Ever wondered how Japanese milk bread gets to be (and stays) so moist and fluffy? It’s a method called tangzhong and it’s about to revolutionise your home bread baking.
Essentially, tangzhong involves creating a cooked roux, or sometimes called a slurry, which is added to the dough. This is done by taking some of the flour and liquid from the recipe and pre-cooking it. The flour that is pre-cooked develops gluten which can stretch into longer elastic strands. This traps some of the moisture that would otherwise escape during baking giving the finished bread a softer texture. It will also stay softer for a few days longer than non-tangzhong bread.
So, how do you make the slurry?
It’s a simple method where you place the flour and liquid (usually water or milk) into a saucepan over medium heat and stir until it has thickened. If a recipe has been written in the tangzhong method than you won’t have to worry about ratios but it is also possible to convert a recipe into a tangzhong style recipe.
How to convert your recipe to tanghzong.
First you need to take a step back from the recipe directions and calculate the hydration level of the dough. This is done by dividing the amount of liquid by the amount of flour. So, for example:
265 g water & 500 g flour
= 53 % hydration
Now, in order to make a dough tangzhong it will need to be around 70 – 75 % hydration and so for the above recipe you will need to increase the water:
360 g water & 500 g flour
= 72% hydration
Great, so now that you have worked this out it is time to calculate how much of the water and the flour to use to make the slurry. As a rule of thumb you use 10% of the flour and around 5 times the amount of liquid. So, for our example above this would mean:
250 g water & 50 g flour
This would be cooked in a small saucepan to create the slurry and then added to a bowl with the remaining flour, water and the other ingredients for the bread and you would proceed as the recipe instructs.
Is tangzhong always better?
You may have already had the thought, but tangzhong style baking is not suitable for all types of bread baking because you don’t always want a super soft, fluffy product. You don’t, for example, get the kind of crunchy exterior you want in a baguette if you made it tangzhong style and so it is important to pick and choose the times you do it carefully.