Universal bread softener: Water roux (Tang zhong)

Okay, ask yourself this question: When you try to bake soft buns or bread at home, have you ever felt that;   “why it’s not as soft as what we buy”? Well, I’ve felt it numerous times when experimenting so many bread recipes that claimed to give a “SO SOFT AND FLUFFY” texture. So, with disappointment and curiosity, I continued searching for THE WAY. Ha, forget about how most of commercial bakers do, they get this awesome texture with added dough conditioners, modifiers and a list of crazy additives. Then, I came across this method used by some of the Asian bakers which really works like magic. It is the use of a preparation called Tang zhong (water-roux) made with flour and water in a simple but a systematic manner. This will not only give the expected softness to the bread but also will keep your product fresh for longer. Basically, it is made by combining, weight-wise, flour and liquid (water) at 1:5 ratio at 65°C /149°F.

Ideally, take 5% of the total flour of your recipe and combine with five parts of water. Remember, these values are not additional amounts to the recipe, they should be balanced within the original recipe. In example, if you are making a dough using 1kg of flour, take 50g of flour from that 1kg and prepare with 250ml of liquid. Or let me tell you a much simpler way. This is what I have been doing. Have in your mind that you should add water roux around 1/3 of the weight of the flour. That is, if you are using 500g of flour, add 165-175 g of water roux. I think that is much simpler. Now, let me tell you how to make this magic ingredient.

Ingredients

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups of water

Method

First, combine the two ingredients and mix well before bringing heat in. Make sure it a lumps-free mixture.

 

Then, under low heat, start cooking while continuously stirring. If you have a food thermometer, check the temperature often as our targeted peak temp is 65°C /149°F. Sooner, you will start seeing the mixture thickening. Stop soon as you see the spoon tracks leave trails on the mixture. Basically, lines. And ha, temperature should be maintained at 65°C /149°F as well.

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Now, pour it into a bowl and cover with a polythene sheet and let it come down to room temperature before you incorporate it with your dough recipe.

IMG_8626 edited

Okay, I forgot to tell what you can do if you don’t have a food thermometer. To be frank, I got a chance and a need to get a one few months ago and I have been making this without a thermometer from quite a long time. So, let me tell you how I used to do it. First, keep on your mind about the look of the expected consistency. I have a picture here and there are several websites you can find a picture of it as well. If you don’t have any idea how approximately is 65°C /149°F feels like on your hand, take your medical thermometer and adjust your tap’s water to its maximum read temperature. I believe, they read around 40- 42 °C. So now you know how 40°C feels like, right? So guestimate 65°C with your touch. I am not recommending or suggesting to put your finger into the pan, :),  what I suggest is to start with very low heat level and take little samples onto a plate and carefully feel the temperature. Mostly, follow the look of expected consistency with your eyes. Anyways, this is how I used to do it and it really worked for me.

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