If you like soft bread and have thought of using bread improver but hate using chemicals here is a great recommendation.
There is a craze coming from the Far East to use something called 60deg C water roux aka tangzhong 湯種 to make all sorts of soft breads. I think this water roux method originated from Japan.
What is a 60deg C water roux? It’s basically a cooked water and flour paste. Why 60deg C? I have not a clue. All the recipes I have come across so far I have not noticed anyone meticulously measuring the temperature of the paste to 60deg C. So I don’t think this 60deg C is important, so long as the water and flour paste is cooked to smooth custard like paste.
What is the advantage using water roux? I am not sure about the science behind this. Somehow adding this custard like paste to bread dough it acts like a sponge and absorbs a very high level of liquid and holding the dough’s shape without flopping to a flat cake. I have used this many times and I have managed to hydrate the dough between 70 – 80%. The lower end hydration is using low gluten flour like plain flour and when using all high gluten bread flour I had achieved about 82% before. It’s amazing. Also I noticed the dough is quite stretchy even without much kneading.
Most of the water roux recipes I have seen so far use water and plain flour to make this paste. I have replaced water with milk and sometime adding cream to it.
How to make the paste? Quite simple. The proportion of flour to liquid is about 1 : 5 (i.e. for every 10g of flour add 50ml of liquid). Whisk together then sieve to remove lumps and cook gently while stirring till the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard. Leave to cool down then add to bread mix.
To add this paste to any bread mix, this will replace all or most of the liquid required for the bread dough.
I have made soft milk loaf, burger buns, sweet rolls, Chinese sweet and savoury stuffed buns (steamed or baked) using this method. So far the results have been very good.
This method has revolutionised my soft bread making. You have to try it to believe. It’s fantastic.
Here is a recipe for hot cross buns using this method with about 76% hydration.