The end of 2012 proved to be uncharacteristically busy for me, work-wise. I was working throughout the holidays - except on Christmas Day, of course - and I hadn't much time to muck around in my kitchen. I was extremely sad to miss December's Daring Bakers' challenge where Marcellina in Cucina tasked the bakers to make the most awesome Panettone (the results, which you can see on the Daring Bakers' site, are amazing). I really wanted to take part but I had no time to even shop for the ingredients let alone attempt to make the Italian sweat bread.
But, no. I will not cry over spilt milk. Two of my (many) resolves in 2013 is to make the most out of situations and to stop procrastinating. So, I got out my list of "must make recipes" -- it's a virtual list of web pages I'd bookmarked throughout the year with recipes I want to try -- and vowed to play around with at least one thing from this list every week this year. I think I had about 39 recipes bookmarked so that should last me at least till October.
I decided to start with bread. I’ve been meaning to make bread using the tangzhong method (where you add a light roux to the dough) since last September – Jane (The Wayward Oven) made about 300 buns (yeah, that woman is a machine) for a food sale we were a part of (we made sliders) and I loved, loved, loved the texture and taste of her buns (ha! that sounds funny but you all know what I mean!). She used the tangzhong method and the resulting buns were soft and fluffy and so tasty – just slightly sweetish. I really wanted to make it.
That was four months or so ago. Four months of saying, "Yeah, I will make it next week."
Today, I decided to make the tangzhong bread using another ingredient I'd bought some time ago but hadn't gotten around to using: green tea powder. I’d bought a bottle of green tea powder about six months ago after watching an episode of Masterchef Australia or Top Chef or some cooking show like that where someone made green tea ice cream. I’m not a fan of ice cream but the idea of incorporating green tea powder in a recipe was very appealing. Needless to say, the thought never translated to action.
I didn't read Chen's original recipe (her book is in Chinese and I didn't find a translated version online) but many cooks have tried the bread and posted their tangzhong recipes online. I used them for recipes, as well as the one I got from The Wayward Oven on her blog. I also followed the method she used: kneading the rather sticky dough by hand instead of a machine.
The bread Jane made was a soft milk bun which are very popular with us Asians, especially when filled (common fillings include barbecue meats like pork and chicken, coconut, red beans and kaya, among others).
I made a few modifications (for example, Jane used custard powder in her milk buns but I used green tea powder) but I pretty much followed her recipe. Why mess with a good thing, right?
The buns turned out great. Really tender and fluffy. And really tasty. Slightly sweetish but perfect with the savoury filling too. The green tea flavour wasn't prominent at all, just in the background although the green tint to the buns looked quite nice, I thought. Perhaps I'd add a little more green tea powder the next time around. Will definitely make these again soon!
Stuffed Green Tea Milk + Cheese Rolls (made the Tangzhong way)
Recipe adapted from The Wayward Oven
Jane's recipe provides all measurements in grams which is ideally the way to go for accuracy but because I don't have a digital weighing scale, I converted some of the measurements from grams to to tablespoons -- particularly the smaller amounts: it's pretty hard to measure 13g flour in a mechanical scale! Check out the original recipe on Jane's blog.
For the water roux
2 tbsp bread flour
2 tbsp green tea powder
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan, whisking until there are no lumps. Heat over a low fire, stirring all the while, until the mixture thickens into a thin paste. Ideally, you should take it off the heat when the roux reached 65˚C. I didn't have a thermometer so I eyeballed it and administered the spoon test: lift the roux with a spoon and move it around. Once the roux is thick enough to leave visible lines, it's ready. (It should be the texture of fresh mayonnaise, if that helps).
Remove from the heat and let it cool.
350g bread flour (scant 3 cups)
2 tbsp milk powder
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
80ml warm water + 40ml warm milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, milk powder and yeast together. Add the roux and egg and mix together with a wooden spoon or by hand (I prefer using my hands) and then add the warm water and milk and mix until a rough dough forms. Cover and leave for 10 mins.
Gently knead in the softened butter and the cheese to the rested dough, making sure that the butter is well incorporated into the dough. Cover and leave for another 10 mins. The dough should rise slightly in the time. Just slightly.
After 10 mins, uncover the dough and gently knead it by gently stretching it with the heel of your hand and folding it. Repeat this a few times and then let it rest another 10 mins. Repeat this three more times.
The dough will be a little sticky but if you keep your hands slightly greased (butter or oil works), the stickiness won't pose a problem at all.
After the final knead, cover and let the dough rest till it doubles in size, about 60 - 80 mins.
While the dough rested, I made my filling.
Mushroom and hazelnut filling.
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms (I used baby portobello)
3 tbsp finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
3 tbsp cream
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
butter to cook
Heat a skillet and melt about 1 tbsp butter. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and saute till fragrant. Add the mushrooms and cook till soft. Add the nuts and the parsley and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream. Once the mixture thickens, add the parsley and turn off the heat. Let cool.
Now back to the bread.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and then divide it into equal portions. I wanted to make my buns small so I divided the dough into dainty portions (about 40g, if you want to measure each one and have beautiful uniformed buns. I just eyeballed it again).
Take a portion and roll it on a greased surface until you get a nice smooth ball. Gently stretch the ball until the dough forms a circle. The dough is pretty hardy and can be stretched easily but be careful not to tear it. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and then gather the sides of the circle to close the bun. Crimp the seal close (make sure it's well sealed), put the seam side down and gently roll to a ball again.
Place the ball on a greased baking tray. Press the top down a little, flattening the bun. Repeat with the rest.
Once the buns are all lined up on the tray, brush the tops with milk or an egg wash and, if you wish) sprinkle some poppy seed (or any seed you like -- this is optional after all).
Bake in preheated oven for about 12-15 mins.