After living here for so many years, I had grown to appreciate the crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside European style bread. I started to like it, I even took bread making classes at Sour Flour (which by the way, is highly recommended. Cat is an amazing instructor!), am a proud owner or my own bread starter, and I'm proud to say that I have baked sourdough breads and baguettes successfully.
But somehow something was missing. It's the soft fluffy bread with cotton-like texture like I used to have back in Asia. Sure, since I live in bay area, I can easily obtain some from some Asian bakery, but I wanted to be able to make one myself.
Believe me, I tried. I tried so many times, and every single freaking time I failed miserably. Soft bread, yes....er, maybe. Fluffy, no!
For the longest time, I thought that I was destined to just purchase my Asian bread. Maybe without bread improver/leavening agent (that the bakeries probably use anyway), such task is impossible! Maybe all of my finger are thumbs! And I was ready to throw in my white towel.
Until, I found this recipe about a week ago. Suddenly, the Asian bread God is smiling upon me!
The softest, fluffiest, most delicious bread I ever baked!
The secret of nice soft fluffy bread is called Tangzhong (coined from Yvonne Chen's Chinese book aptly called 65 degrees), which is really water roux (bread flour and water heated up to 65 degrees C). At 65 degrees, the gluten in Tangzhong would absorb moisture and become leavened. When added to the bread dough, Tangzhong will help producing softer and fluffier bread.
- 1/3 cup bread flour
- 1 cup water
Mix flour and water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or spatula. The mixture will become thicker and thicker. Use the thermometer to check the temperature. When it reaches 65 degrees C, remove the saucepan from the stove. Set aside and cool down.
(Other way to check the temperature without thermometer is to check the mixture while stirring. When 'the lines' appear on the mixture when stirred with the spoon, the Tangzhong is ready).
Pandan Bread Ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour
- 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg (+1 egg for egg wash)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 120 grams Tangzhong (it's about 1/2 of the batch from the recipe above)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 teaspoons pandan extract (omit pandan extract and you'll get white milk bread that's great for sandwich or dinner rolls)
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add all wet ingredients (milk, egg, Tangzhong and pandan extract). Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and knead until your dough comes together. Add butter and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic (about 20 minutes with mixer. I used hands to knead and it took me about 30 minutes and sore hand afterwards, so I don't recommend it).
- When the dough is ready, you should be able to take a chunk and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should form a circle.
- Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into the bowl and cover with wet towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
- Transfer to a clean surface. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll out each potion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top.
- Flatten the dough with rolling pin. Roll the dough up, repeat with the rest of the portions.
- Place the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double in size, about another 40 minutes.
- Beat an egg and brush over the top of the rolls.
- Bake at 330 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes