The Tangzhong Bread-Making Method
Since the start of the year we have deliberately upped our intake of wholegrains. Daily porridge, brown rice, wholewheat pasta and a lot more wholemeal flour in the breads we’ve been baking. It’s been a simple but very worthwhile change to our diet. However, we do like our bread reasonably light and definitely not a handy replacement for roundshot during an ammunition shortage. We’ve tried a few different recipes in our attempts to make some light wholemeal rolls and had the most success with the Tangzong technique.
Tangzhong is a semingly unusual Japanese bread-making method that involves pre-cooking a mixture of flour and water to create a roux which you later add to the bread dough. The rationale behind this is that by pre-gelatinising the starch it absorbs more liquid which when you add to the bread mix increases the water content of your recipe, resulting in a much lighter bread that lasts longer. And it really works!
You may have come across similar techniques in European baking though they are most often seen with rye breads.
You can adapt any recipe to this technique but it’s definitely worth sitting down and carefully doing the numbers before you start.
- First, increase the amount of liquid in the dough to 75% hydration for all white recipes and to as much as 100% (as in the wholemeal roll recipe below) for all wholemeal recipes. Not all of the water in the roux will be available for the remaining flour. Fail to increase the water in the recipe and your loaves or rolls will be very stiff and heavy.
- Now calculate 5% of the flour from your recipe and calculate 5x that weight which will be the amount of water you’ll use to make the roux. So this means if you have a recipe with 1000g of flour and 750g water in it, you’ll take 50g of the flour and make it into the roux with 250g of the water.
We made a batch of these wholemeal rolls. Baked on Thursday evening they were light, soft and still good for lunch rolls on Monday. An amazing improvement on regular rolls.
Tangzhong Wholemeal Rolls: yields 12 rolls weighing about 90g each
For the roux –
- 30g white bread flour (making the roux with white flour works best)
- 150g water
For the rolls –
- 570g wholemeal flour
- 12g salt
- 9g instant yeast
- 30g butter
- 18g sugar (this also helps lighten the dough)
- 350g tepid water (or use 50:50 milk and water)
- Medium oatmeal or semolina for the baking tin
Tangzhong Wholemeal Rolls
- To make the roux, put the 30g flour and 150g water in a pan over a gentle heat. Warm the pan whilst mixing constantly until the roux thickens and leave a trail as you stir. If you have a digital thermometer heat the roux whilst stirring until it reaches 65c. Leave the roux to cool until it’s tepid.
- Mix the remaining ingredients along with the cooled roux. Knead until fully developed, lump free and springy. Cover and leave to ferment.
- After about 1 hour knock back the dough and leave to rise again.
- When the dough is well risen and a floury finger meets no resistance, you can shape the dough. This will take another hour or so.
- Knock back the dough and cut into 12 even pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them in a baking tin into which you’ve sprinkled a little oatmeal or semolina. Leave 1-2 cm between each roll to allow for expansion.
- Cover and allow to rise in a warm place until soft and well risen. Meanwhile heat the oven to 210C.
- Bake the rolls for 15 minutes until they spring back readily when pressed. Spray the oven with water once or twice during the first 5-10 minutes to encourage the dough to rise.
- When they are cooked, put the rolls on a cooling rack and cover with a clean tea towel until cool. This will help them retain moisture and stay soft.
Do try this technique – it really makes a difference to especially wholemeal bread which can, as you may know, be on the heavy side!
If you’d like to join us for some more bread-making then do sign up for one of our courses. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned baker, we have a course for you.
All classes are hands-on, very relaxed and great fun and all the details are on our website here.