The tang zhong (湯種) method is an intriguing way to make fluffy soft bread. Be it a humble loaf or an elaborate bakery twist, each bite is rich in milk and butter flavour.
It’s a nostalgic journey into the Asian bakeries I went to as a kid. Empowered with tongs in hand, you would slide your plastic tray along the ledge as you sidestepped along. It was like a bread museum. Cabinets full of these perfectly golden and glazed breads filled with everything from sausages, to seaweed & pork floss, to tuna & mayo. My favourite was the hot dog bun. I’d razor around the edge of the sausage until only the best part was left. Don’t forget the mini versions that you can get too!
The bread is always slightly sweet, with a feathery centre. Nowadays, you will see it floating online as “Japanese milk bread” or “Hokkaido milk bread”.
Most milk bread recipes use bread flour because of the higher protein content, which gives the bread that irresistible chewy texture.
Tang zhong is a technique of heating flour and water into a roux that is then added to the bread dough. This gelatinises the starch in the flour so it can absorb more water. Now that there’s less unabsorbed water in the dough, it’s less sticky and much easier to knead.
It also means your bread will be more moist and will rise higher from the water, which creates internal steam while it bakes. It stays softer for longer because it retains more water during the baking process.
Try out the tang zhong recipe here. It was my first foray into baking with yeast and got me hooked!