I fell in love with the pillow soft breads from the Asian bakeries years back. Most of the major Asian markets here have a bakery and restaurant attached, and the aromas wafting in the air are just incredible. They definitely knew how to lure the customers in!
What does that have to do with this custard looking thing , you ask ? Well for ages I believed that these were made with dough conditioners and bleached flour and what not. Little did I know that they had a trick up the sleeve that made these soft as feather while keeping it preservative and chemical free !
What is tangzhong ?
This is that magic ingredient – a paste of liquid and flour known as tangzhong. Tangzhong is a Japanese technique of cooking a small percentage of flour and liquid in the original recipe together until it thickens.
The mix of flour and liquid is cooked together till all the moisture is absorbed into the flour and thick gelatinous mix is formed. Generally flour absorbs more hot liquids than room temperature liquids. This means that the dough made with tangzhong has higher percentage of water.
Unlike high hydration doughs (those pesky sticky ones) this dough is easy to work with as the cooking has created a structure to retain the moisture. The moisture is contained within the dough and as a result creates wonderful oven spring as the dough bakes.
An added bonus is that these breads have a longer shelf life than their regular counterparts. This is good news for the baker. If you have to serve the soft cinnamon rolls for breakfast you don’t have to wake up early in the morning and bake it fresh !
Of course the smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls have an additional advantage of making people get out of bread and into the kitchen ! But then no one said you can’t make tangzhong cinnamon rolls in the morning😉 – Go ahead make a double batch – these will stay soft and fresh for another 3 days …
So here is how to do it
- Take 1 part flour and 5 parts of water or liquid to be used
- Mix till lumps
- Heat the mixture to 149°F or 65°C stirring
- Let cool before adding to the bread
Most of the tangzhong breads found in the market are made using the bread flour or all purpose flour. In my experience the result have not been as stellar with whole wheat flour.
The 1:5 ratio of flour to water is by weight. The approximate volume measurements are given in the recipe, but it is always better (and easier ) to weigh the ingredients for bread.
Do I need a thermometer ?
The recipe calls for the mix to be heated to a specific temperature. If you have an instant read thermometer handy it is a good place to use it. If not no worries , the eyeball is a great tool you have .
The 65°C can be accurately predicted by looking at the dough transformation. At this temperature the spoon that you have been using to stir the mix will start leaving a visible trail all the way to the bottom of the pan (pic). The consistency of the mix has changed and all the water is absorbed into the flour.
This is your cue to turn off the heat and transfer the contents to another dish, cover and let cool. Keep the tangzhong covered , we do not want to dry it out. You can refrigerate it as well for 2 to 3 days.
Few Notes – seriously I didn’t know where else to fit it all in.
- Usually bakers use 5- 10 % of the flour by weight in the original recipe to make
- Up to 10% of the flour by weight in the original recipe can be used to make the
- Adding more roux does not make the bread softer , instead the crumb becomes dense.
- Reduce the liquid in the original recipe by the % of flour used to make the roux.
- For 100% whole wheat bread make the roux with AP/bread flour and reduce the flour used from the original recipe.
- Do not cook the dough more than 149°F / (65°C) a few degrees either way will not hurt , but no more.
- You can make the dough with the hot tangzhong (keep it below 10%) , but do not add yeast until the dough has become
Tangzhong is a cooked gelatinous mixture of liquid and flour. It is used to replace a portion of the flour in the traditional bread recipes. Tangzhong makes the bread softer and stay fresh longer.
- 1/4 C Flour (30 g)
- 3/4 C Water (150 g)
- Whisk the measured flour and water together in a heatproof dish . Make sure that there are no lumps . Transfer to stove top and heat at medium heat stirring continuously .
Once the mixture is heated to 149°F or 65°C ( the spoon starts leaving trails reaching the bottom of the pan as you stir ) turn the heat off .
Transfer to a dry bowl and cover tightly with a plastic wrap or a tight lid . Cool to room temperature .
- Up to 10% by weight of the flour in the original recipe can be used to make tangzhong.
- Do not over cook - the mix loses it elasticity and does not retain moisture when overcooked.
- 1 : 5 ratio of flour to liquid is used to make tangzhong.
Here is a recipe using tangzhong
Originally published on Nov 13, 2015. Updated content and images