tangzhong or water roux used to make bread light and soft
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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!

tangzhong or water roux used to make bread light and soft

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 …

tangzhong or water roux used to make bread light and soft

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
Basic Tangzhong
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
10 mins

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. 

Course: other
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Syama
  • 1/4 C Flour (30 g)
  • 3/4 C Water (150 g)
  1. 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 .
  2. 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 .

  3. Transfer  to a   dry bowl  and   cover  tightly  with a  plastic  wrap or a   tight  lid .  Cool  to  room  temperature . 

Recipe Notes
  • 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

Hokkaido Milk  Bread


Originally published on Nov 13, 2015. Updated content and images

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