My fiancé loves making toast, classic sandwiches and hot pockets. Rustic sourdough with its chewy texture and depth of flavour is not always ideal for this purpose. The texture of rustic sourdough can be too chewy for toast or hotpockets and its rich flavour can easily overpower the toppings of a sandwich. The bread for sandwiches, toast and hot pockets needs to be softer, lighter and more neutral in flavour.
So how can we make a soft, fluffy loaf without using additives or humidifiers? The answer is to use a technique from Asian kitchens – tangzhong.
Tangzhong is a kind of roux (the mix of flour and liquid used in sauces such as béchamel, velouté and espagnole). Wheat flour is mixed with water and heated until it thickens. This is then added to the bread dough where it helps retain moisture and improves the rising cabilities of the dough.
Making the Tangzhong
The following Youtube video by blogger BigheadMagicMad demonstrates the process:
Baking bread with Tangzhong
Once we have our Tangzhong, we can get started with the fun part – baking the bread. I have used Tangzhong in many different bread recipes. Some with sourdough, some with fresh yeast and some with dried yeast. Some asian recipes call for the use of an egg to retain moisture. I have baked asian-style bread both with and without egg and can assure you, the bread will be fine without egg. The asian recipes usually call for more sugar than is really needed, so I have tried to reduce it for this recipe. It can be replaced with coconut sugar, agave or malt if you prefer a healthier option. If you choose to omit the sugar entirely, increase the proofing time by 10-20%.
The following recipe is adapted from Anita “Pastry Girl” Chu and is great for beginners.
Yeast mix ingredients
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm milk
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 10g (2 teaspoons) sugar
- 350 g bread flour
- 30 g sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt
- approx. 100-125 ml (just under 1/2 cup) Tangzhong
- 1 large egg, plus another for egg wash (you can use milk instead of egg wash)
- 25 g unsalted butter at room temperature (you can use 25ml of a healthy vegetable oil instead of butter)
- Mix the milk, yeast and sugar in a bowl – this activates the dried yeast. Leave for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
- In the meantime, combine bread flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
- Add the yeast mix, Tangzhong and egg to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Work into a smooth and elastic dough by hand or in a mixer.
- Add the butter and incorporate it into the dough.
- Cover the dough and allow to proof until double in size (30-60 minutes depending on temperature).
- Grease a loaf pan.
- Split the dough into 2 parts to make 2 small loaves or use the whole dough to make 1 large loaf. Place the dough in the greased pan. Allow to proof for 1 hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and make the egg wash by beating the egg vigorously in a cup. Brush the top of the bread with egg wash just before you put it in the oven.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Over the coming months, I will continue my experiments with tangzhong, exploring ways to make healthier, tastier sandwiches.
If you want to learn more about baking bread with the tangzhong method, check out these great bread blogs and sites: