Patience, Yeast, & Milk Bread

People who know me would know I’m not exactly the most patient person in the world. While I used to let my kid brother yank at my hair like an ancient toilet flush, or allow the computer to dreadfully take a good while to fully load, I no longer possess “patience”. I’m the kind of person who expects results to take place immediately after gulping down a bitter pink cough medicine. I’m the sort of person who will cringe at anyone who speaks slower than a sloth can move. (I pardon old people of course). And most of all, it drives me absolutely crazy waiting for a bus that just never seems to arrive.

I’m sure most of us know who Albert Einstein was. The point he made about relativity? So true. It’s simple, really. When you sit next to a really cute guy for an hour, it seems to only have been a minute. But when it’s that guy who you’ve been trying to avoid, good luck, your 5 minutes is turned into a good one hour. Similarly, a watched pot never boils. You try rushing it, but it just refuses to boil! I like things snappy, so it’s inevitable how such things drive me nuts all the time.

Usually when I work with yeast, and I’m in a hurry, things seem to be slower than it actually is.

Still, I love working with yeast.

Apologies to all Atkins dieters out there, but I think carbohydrates are pretty darn good. I love my rice, noodles, and most of all, I love bread. My favorites are the French baguette, steamed pork buns, and finally, an exceptionally soft loaf that swears by the “tang zhong” method. I’m utterly cynical when it comes to bread being softened by bread conditioners. But little did I know that a simple flour paste cooked over the stove could result in bread so tender, so amazing. And be it soft Asian bread, or crusty French baguettes, the one thing that magically leavens your dough is yeast. I don’t really care about its smell, ‘cos when the dough comes together, you know your bread is going to be just mind-blowing. For someone who hates waiting, I really do not mind spending the whole day kneading and waiting for the dough to rise. In fact, I love it all, from all the smells to the mess I’d create in the end.

For this recipe, I’d even hug the “mess” if I could. I’m a huge, huge fan of ultra soft bread. So when I came across the “tang zhong” method raved across food blogs, I had to see what the fuss was about. More so, I had to make sure it was not just a big hoo-ha. And alas, it wasn’t. It makes me scoff at Gardenia and Sunshine. It makes me ecstatic to know that I can make bread that tastes better than store-bought from my own kitchen. It makes me jump to cloud 9 just because I succeeded on my first try at this.

This bread is wonderful with a lot of things. Ham, cheese, butter, half-boiled eggs, and even herb infused olive oil. Basically, anything. But I guess that’s what bread is for. And hey, for bread, I’ll wait for it anytime.

Milk Bread

from Christine’s Recipes

Makes two loafs (each loaf tin size: 20.5cmx10.5cmx9.5cm  –give some, take some)

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What is tang zhong? It is a water roux starter made of flour and water/milk that’s cooked and then chilled in the refrigerator for a day. It is what that makes bread soft, and springy. I recently came across this method and decided to see what all the rave was about. I’m not sure about the precise chemistry involved, but I do know that there’s gelatinization and extra moisture kicked in by the starter. Good news, if not old news, it’s the one best natural way to condition and soften your bread. Best of all, your bread stays preserved for days.

I halved this recipe and it works perfectly. I didn’t have the pan size called for, so I used a regular Pyrex loaf pan instead. The height is a little shorter, but no matter. The recipe is pretty flexible. Feel free to make little buns out of it if you wish.

…and sometimes you might like to dip your bread in half boiled eggs

540 gm (19.05 oz) bread flour
86 gm (3.03 oz) caster/granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp full cream milk power
11 gm (slightly more than 3 1/2 tsp) instant dried yeast
86 gm (3.03 oz) whisked egg
59 gm (2.1 oz) whipping cream
54 gm (1.9 oz) milk
184 gm (6.5 oz) tang zhong (see below)
49 gm (3 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

  1. Add all ingredients (except butter) into a breadmaker, first the wet ingredients (milk, cream, egg, tangzhong), then followed by the dry ingredients (salt, sugar, milk powder, bread flour, yeast). (Note: I used to make a small well in the bread flour, then add the yeast into it.) Select the “dough” mode (refer to the menu of your breadmaker to select the kneading dough programme). When all ingredients come together, pour in the melted butter, continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. The time of kneading in the breadmaker is about 30 minutes. Then let the dough complete the 1st round of proofing, about 40 minutes, best temperature for proofing is 28C, humidity 75%, until double in size.
  2. [If you don’t have a breadmaker, that’s fine. Just dump all ingredients except the butter into a mixer with a paddle attachment. Add in the butter once the ingredients come together. Mix till your dough moves away from the sides of the bowl, clinging to the paddle. Or else, knead the dough till it is smooth, elastic, and not sticky.]
  3. Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide into 6 equal portions. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  4. 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 38C, humidity 85%.
  5. Brush whisked egg on surface. Bake in a pre-heated 180C (356F) oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until turns brown. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. [If your bread is browning too quickly, let it brown first, then immediately tent the loaf with aluminum foil]
Tang zhong/Water Roux Starter
makes enough for 2 loaves, with a little leftover

50gm (1/3 cup) bread flour
250ml (1 cup) water (could be replaced by milk, or 50/50 water and milk)
  1. Mix flour in water 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.
  2. The mixture becomes thicker and thicker. Once you notice some “lines” appear in the mixture for every stir you make with the spoon. It’s done. You get the tangzhong. Remove from heat.
  3. Transfer into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking onto the surface of tangzhong to prevent from drying up. Let cool. Chill in fridge for several hours or overnight. Then the tangzhong is ready to be used. (Note: When you are ready to use the tangzhong, just measure out the amount you need and let it rest in room temperature for a while before adding into other ingredients. The tangzhong can be stored up to a few days as long as it doesn’t turn grey. If so, you need to discard and cook some more.)

11 thoughts on “Patience, Yeast, & Milk Bread

  1. This bread sounds so delicious! I can’t wait to try it! Could you please repost the recipe for those that don’t know how to bake using the grams method? Thank you so much! BTW, I love all of your recipes, you are a great cook! The pics of the bread looked so good it made me want a slice!

  2. First time I heard of the Tang zhong method, and I admit I am quite curious. Your bread looks beautiful! I followed you from the foodie blog roll and I’d love to guide Foodista readers to your site. I hope you could add this bread widget at the end of this post so we could add you in our list of food bloggers who blogged about how to make bread,Thanks!

  3. The ingredient that says “full cream milk power,” does this mean powdered milk? Do you think the non-fat would work? I can’t find anything else.

  4. I tried the recipe a few days ago. I think it turned out well, but it wasn’t quite the texture of the Japanese bakery bread of my childhood. The texture of the crumb wasn’t as soft as I remember bread from the bakery being, and it didn’t tear into strips either. In your pictures it looks like yours turned out well. Any tips?

    • jennifer: Unfortunately, I’m also new to tang zhong breads, hence I don’t really have tips. However, I can tell you that I have another recipe coming up and it’s even softer than this milk bread. (:

  5. Pingback: Sweet Buns Go Soft « bake five!

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