Hokkaido Milk Bread
52 Weeks of Baking – Re-do (Japanese)
I love bread, more the making of it than the eating of it, but it’s still up there on my list of favorite carbs, more superior than potatoes, but that’s another story.
I’ve been making bread for years, I perfected my kneading technique in the middle of the night while sailing on Bounty when I was a deckhand. The cook would let me know at dinner what type of bread she wanted so it could be ready the following day. I would have to time my watch rotation so the bread would have the right amount of time to rest in between steps, I was let off the hook a little if I had to leave a station early to remove it from the oven, bread was important to the crew. Ever since then I’ve been exploring the world of yeast leavened foods, bread, cake, waffles, sourdough and one time I made soda with bread yeast… yeah, don’t try that at home.
There are millions of varieties of bread, where they come from has the biggest influence in the end results, China has steamed buns filled with pork, India flat bread slathered in butter and garlic, Vietnam has baguettes from their French influences and Japan has milk bread with the most amazing fluffy peel-able texture.
The base of the bread starts off with tangzhong ‘water roux’, a mixture of milk or water cooked with flour till it forms a roux, a thick paste. I’m not sure about the science behind it but the tangzhong acts as a form of preservative allowing the bread to stay fresher longer. I like to think that the cooked roux also has something to do with the texture of the bread, but I think that’s really down to the dough being enriched with sugar, egg, milk and fat.
This bread has lovely smooth texture, making for an enjoyable experience to shape, the end results are just as amazing, it has a close crumb, like a very sturdy cake. You’d think with the amount of sugar in this bread it would be inherently sweet, but it’s just the right amount and helps it caramelize beautiful for toast.