
|These are wonderful ingredients of Hokkaido milk breads|
|Bread doughs made with or without Tang Zhong (plus butter too)|
|Proving the Tang Zhong bread by Christine's recipes|
|Proving the non-Tang Zhong one by Angie's Recipes|
|Brush them both with egg wash and bake...|
|Freshly baked breads - Can you tell if there is any difference?|
|Hokkaido milk toast made without Tang Zhong|
|Look! This bread without Tang Zhong is so soft and fluffy!|
|With Tang Zhong, the bread is equally good and fluffy!|
Here are our comments about Hokkaido Milk Toast with Tang Zhong:
Boy: Nice! This bread is like cotton!
Mum: Nice! I think this bread is softer.
Dad: Both are nice and taste the same...
Is the bread with Tang Zhong better? I do like the bread with Tang Zhong better. Both breads are good but I think the one made with Christine's recipe seems to slightly better. I might be wrong as I can't clearly tell any difference. Now, I'm asking myself if it is due to the presence of Tang Zhong butter in this bread. Our conclusion? Plausible! - Ops! We have been watching MythBusters too much - LOL!
Here are the recipes:
(with my modification and notes in blue)
(with my modification and notes in blue)
*Some enzymes in milk can break down gluten and prevent the dough from rising. Due to this reason, some bread recipes prefer to use scalded milk because scalding milk deactivates these enzymes. For optimum results, I chose to use scalded milk to bake these breads.
Instructions from Christine's recipe
To make Tang Zhong using Christine's method:
Mix flour in water (or milk) well without any lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring consistently with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula to prevent burning and sticking while you cook along the way.
The mixture becomes thicker and thicker. Once you notice some “lines” appear in the mixture for every stir you make with the spoon, this is the Tang Zhong. You might use a thermometer to check the temperature but this simple method has worked for Christine every time.
Remove from heat. Transfer into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking onto the surface of Tang Zhong to prevent from drying up. Let it cool completely. Tang Zhong can be used straight away once it cools down to room temperature. Measure out the amount you need. The leftover Tang Zhong can be stored in fridge up to days until next use. Chilled Tang Zhong should return to room temperature before adding into other ingredients.
Add all ingredients (except butter) into a bread-maker, first the wet ingredients (milk, cream, egg, Tang Zhong and water), then followed by the dry ingredients (salt, sugar, milk powder, bread flour, yeast).
Select the “dough” mode. When all ingredients come together, stir in the melted (or softened) butter, continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. The time of kneading in the bread-maker is about 30 mins. Allow dough to complete the 1st round of proofing, about 40 mins (mine is 1 hr), best temperature for proofing is 28°C, humidity 75%, until double in size.
Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide into 3 equal portions. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 mins at room temperature.
Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Fold 1/3 from top edge to the middle and press. Then fold 1/3 from bottom to the middle and press. Turn seal downward. Roll flat and stretch to about 30cm in length. With seal upward, roll into a cylinder. With seal facing down, place in the loaf tins to have the 2nd round of proofing, until double in size. The best temperature for 2nd round proofing is 38°C, humidity 85%. Brush whisked egg (my egg wash: 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp evaporated milk + 1 tbsp milk) on surface. Bake in a pre-heated 180°C (or 160°C fan forced) oven for 30 to 35 mins (I baked mine for 30 mins) until turns brown. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Instruction from Angie's Recipe
Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand-mixer. Remember separate the yeast from salt and sugar to avoid the dehydration.
Knead until gluten is fully developed and the dough is elastic, smooth, non-sticky and leave from sides of mixing bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to ferment until double in size, about 60 mins.
Instead of using an electric mixer, I've used a bread-maker with dough setting to mix all ingredients of Angie's recipe. The dough was proved for 1 hr.
Take out the dough and press out the gas produced during the proof. Divide it into 4 (or 3) portions. Round up and let rest for about 20 mins. Roll each dough out and roll up and place in a 13 x 33 x 12cm loaf pan (I used 11 x 21cm loaf pan to bake half the amount). After shaping, let the dough rise up to 2/3 full. Brush with egg wash or milk. Bake in a preheated 170°C (or 160°C fan forced) oven for about 40 mins.
This is what I did:
Using a bread-maker, I've mixed all ingredients as listed in the table and knead both doughs using dough setting (similar to Christine's instructions). The amount used were half of both recipes.
Both dough were first proved for 1 hr and then overnight in the fridge (stored in a covered glass containers - as shown in my picture).
On the next day, both dough were removed from the fridge and were adjusted to room temperature for about 2 hrs. The bread were then shaped according to Christine's instructions and proved for another hour with warmer temperature and high humidity.Brush both loaves with egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp evaporated milk + 1 tbsp milk) baked at 160°C fan forced for 30 mins. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Allow the loaves to cool completely before serving.
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Please note that the linky tool for bake-along is no longer available.