Whenever we visit Taiwan, I love going to the bakeries there (as you can see from our last trip documented here). Each individually-wrapped beautiful fluffy golden soft and sweet bun calls my name and I end up gobbling up way too many carbs than my body is supposed to have. In fact, a fond memory of mine includes daily trips to the bread truck for a snack with my cousins during hot summer vacations in Taiwan when we were little. My favorite version is topped with green onion and ham, savory with a hint of sweet. These buns and breads are different than the Wonder Bread you find at your local grocery store. They are sweet, moist, buttery, and when torn, produce fibrous strands instead of a crumbly mess. The bread could be considered to be part of the brioche family in that it contains eggs, milk and butter.
My quest for recreating childhood Asian favorites at home led me on a search for this bread recipe. I scoured the internet for “Chinese Bread and Buns” and even had my parents ask a friend in Taiwan to look for a book that supposably had THE recipe with English translation, International Baking Delights by Lee Hwa Lin. Even though the book is filled with great recipes, the basic sweet bread dough recipe just didn’t cut it. I tried the recipe multiple times, and it wasn’t moist and buttery enough. I was a bit disappointed and tucked the joy of eating a bun every day towards the back of my brain. Well, during some casual internet browsing last week on Food Gawker, I stumbled upon the TangZhong method on Christine’s awesome blog. It was like finding extra money in your pockets, where you feel immediately richer and couldn’t wait to spend it, but in this case I couldn’t wait to make it! Evidently Yvonne Chen exposed the secret of Asian breads in her book “The 65º C Bread Doctor” and explains how including a flour roux cooked to 65º C (149º F) into the dough mix helps to keep the moisture and keeps the bread fresh for longer. I say “evidently” because I have not read it myself, in that I can only read my name in Chinese. I know, shameful, right? I have to admit, I suck at languages, especially English.
So, I immediately ran home that day and cooked up my roux (1 part flour, 5 parts water, cooked to 149º F (or when the mixture becomes a pudding texture). The next day after work, I mixed up all the ingredients in my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook attachment. From reading the comments, I learned that the dough would be quite sticky and that incorporating the butter would be messy, so why not let a machine do the work, right? Well, the mixture was so sticky, it was almost soup! I kneaded and kneaded in the machine (about 30 mins.), but it still had the consistency like Panera’s baked potato soup (YUM). I got worried, and went over the recipe at least 12 times, and made the executive decision to add more flour until it became a dough. I ended up adding a whole another cup of flour, and tried to justify in my mind that if I had hand-kneaded it, I would have used at least 1 extra cup of flour to get it to form. The dough raised just fine and I incorporated Zach’s favorite things (bacon and cheddar) into the loaf. I baked it with crossed fingers and poooff! It turned out GREAT and TASTY!!! The texture was right on, and it was buttery and fluffy and super yummy!
Determined to get the recipe right, as it’s been checked and double checked by Christine, I then created it again this weekend at Zach’s mom’s house for our Easter brunch. This time the dough came together just fine without any extra flour! Could humidity and temperature really cause the recipe to change by a whole cup of flour? I mean we were about 5 hrs South East from our house, the original dough making location, and the temperature was warmer and it was a bit more dry there, but a whole cup?! I’m baffled. Anyways, this time I made apple cinnamon rolls with the dough and it was AWESOME!
I am totally in love and can’t wait to use the TangZhong method again to make my favorite scallion ham buns and other endless varieties! Hawaii diet is getting harder and harder now. Oh the irony in finding the right recipe just when I’m on a diet.
TangZhong and Dough Recipe (formed into the bacon cheddar loaf) here
Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Dough using TangZhong method
2 medium apples (pealed, cored and chopped to 1/4 inch cubes), I used Granny Smiths
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cream or half and half (may need 1/2 – 1 tablespoon more to get consistency)
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extra
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Mix cinnamon and sugar in small bowl. Peal and chop apples. Mix apples and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture in a saucepan. Cook apples on medium for a little bit (until they were soft, but not to the point of apple sauce) making sure to stir every once in a while. Once apples are cooked, cool to room temperature (I put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes, checking and stiring them every few minutes).
In the mean time, butter a baking pan about 13X18. Roll out dough to about a 13X18 rectangle (doesn’t have to be perfect). Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly on to rolled out dough, making sure to cover the whole surface. Then sprinkle evenly the cooled apples on to sugared dough and lightly press in. Roll up dough from the long side and pinch seam to close. Cut slices of roll about 1 inch thick with a serrated or sharp knife, you should get 8-9 slices. Place rolls in buttered baking pan close together but not touching. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or when rolls plump up and start to touch (I put all my dough in the oven with the light on). Bake in oven at 350º F for about 20 minutes or until the top starts to brown (some times after about 15 minutes or so, I brush on some butter to help with the browning).
While rolls are baking, make icing. Mix all ingredients in medium blow and whisk to combine. Simple! Spread icing on rolls immediately after they come out the oven, letting it melt all over. Ready to eat!!