So what exactly is tangzhong? In practice, it is the miracle to make any bread lighter and fluffier. Dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, brioche, challah....if they are dry and chewy, try a tangzhong. This is a Japanese technique where you cook a small portion of flour and water before adding it to a yeast bread. Doing this pre-gelatinizes the flour starches, allowing them to absorb far more water. It also holds on to that water better throughout the entire process of mixing, kneading, and baking. Your bread will not only be softer but rise higher and stay fresh longer.
Before we get into how to make a tangzhong and the Hokkaido Milk Rolls, go ahead and pull 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter to soften and one large egg to come to room temperature. I always forget to do that until it's too late.
For the Tangzhong:
2 Tablespoons Bread or AP Flour
2 Tablespoons water
4 Tablespoons whole milk
For the Bread Dough:
2.5 Cups Bread or AP Flour
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 Teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 Cup whole milk
1/4 Cup granulated white sugar
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 whole egg, room temperature
For the Egg Wash:
1 Whole Egg
2 tablespoons whole milk, beaten
For the topping
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
2 Cloves garlic (savory)
1/4 cup Honey (sweet)
1 tablespoon high quality flake sea salt
1. In a small sauce pan mix the ingredients for the tangzhong. Whisk together over low heat until it forms a sticky paste. This will happen very quickly, 30 seconds to 2 minutes at the most. Remove to a separate dish to cool.
2. Bloom the yeast by warming the milk slightly to 95-105 degrees and stirring in the yeast. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for 10 minutes, until frothy.
3. Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients (2.5 cups flour, Sea Salt, White Sugar) in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.
4. Add tangzhong, milk & yeast slurry, and egg. Start at low, scrapping sides as needed. As soon as dough begins to come together increase to medium-low. Add the softened butter in thirds, mix until incorporated.
5. After butter has been incorporated continue mixing on medium-low for 5-7 minutes, or until smooth. Move the dough to a clean work surface. The dough may be sticky, and that's okay. Work into a tight boule by pulling dough from the top and tucking it under while slowly turning the dough. It should look like a tight ball when done. Place in a lightly greased bowl under a damp kitchen towel at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until roughly doubled.
6. After your dough has risen lightly, punch it down and move to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 9 portions (each should weigh 72-78grams) and form 9 individual tight boules as you did in step 5. Place in a lightly greased 9x9 pan in 3 rows of 3. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for another 1-2 hours at room temperature.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush rolls with egg wash. Bake for 28-30 minutes.
8. Make either savory topping (garlic and butter) or sweet topping (honey and butter) by combining both in a small pan over low heat.
9. Remove buns from oven, top with butter mixture, and sprinkle with flake salt.
Alternate Style 1:
In step six, after punching down, just place entire dough into a well greased loaf pan to form a single loaf. Follow all other directions as written.
Alternate Style 2:
In step six, after dividing dough and forming boule, press down the center to form a well. Fill the well with two tablespoons of filling. You can do savory (such as BBQ Pork or Curry) or sweet (such as dark chocolate or red bean paste). Follow the remaining steps, but be sure to use the sweet or savory topping to match the filling.