The occasion, a bograc/barbecue party. Cosmin's brief, 'we need a really really really really soft bread to go with our mici (Romanian kebabs)'. Fed up with the usual bland soft buns you get at the supermarket I decided to turn to Google to find the softest bread in the world, and Google told me that the Japanese hold that crown with their glorious hokkaido milk bread.
TheTasteTrail isn't due to make an official 'visit' to Japan for a while yet, but after I started scrolling through photo after photo of hokkaido I had to find out more. So I read up about it. I read a lot about it.
Heres the deal, there is nothing unusual about what goes in hokkaido, it's your standard list of loaf'o'bread ingredients; what makes it so super soft and delicious is the method. A simple flour and water roux called a tangzhong is heated then cooled to luke warm temperature before being added to the bread dough. The tangzhong stops excess gluten development and locks in the moisture, resulting in a very soft bread indeed which stays soft for days.
Research done, I did what I do best, I microsoft excelled the shit out of hokkaido to come up with the perfect recipe. Calculating optimum hydration, the ratio of this ingredient to that ingredient, to the other ingredient. Pre TheTasteTrail I never would have made up my own bread recipe, I certainly never would have baked my own bread from my own recipe for the first time for a party of ten people with no back up readymade loaf of bread safely stored in the bread bin. I won't lie, I was nervous that it was going to be a monumental fuck up. I also won't lie that I was humble bragging when it ended up being an absolute triumph. Go me! Brief well and truly met.
Be warned, the dough is sticky and takes longer to knead than regular dough, just keep going at it and whatever you do resist adding more flour. I promise you, your sticky hands will be worth it.
- 45g strong bread flour
- 185g water
- 190g full fat milk heated to lukewarm temperature
- 14g dried yeast
- 70g sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 85g butter, grated
- 540g strong bread flour
- 1.5tsp salt
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 bread tins approximately 30cm by 15cm in size
NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER PORTION
- Calories | 79
- Fat | 2.1g
Makes | 2 loaves, approximately 40 slices
Prep Time | 20 minutes plus two hours rising
Cooking Time | 35-40 minutes
- Add the flour to a small saucepan and slowly pour in the water, whisking all the while until it is fully incorporated and smooth.
- Heat over medium, whisking continually until it thickens and leaves traces when you drizzle it over the mixture.
- Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and place clingfilm/saran wrap directly on top of the liquid to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool to lukewarm temperature.
- In a jug, stir together the yeast, a teaspoon of the sugar and the warm milk, cover and leave in a warm draft free spot for the yeast to activate.
- Add the egg to the yeast mix and stir.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and butter.
- make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture together with the tangzhong.
- Stir from the inside out, gradually incorporating the wet into the dry. Once a dough begins to form, turn out on to a work surface and knead with your hands for approximately 15 minutes until you have a smooth glossy dough.
- Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and leave for 60 minutes in a warm draft free spot until doubled in size.
- Punch the air out of your dough and divide into eight pieces.
- Roll each piece into a ball and then with a rolling pin into strips approximately 12cm x 20cm in size. Roll each strip into a sausage (like you would a Swiss roll) and place four in each bread tin side-by-side (like sardines). Whilst you are forming two complete loaves, you don't want the dough to touch at this stage as it will rise considerably. If there isn't enough room for your dough to rise it will be forced in on itself and you will have a dense loaf.
- Cover and leave to rise for an hour in a warm draft free place.
- Preheat the oven to 175°c.
- Paint the top of your loaves with beaten egg and bake for 30-35 minutes on the middle shelf. Cover if it starts browning too much, you want to aim for a deep golden brown.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.