Hey there :)
Do you know the tangzhong (or water-roux) method? It’s mainly used is asian parts of the world to create a fluffy, pillow-y bread. Often called Hokkaido Milk Bread. And it’s awesome! And super easy actually. You just mix together some flour and water and heat it for short period of time. Now, I don’t get the whole chemical process behind this entirely, but making this gel and using it in baked bread will help to keep the moisture in the dough, as the tangzhong part sort of locks the liquid in the dough. Also, it won’t develop as many gluten as normal dough does. Hence the result of baked treats using tangzhong are soft and moist in the most pleasantly way.
For this bread I have combined the tangzhong method with a sourdough base and it works quite well. The sourdough adds a slight and subtle acidy, that deepens the flavor of the bread. Also you don’t need any yeast in order to make the bread rise (if your sourdough is strong) which is something I personally prefer.
For the recipe here I am giving a very basic dough that works with either – sweet or savory fillings. So if you feel like it, you could just divide the dough in half and make one sweet and one savory smaller bread out of it. Which is great, if for example you’re having a gathering and want to provide with sweet and salty treats :)
But you could also easily adapt the dough, add some more sugar or vanilla, cinnamon, tonka bean etc. to it to make the dough itself sweeter. Or some more salt, pepper and herbs for example for a heartier version. You can really adjust the basic recipe in so many ways, it’s great.
Same goes for the filling. I have made this bread with different fillings by now. The classic cinnamon-sugar version is always awesome, but add a grated apple, or two and it will get even better. Or use some Nutella. or peanut butter and banana. The sky is the limit ;)
So, the making of the dough takes a bit of time and maybe time management, but the steps themselves are pretty easy and totally doable even for a not so experienced baker I’d say :)
Recipe Hokkaido Milk Bread
prep time: about 25 minutes + proofing time + baking time +++ yields: one large bread or two smaller ones
Hokkaido Milk Sourdough Bread
For the sourdough
- 50g sourdough starter
- 75g whole wheat flour
- 75g water
for the tangzhong
- 2 Tbsp. white wheat flour
- 6 Tbsp. water
for the bread
- all of the sourdough (200g)
- all of the tangzhong (75g)
- 100g milk
- 350g flour (I have used half whole wheat and half white wheat flour)
- 1 egg
- 40g butter, very soft
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
notes on the dough: Like this you have a dough that works with sweet and savory options as it is very neutral. If you want to make a dough that tends to be a bit sweeter (don’t make it too sweet when you add a sweet filling or it might be too much), add another 3 Tbsp. of brown sugar and maybe 1 tsp. of vanilla paste or cinnamon.
For a more salty taste, add another teaspoon of salt and maybe some cracked black pepper or even a tablespoon of pesto or garlic butter. But those are just modifications, they are not necessary as the filling will also lend a lot of flavor :)
Sweet Version, Cinnamon-Sugar
- 115g butter, very soft
- 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. cardamom
- 1 tsp. vanilla paste
- 1-2 apples, grated (optional)
Savory Version, Pesto-Cheese
- 5 – 6Tbsp. pesto
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- ¼ Cup parmesan
- 1 ½ Cup grated cheese (like mozzarella or gouda or cheddar, or a mix) to sprinkle on top of the pesto
Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl (except the cheese in the savory filling) and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust spices to your likings.
Instructions Hokkaido Mild Sourdough Bread
Make the sourdough
Mix together the sourdough starter, water and flour and let sit for about 10-16 hours (or overnight).
Make the tangzhong
In a saucepan mix together the flour and the water. Heat the mixture over medium heat, constantly stirring. The mixture should thicken up to fairly fast to a gel-like consistency. Once you can see the bottom of the pan because of lines the dough make when stirring, turn off the heat. If you have a thermometer check the temperature of the dough. The dough should reach 65°C. On the hot stove keep stirring for about 30 seconds and them remove from heat. Place in a clean bowl, set aside and let cool completely.
Make the bread itself ;)
In a big bowl mix the sourdough with the milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the tangzhong and egg and mix it into the mixture as well until evenly distributed.
Then add the salt, sugar and flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough roughly comes together.
Then switch to using your hands ;) Knead the dough for about 4-5 minutes until everything comes together. The dough will be quite sticky, but try not to add flour or the bread will get to dry. I always wet my hands several times during the kneading process so the dough will stick to itself and not to my hands.
Then add the butter in pieces to the dough and knead again for about 4 minutes. At the beginning it will be a bit messy, but it’ll get better over time. Again, the dough is sticky, but try refraining from adding to much flour. Just wet your hands, it really helps. After a while it should form a smooth and pliable dough, still a bit sticky though.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. You could also use the dough the same day and just leave to rise for about 2-3 hours at room temperature, but leaving it to rise overnight will result in a better flavor and also the gluten has more time to develop, so I highly recommend this version.
After the dough has risen, roll it out into a rectangular shape on a floured working space. Now you are allowed to add some flour on top the dough to make the rolling out easier ;)
Spread and sprinkle the desired filling on top. Then cut the dough into strips and then cut into rectangles that easily fit in your loaf pan. Staple the pieces onto each other and place into a well-greased (or baking sheet lined for the safest option) rectangular loaf or cake pan. Make sure to leave some space at the sides as the dough will rise a bit again.
Leave to rise for about 60 minutes. When readily proofed you can brush it with some more melted butter if you want, but that’s optional
Bake in preheated oven at 175°C for about 35-40 minutes. If you want to sprinkle something on top (like sugar or cheese, do that after 20-25 minutes of baking)