Sunday, March 24, 2013

The 'We Knead to Bake' project 2013 : Hokkaido Milk Bread

 Its not conventional to think of bread and associate it with any thing Japanese, after all Japanese cuisine is predominantly rice & fish based if you go with the conventional thought process. This may be the reason why this months baking project from +Aparna Balasubramanian  came as a ultra pleasant surprise. The bread is known as Hokkaido Milk bread (disclaimer, Its been less than a month since I myself heard about the term) and it is by far the softest, fluffiest (feel free to add on your own choice of cute happy superlatives) bread I've ever had. The texture of Wonder bread minus the processed entrapped air!

The secret to this ethereal texture is the addition of a roux  to prepare the dough. Referred to as 'Tangzhong', this cooked mixture of milk and flour confers the matchless texture. The secret here is to cook the flour and milk to 65 C at which point the gluten in the flour absorbs the liquid transforming into a gel like state that helps form a structure that holds up the shape of the bread). This ancient Japanese technique was popularized by Yvonne Chen through her book '65 C Bread doctor'. The dough tends to be kind of sticky and hard to work with because of the added roux, so if you have access to a food processor or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, just USE IT!

Apart from a traditional loaf, I also venture to try a filled bread, drawing inspiration from the iconic Bunny Chow of Durban, South Africa , the filling consisting of curried Puy Lentils. I'm just going to link to my recipe for curried lentils from an ancient post of mine for Curried lentil Crostatas.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I goofed up the recipe the second time around by completely forgetting to add the butter required in the recipe. Much to my relief, the bread was perfectly soft and edible the morning after even after being cut and left out. 

Thanks Aparna for yet another superb pick of bread, here is the link to her original post of the Hokkaido Milk bread.

Hokkaido  Milk bread (adapted from the recipe on Kirbies cravings)

You need:
For the Tangzhong:
1/3 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water.

Whisk the flour into the milk and water in a saucepan ensuring that there are no lumps. Heat the mixture on a gentle heat (using a thermometer to measure the critical temperature of 65 C). If you don't have one, no worries, just keep  whisking the mix on a low/medium heat until the roux begins to thicken. when the whisk leaves behind peaks in the roux and the consistency is like that off soft pudding, remove from the heat, cover and allow to cool completely (~ 2 hours). 

For the Bread dough:

 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

 1 tablespoon sugar
 1 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp powdered milk
2 tsp instant dried yeast
1/2 cup milk (and a little more if needed)
1/8 cup cream (25% fat)
 1/3 cup tangzhong (use HALF of the tangzhong from above)
25gm unsalted butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
1 cup of curried lentils (if making the filled rolls)

In a bowl, whisk together the tangzhong, milk and cream together and ensure that there are no lumpy bits of the roux. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, milk powder and yeast in a separate bowl.

Add the softened butter into the bowl of the stand mixer and switch on the machine with the dough hook attachment. Pour in the the milk/cream tangzhong mixture. gradually add the flour blend about a coffee scoop's worth at a time. allow the dough to come together. The consistency is rather sticky at this point, so allow the food processor to knead the dough for about 5 minutes. If the dough feels a bit firm at this point add a couple of spoons of milk while kneading to make it soft. To test if the dough is of the right consistency, stretch a piece of dough between youe fingers. It should stretch and at the point of giving out, it will form a circular hole at the thinnest point.

Remove the dough from the mixer, form a ball with the seams tucked in the bottom and transfer into a well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm dark corner for about an hour until it almost doubles in volume.

  The dough is sufficient to make one loaf (using a 9x5 loaf tin) or 8  rolls in a muffin tin. Depending upon what you are making, butter and flour the surface of the respective baking  pan.

Transfer the dough onto the working surface. you do not need any flour to help shape the bread. for the loaf, roll out the dough to a rectangle of  about 9 inch wide and 15 inches long (approximations are fine). Fold into a rectangle of about 9 by 5 inches (as if you're folding a letter) and roll out once again to stretch the width. Roll the dough along the length pressing  the edges into the dough and pinching the sides. 

Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes into the dough. Brush liberally with cream, cover with a plastic wrap and allow to proof for a second time for about an hour.

Bake in an oven (preheated to 325 F) for about 25 - 30 minutes until the top has browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. 

Allow to cool in the loaf pan for about 5-10 minutes before tapping it out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the curried rolls:

Divide the rolls into 8 approximately equal parts. Roll out a portion of the dough into a 6 inch circle. Spoon in 2 tablespoons of the curried lentils onto the center of the dough.

Fold the edges together & seal the the dough as shown above. place into a buttered and floured muffin tin and brush well with cream. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and allow to proof for about 45 minutes.

Bake in a 325 F oven for about 20 minute until the tops appear to have a golden brown color. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the muffin tin before flipping them out to cool on a rack. Serve warm with a pat of fresh churned butter!

This bread is being yeastspotted!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Arancini - Iyer / Iyengar style!

When I was about 6 years old,  I once remember asking my mother for fried rice. It must have around 1975,  the first time I heard about new dishes  such as Falafel (which my dad, fresh from a 2 month posting to Kuwait, pronounced as 'Filafil' ) and Fried rice. Amma's repertoire of recipes at the time was restricted to traditional South Indian dishes with the odd Punjabi choley & Alu Mutter thrown in.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cake Hacking - Spiced apple buckle cake..

I seem to be running out of excuses about avoiding eggs. Yes, I have a teensy fear of  eggs. I enjoy them as much as anybody else, in custards, cakes, cookies & ice cream, but the mere mention of trying to buy a box, and my brain goes into an overdrive to come up with bizzarre excuses to get away from that part of the grocery store. I've analyzed & hyper analyzed it & am perfectly aware that I sound like one of those afflicted  patients described in V.S Ramachandran's book 'Phantoms in the brain', perfectly capable of acknowledging that my quirk is 'eggcentric' to say the least, but balk at the thought of doing something to overcome it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Croissants, South Indian style - Pain au 'Poornam'

Ahh the lingering enduring pleasure of taste memory..Its been almost three weeks since I tucked happily into these buttery pastries and here I am already getting set to start making plans for an encore. I'm planning to experiment with a different filling but before I add that to my repertoire of croissant flavors, I just have to write this recipe up before the details gradually fade away, like the spice notes of cardamom & saffron  that completely had me under their spell.


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