Friday, April 10, 2015

Baking bread with Sifu Emilia

April 9, 2015

I have been a quest to bake Hainanese White bread, of my childhood. Lightly toasted slices of bread, smeared with margarine (butter, if you are so fortunate!) and Kaya (rich custardy coconut jam), is something to swoon about. Old fashion Kaya toast, simple in its execution and utterly comforting in its consumption. Without fail, when in Malaysia, my USA born children would order this breakfast delight when they see it on the menu. The past 2-3 years we have been a quest to find a recipe for the bread so we can recreate the experience back home. Endless googling and blogs surfing to no avail.

Meanwhile, Facebook would show mouthwatering pictures of delicious breads, baked by my cousin Emilia. It looked like a promising start to our quest. I was very fortunate Sifu Emilia was gracious enough to show me how to bake Chinese style soft white bread. It uses a roux starter called Tangzhong. It is what gives the bread its soft, pillowy texture. The bread remain soft at room temperature for a number of days.

P.S. Can I tell you, biting into the hot, freshly baked buns was delicious heaven! The butter and sugar melted, beautifully flavouring the buns. I am drooling thinking of them.....


1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 batch Tangzhong (Roux)*
5 cups High protein flour (bread flour)1 packet of dry yeast (11g)
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon milk powder

2-3 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil

*Tangzhong (Roux)
1 cup water
1/3 cup bread flour

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (from flour to milk powder). Stir to combine. Set aside.

Oil a mixing bowl that will be used later to knead bread dough. Set aside.

Grease loaf pan and set aside. Line baking trays with greaseproof paper for proofing bread.

Make the roux by cooking 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of bread flour over medium flame. Stirring constantly with whisk to preventing sticking or scorching. The roux should be thick but pale and creamy. Remove from heat and set aside.

Put the milk,eggs and roux in a food processor bowl. Run food processor to combine. 

Add prepared flour mixture to food processor and process until dough comes together and has "bounce" when a finger is pressed against the dough. Add 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil, as preferred. Process to incorporate oil before removing dough from food processor.

Remove dough and placed in prepared oiled mixing bowl.

Oil your hands. Fold over dough a number of times until it is elastic. This is a wet and sticky dough. 

Set the bowl of bread dough in unheated oven. Place a cup of hot water help the dough proof (rise). 

When dough is double in size, remove and turn onto floured surface. The soft dough will spread/ flatten out. 

Dust dough surface with flour and pat out slightly before using rolling pin to form an even dough. 

Cut dough to different sizes depending on whether you want to make a loaf of bread, or rolls or buns. We used half quantity of dough for loaf of bread and the other half for 10-12 buns.

Fold the dough into thirds letter style; by folding top third down and the bottom third up. Place folded side down in loaf pan. Once again, place dough to proof (rise) in the oven together a fresh cup of hot water to assist the rising of the dough. Let it double in size.

We formed the remaining dough into butter buns; placing a pat of butter and a some sugar in center of dough pieces, folding over to seal and shaping into buns. Place on greaseproof paper lined trays to proof (rise). 

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. When dough is almost double in size, place in preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes to bake until golden brown.

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