Tangzhong Milk Bread

Let me start by apologising for writing after so long (and for this long soppy prelude to the recipe. If you aren’t in the mood for wading through the whining, please do skip straight down to the recipe for this incredible bread). I know its been ages but I’ve just been a bit pre-occupied.

A few weeks back I was diagnosed gluten and dairy intolerant. Which means milk/cream/butter/ghee/cheese/whole wheat flour/all-purpose flour/semolina/cornmeal/polenta are no friends of mine. So no waffles, breads, cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream, mousse, pastas, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, paranthas, corn… not even a milk based soap like dove. And apparently I should be wearing gloves to make bread.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic about this. For some time I thought I wouldn’t even talk about it because honestly – tortured or not I am not sure if I can actually stay away from all of that. But I have to admit somewhere inside I know I need this and that’s where it pinches.

Maybe I am being self-indulgent. But this is the thing..dairy and gluten are both bakers best friends. Gluten, is that stretchy sweet little darling in flours that gives it all its structure and allows us to turn it into bread by just adding water, salt and yeast. And dairy.. butter and cream. Tasty fats that add the characteristic flavour and part of the texture that we associate with scones, pound cakes, puff pastry, croissants, ice cream …Need I say more?  BUTTER. I’ve been known to eat butter by the spoonfuls. If I was told that all I could eat was dairy and gluten, I promise it wouldn’t have been so much of a problem. But without these two partners in crime.. my ovens suddenly empty. It’s true that of cooking and eating, it’s cooking I love best; but it’s eating that’s always set me off on the path of cooking. Eating, cooking, baking food has been my way of exploring, knowing, loving the world I live in. I can’t really tell myself apart from my relationship with food. Maybe that’s why this feels like a betrayal. Without the cornerstones of my food world, I feel betrayed. Abandoned.

I know I shouldn’t be like this. It’s not like I have to stop eating altogether. I am telling myself this is probably an opportunity. A new and healthier way to live. A new world to discover… nut meals, gluten-free flour blends, nut milks, coconut cream.. none of which I would have bothered with before. And it’s not all bad. Both coconut and cashew milk proved to be far tastier than dairy milk and the almond butter-apple combination has for some time now been one of my all time favourite snacks. I’ve subscribed to a new set of blogs, bookmarked new techniques to try and ideas to work with. I’m edging towards gluten-free breads and cakes, dairy free whipped cream and a whole world of gluten-free pasta. But there are times I just feel miserable. When I wonder how my next parantha will feel without the butter. And then realise there going to be no parantha. When I walk into a favourite restaurant and realise there is hardly anything on the menu I can eat anymore. When I bake a pie, realise how impossible it is not to taste it and then can’t bring myself to get into that kitchen for the next few days. My oven’s looking at me accusingly, my readers sound annoyed at my hibernation.  I know I just have to haul myself up and find a new relationship with food. I will continue to bake the good stuff for the people I love and sharing recipes here. But for myself I need to find a whole new way of eating and a new way of cooking. I’m sure there are others like me out there who would benefit from my searching, experimenting and sharing. It has to work out. Right?

PS: Thanks a lot for listening. I’m already feeling better. If you guys have stories about changing to a gluten-free/dairy free life or know others who have or just gave great recipes to share, do leave a comment. Would love the inspiration.

 Tangzhong Milk Bread

A throw back to happier times gone by, here is one of my favourite recipes. I posted some pics a couple of months ago on Facebook and many of you had asked for the recipe.

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An incredibly soft and delicious loaf, this Japanese milk bread is based on the Tanzhong technique that helps make the bread pillowy and tender and keeps it fresh longer than others. The Tangzhong loaf was first written about by a Chinese baker – Yvonne Chen, in the book – 65 degrees Tangzhong and the technique involves making a slurry with flour and water before adding it to the dough. To my delight I recognised this as one  of my mum’s tricks to make softer appams. Sure enough, this masterpiece of a technique results in a beautiful droolworthy silken dough that is smoother and more elastic than any I have ever seen before. And bread that is pillowy, sweet, milky and everything you would ever want from the softest bread in the world. So soft, you could curl up and go to sleep in one of these.. What’s more, it even keeps fresh for ages.

Adapted from kirbiecravings.com and en.christinesrecipes.com. Please do visit these two blogs – they both have some awesome descriptions to share)

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The Tangzhong

  • Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup  bread flour
  • 1 cup water
  1. Mix flour and water together in a saucepan and whisk continuously over medium heat so the flour is absolutely dissolved and no lumps remain.
  2. Keep stirring constantly as the mixture heats up and begins to thicken. As the mixtures thickens, you will start seeing lines in the mixture and this is the right time to take the pan off the heat.
  3. IMG_1499Immediately pour the mixture into a bowl and cover the top using plastic wrap. Place the wrap directly on the surface of the mixture to keep it from drying out. You can refrigerate the paste overnight or for a few hours but no longer.

The Bread (2 loaves)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 to 4.5 c flour
  • 4T milk powder
  • 3t yeast
  • 6T butter
  • 6T sugar
  • full quantity tangzhong from above

Equipment required – standmixer or a cake beater with a dough hook. (most households have the cake beater but never use the dough hook which is actually a very useful device. The hooks look like curls of metal on thin rods.

  1. Mix: Combine 4 cups of the flour, salt, sugar, milk powder and instant yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the center and pour in all the milk, egg and tangzhong.
  2. Knead for 25 minutes: Mix with the beater till smooth and then add the butter. At this point you can switch to the dough hook. Keep kneading with the dough hook until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic. (add additional flour if you find the dough is of looser consistency than what you see in the picture below) This should take about 15-20 minutes but every mixer will vary. The dough will be very loose and stretchy, start to glisten IMG_1501and you will start seeing thin membranes forming around the edges as the dough starts to get ready for proofing.  When the dough is done you will be able to tear a piece with oiled hands, knead it briefly and then stretch it to a very thin-film till you can see the light behind and the tear will form a circle. IMG_1502
  3. Rise 1: Oil your hands and briefly knead the dough and then move it to a large greased container to rise in. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes.
  4. Deflate and rest for 15: Transfer the dough to a clean, floured surface. Deflate and divide into 2. You will note that the texture of the dough is now far easier to work with. Divide each part into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Shape: Roll out each dough ball with a rolling pin into a long oval shape. IMG_1505Fold in 3rds lengthwise like a dosa or a letter and press down the edgesIMG_1507 Now turn it over so its the seal is facing downward. IMG_1508Roll out each portion to about 30cm in length with your rolling-pin.  Flip so the seal now faces upward and roll into a cylinder shape. Arrange the rolled-up dough in a greased or non-stick loaf tin. Repeat this step for the other portions.IMG_1509
  6. Rise and glaze: Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 40 minutes, or until the dough rises just below the rim of the tin. Whisk one egg yolk with a teaspoonful of water and brush gently all over the exposed surface of the bread.
  7. Bake: Bake in a pre-heated 170C oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and tin. Let cool completely before cutting.


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  1. says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your allergies! I can’t imagine how you must be feeling! But – as you put so eloquently – there’s a whole new relationship with food to discover. Ill email you a list of blogs (because I can’t remember them now) that have a ton of gluten free/dairy free recipes.

    The bread looks amazing! Is bread flour available here?

    • says

      Thanks for the mail and the list. Am collecting new resources so the list helps a lot. And yes, am already discovering so much new… about food, about my body and about myself. Everyday.

  2. cherry says

    My sis and me attended a workshop where we baked this bread! I must say its as soft as cotton…and in spite of the many steps, so easy to make! a must make.

    • says

      Hey there! Glad you stopped by and left a comment. This is the maida version. Give it a shot if you can. Its even softer. Not as healthy ofcourse but would make a good ‘celebration’ bread.

  3. says

    Ok….I totally sympathize with you, because I always say I would take bread and cheese to a desert island. But, I am NOT going to make you feel worse. I have friends with the same issues, and it is hard, not going to lie, but in time, you will collect enough knowledge to be able to “reproduce” your loves, and your body will probably thank you a gazilliion and you will feel incredible. If you ever can find it, there is a pasta brand called Garofalo, from Naples, that makes the BEST gluten free pasta, made with rice, corn and quinoa. It tastes exactly the same. And yes, there are pastas you can have without cheese! Oh, the recipe is incredible. I will HAVE to make this in your honor! :)

    • says

      Thanks so much for writing in. Yes, you are right.. its tough but I need to remember that I can reclaim a lot of what I love of food. And its the same love that will help me find new foods. I was also thinking today that maybe I need to let go of my obsession with reproducing exacts and start embracing new textures, flavours, ideas. if I am looking for deliciousness I am sure I will find it. But if I seek to take new ingredients and make them into ones I recognise neither will I end up understanding what i am working with or what its capable of, nor will I end up with what I want. Everyday is a learning :)
      Do try out the bread and let me know how it goes. It truly is lovely and the dough is absolutely fantastic. It stretches endlessly like gum. I loved that so much could make the dough just to feel it, stretch it, knead it and play with its texture :)

    • says

      I am sure you will happily surprise yourself! Look at it as a new world to discover, and have fun. Trial and error, and enjoy the process. I hope you are well on the road of recovery, and I am sure you will start to feel better soon! Oh, and I will definitely make the bread. Can’t wait in fact!

  4. sam says

    Hey its sad to hear abt d allergy
    But there must be a way out na
    Nyways as you rightly put it that there is more to life than butter n dairy
    I am sure you will come up with more exotic recipes

  5. Atul says

    And I know what it means to you Reshmy. And i know how it breaks your heart. And it is still very early for you to even come to terms with. Its like telling a footballer your leg won’t be able to take the weight and he ends up being a coach even when he could be a great player. Or telling a filmmaker, you will never be able to make films again. So you can watch films, help other people make them but never be able to make them yourself.

    You’re so brave to write of all this so positively..

    And yes everyone here is so gracious and kind in their words when they say all will eventually turn out well. Some compromises we will live with and some great solutions we will find..

    Lets quickly order expatchef’s pasta from naples..

    see you soon..

  6. Anonymous says

    There is an opportunity in every difficulty!!! Sorry to hear about the allergy but am sure u were turn it around and redefine cooking!:)

  7. says

    Hi Reshmy,
    I’ve been (silently) reading your blog for a while now, but I thought this post warrants a response.Im sorry to hear about your allergies, but gluten and dairy intolerances seem to be quite common these days, so even though you have to change the way you presently eat, there is a world of new options out there waiting for you to experiment with. Look at it as an adventure :)
    Have you seen these blogs? They cater mostly to raw and vegan diets, but it’s a great place to start for inspiration. Much luck xx

    • says

      Hi Aysha, Thanks for visiting, reading and now leaving the comment. It’s lovely to hear from you. I just visited your blog and Love the moods you create. Often I feel excited about having a whole set of new challenges, new things to discover because this is taking me to a whole new and unexplored world! Infact that was my immediate reaction to what the doc said. But slowly as I realise how much I need to unlearn and how little I can retain of my past eating habits, craving has started to kick in and I sometimes feel all mopy and unsure. But I do know that as I get more confident with my way around this new playing ground, those moments will be less and less. Best of all, I am learning to listen to my body.

      I do follow sprouted kitchen and even have the book but havent seen the others before. All look absolutely gorgeous and am following them right away! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Darshana says

      Anyone looking for Gluten free products contact us on 9820559815/22709064.
      Our Company HOBfoods is located in fort Mumbai.

  8. Anonymous says

    Sorry to hear about the allergies Reshmy . We , your ever hungry readers , missed you ! You have such a connect with food , cooking and eating – we look forward to seeing that same passion , albeit in an ever so slightly different direction . Meera .

    • Darshana says

      Anyone looking for Gluten free products contact us on 9820559815/22709064.
      Our Company HOBfoods is located in fort Mumbai.

  9. monsoonfamily says

    After reading all these pages, I cannot believe you are gluten and dairy intolerant?!?!!! How do you cope?

  10. says

    Reshmy, what a gorgeous blog you have! Oh my! Cannot wait to explore it more. But before gushing any more, I have to tell you this – my aunt was diagnosed with a severe gluten allergy a while back, and her digestive system was so far gone, that she could not pretty much keep anything down. The good news is that once she knew what she had do, her life changed so much for the better. She feels like a new person. She still struggles with food a lot, despite a lot of Indian food being gluten free. She misses rotis and parathas the most! Have been looking up some stuff for her and have promised to experiment with baking with jowar. Will let you know if I have any luck! Meanwhile, hang in there and have faith. It will get better!

  11. Pea Kay (Preeti Kashyap) says

    I am a very impatient novice baker…you think I should try making it? It looks tedious but also looks very yummy and tempting…what to do?

    • says

      Will be putting up another sweet soft bread recipe soon that I think is almost foolproof. and I think that maybe a better bet for a novice baker… Just hang on till tonight.


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