Sunday 24 April 2016

Braided Japanese Milk Bread 编织牛奶麵包

It has been a while since I last baked soft breads. Normally, the lazy me would just roll out the proofed dough and slather something in between before rolling it into a log and cut it into pieces. Today, I attempted something different. I have always been intrigued by the patterns on a Challah, a braided bread that the Jewish eat on Sabbath.

The Challah has many meanings related to the braids and shape of the bread. The strands that intertwine signifies love, whilst the round shape (which I am attempting today), signifies continuity. Instead of using an original Challah recipe, I am just using my prized Japanese milk bread recipe. I can't seem to divorce myself from this Japanese milk bread recipe ever since that faithful day I tasted it. Weird? Definitely! I use it on every recipe that requires soft bread. This recipe for Japanese milk bread yields some really soft fluffy bread. The tangzhong method used enables moisture to be retained, keeping the bread soft for days. You could read more about it from my older post here.

Braided Japanese Milk Bread 编织牛奶麵包

Makes 2 braided bread


Water roux/tangzhong
25 g plain flour
120 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk

2 tsp instant yeast
120 ml (1/2 cup) warm whole milk
350 gm bread flour
60 gm sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
40 gm butter

Cooking Instructions

Mix all ingredients together and stir until there is no lumps left. Put it in medium heat. Stir until the mixture thickens. Continue to fully cook the roux. Remove from fire, cover and set aside to cool .

1. Meanwhile, mix yeast into warm milk and sugar. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.

2. Mix bread flour, milk powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir to mix. Make a hole in the middle. Add egg, tangzhong and yeast mixture into flour. If you have a bread machine/mixer, now is a good time to use it. Combine everything. Dough should be very sticky at this point. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is elastic and less sticky. Add in butter and continue to knead until butter is well incorporated. Dough should be able to form a thin layer before breaking when pulled apart. Form dough into a ball, brush with oil and cover loosely with clingwrap or cloth. Set aside for dough to proof. Dough should at least double in size. Depending on external conditions (temperature), it will take about 1 to 2 hours.

3. Punch dough to deflate. Divide dough into 2 portions. Braid the dough (instructions and diagram below) and set aside to proof for 1 hour or until it almost double in size.

4. Preheat oven to 170C. Meanwhile, brush top of dough with some eggwash.

5. Put into oven for 20 mins rotating once to get even browning. Remove and transfer to cooling rack.

How to braid the dough

As aforementioned, I wanted that beautiful braided pattern. It seems really confusing just by looking at it but once you start making it, I is actually a piece of cake. The rule is to overlap right, and then left. And reverse. Don't know what I am talking about? Just follow the diagram below.

Cut dough into 4 equal portions and roll into strands

Weave strands like the diagram on top

Take strands with a knot on top and overlap to the right

Then reverse, overlapping on the left with the other strand

Repeat to the right

When the ends of the strands meet, fold it under the dough

All in all, I am quite satisfied with the result. The knots did not appear to be as profound as those of Challah's. This was due to the softness of this dough compared to Challah. Also, the knots did not come out evenly. Here is my final piece of advice: do not stretch the strands too much while you are braiding so that the knots would appear more even. I would definitely try to perfect this again.

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