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Tangzhong

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Tangzhong or water roux is a cooked mix of flour and water used in breadmaking. It makes the bread softer and increase its shelf life.

tangzhong or water roux in a bowl

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 breads 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 (roux) is formed. Generally flour can absorb more liquid when hot compared to room temperature. This means that the dough made with tangzhong has higher percentage of water.

Unlike high hydration doughs (those pesky sticky ones you make for ciabatta or baguettes) 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. So 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, because your tangzhong cinnamon rolls  will be soft and fluffy the next day as well!

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 …

Picture showing different stages of tangzhong as it is cooking.

How to make Tangzhong

Making Tangzhong is an easy process. Here is how to  do it

  • Take 1 part flour and 5 parts of water or liquid to be used
  • Mix well until no lumps  remain
  • Heat the mixture to 149°F or 65°C while stirring often
  • Let it cool before adding to the bread dough

Most of the tangzhong breads found in the market are made using the bread flour or all purpose flour. Though you can make it  with whole wheat flour, the  results have not been very spectacular. So if you plan on using  this  method  to make whole wheat  bread, make the  tangzhong using all purpose flour. It will not alter the nutritional value by much, but will increase the shelf life and create softer crumb.

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.

Tangzhong that has reached the correct consistency

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, this is a good time to use it. But there are other ways to determine when it reaches the  right consistency.

The 65°C can be accurately predicted by looking at way the mix transforms while cooking. 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 into a thick paste 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. The mix will not release water  as it cools.  Keep the tangzhong covered as we do not want to dry it out. If not using the same day refrigerate it for 2 to 3 days.

Using Tangzhong in Bread Recipes

Converting regular bread recipe to use tangzhong

Tangzhong bread recipes use about 5% to 10% of the flour weight to make the roux. When you convert a bread recipe reduce both the flour and liquids by 5% (or up to  10%). Make tangzhong  with the  amount of flour reduced and  add  to the  recipe.

Tips

  • Adding more roux does not make the bread softer, instead the crumb becomes dense.
  • 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. Cooking it more will dry out the roux and will not help it retain moisture.
  • You can make the dough with the hot tangzhong (keep it below 10%), but do not add yeast directly on the hot tangzhong.  Mix it in until the dough temperature is just warm and then add the yeast.
tangzhong or water roux in a bowl

Basic Tangzhong

By Syama
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. 
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course other
Cuisine Japanese

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 C Flour (30 g)
  • 3/4 C Water (150 g)

Instructions
 

  • 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 . 

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.
Keyword Bread Making, Tangzhong, Water Roux
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Originally published on Nov 13, 2015. Updated content and images


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14 thoughts on “Tangzhong”

  1. Hello!

    Thank you for this. 🙂 Not many recipes include ‘how to use’ the tangzhong. I was just wondering if you could clarify what the following sentence means? “Reduce the liquid in the original recipe by the % of flour used to make the roux.”

    Cheers,
    Bernice

    Reply
    • Hi Bernice,
      I can see how that needs more explanation.
      A portion of the flour is used to make the roux. The original measurement of the liquid/s used in the recipe is for the entire amount of the flour used. So reduce the liquid by the fraction (or %) of flour that was used for roux.
      Here is an example : Original recipe calls for 100g flour and 50 g water. 10 g flour is used for roux which is 10% or 1/10 th of the original recipe’s flour weight. So reduce the water by the same amount. 1/10 th or 10 % of 50 is 5. This calculation results in the altered recipe using 45 gms of water. So the new recipe will read tangzhong made with 10g flour, 90g flour, 45 g water.

      Hope that clears it up.
      Happy baking!
      – Syama.

      Reply
      • Sorry I didn’t get the 10%..
        Coz the roux you said is 1 part flour 5 parts water…
        So when you said 1/10 of flour and water the flour became 10g and water 5g ?
        Why is that when you converted the recipe the liquid became less than the flour?

        Reply
        • We are not using 10g flour and 5 g water to make the roux. Make the roux with 10g of flour using the recipe instructions in the post by adding 50g of water. This water is extra not in the original recipe. From the original recipe reduce 5g water.
          The result is – roux made with 10g flour (10g flour +50 g water) added to the modified recipe of 90g flour and 45 g water. So the tangzhong recipe has 45g more water. In this case we have almost doubled the water in the recipe.
          I hope that clears your doubt.

          Reply
  2. Hi thank you for bringin this tanzhong recipe but still confuse with the arithmetic how the tanzhong make can u just use cups or tablespoon or gram not by part just little confuse for calculation how to do? For example the recipe calls 560g of flour and 385 of all liquid how is the formula for this to get tanzhong from that recipe of 1:5. Its a big help for you answer please used gram or tablespoon or cups., thank u

    Reply
    • Hi Lily,
      I am not sure I quite understand your question. The recipe for tangzhong has both the weight and volume equivalents in it.
      If you are talking about adapting a recipe to use tangzhong then take a fraction of the flour (10% or less ) used to make tangzhong and reduce the liquid called for in the recipe by the same fraction. This calculation is explained in the comment above.
      The liquid used to make tangzhong is extra.
      If you are using volume measurements find an approximate multiple of the recipe quantities that will work for you. For 560g flour use the measurements as written or make 11/2 times the given measurements.
      Hope I answered your question.

      Reply
      • I don’t see why not. There are very many asian buns made using this method with stuffing like spring onions, pork or sausage. Go for it.

        Reply
  3. Hi, just confused regarding the yeast. Does this means i have to mixed the tanzhong to the flour first before adding the yeast to make the dough? Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi, I clarified it in the post. Do not have yeast touch hot tangzhong. If you are working with hot tangzhong mix it in with the rest of the ingredients first and add the yeast once the mix does not feel hot.
      Thanks,
      Syama

      Reply
    • You can, but it depends on teh recipe. Tangzhong works as a bread improver so if the recipe yields the right texture you want using both tangzhong and improver might result in a very fragile loaf.
      Thanks,
      Syama

      Reply
      • Hi…
        Is tanzhong have to refrigerate first couples hours before we use to the dough?
        I followed the milk bread recipe with tanzhong method, the percentage of the tanzhong is exactly same with yours 😉 but I made the bread after 6 hours from I refrigerated my tanzhong + about an hour to get room temperature.
        But yeeeeessss my bread is sooo fluffyyyyyyyyy
        #singing

        @ika_baskoro
        @cekliicook

        Reply
        • Fluffy bread is indeed a good thing!
          To answer your question, no you don’t have to refrigerate tangzhong. The only thing one has to worry about is heat killing yeast. In other words adding hot tangzhong to yeast. So ideally one waits for it cool down before adding to the dough.
          There are variations of this method where some hot water is added to the flour and mixed a little. Wait for it to cool to just warm to touch temperature. Add the yeast and other ingredients and finish kneading.
          Happy baking!

          Reply

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