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)
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.
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!