Everybody Tangzhong Tonight.Posted: June 6, 2012
The other day, I was talking to my lovely and always entertaining friend Kipp. I like Kipp. Like me, she’s obsessed with cooking and eating good food. However, unlike me, she’s actually going to culinary school for pastry. Also, she kind of knows what she’s doing.
We have a “friends with benefits” relationship, Kipp and I. She’s the friend and I usually benefit. Kipp bakes large quantities of things to test out her ideas and I get boatloads of inspiration and baked goods in kind. Most recently, she introduced me to a bag full of homemade chipotle demerara elephant ears and this wonderfully foreign method of making bread called the Tangzhong method. Apparently this simple (yet genius) method of baking produces bionic ultra brioche and almost nobody uses it stateside.
Truly, this is a shame and you’ll quickly see why.
The Tangzhong method is a deceptively simple method for making a light, lofted tender loaf of bread via a heated water roux. (In fact, the literal translation of tangzhong means water roux.) The finished bread will be similar to brioche or a danish in mouthfeel and behavior, but unlike those pastry doughs, the tangzhong bread is significantly lower in fat and will stay soft and fresh for almost a week. How does this work?
The answer lies in gluten, but the technical definition is a bit hazy as to why it works. Presumably, the tangzhong method produces a particularly soft loaf of bread because the gluten is allowed to fully gelatinize. The roux itself is not the leavening agent (as stated on the foremost English language tutorial on the method shown here), but it does trap the gasses that the leavening agents produce while baking. More gas trapped means more tiny bubbles and more tiny bubbles mean a softer, lofted loaf of bread. Get it?
The ratio for the perfect tangzhong is one part flour to five parts water heated to 149 degrees, then cooled to room temperature. In most recipes, the roux will be about one third of the total weight of the dry ingredients.
Aside from some additional prepwork for making the roux, the process of crafting a loaf of bread using the tangzhong method may actually be simpler than a regular bread dough because it is so wet. Rather than hand kneading this bread dough, the ideal gluten enhancing method for a tangzhong bread is to mix it in a standing mixer with a bread hook for about 15 minutes. Less work and a better dough? Why hasn’t this bread caught on like wildfire?
Why not give it a go yourself? There’s quite a few ideas out there for tangzhong bread dough use, there’s no limit to its applications. Here’s a few to get you inspired. You’re welcome.