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.
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.
- 1/3 cup bread flour
- 1 cup water
- Mix flour and water together in a saucepan and whisk continuously over medium heat so the flour is absolutely dissolved and no lumps remain.
- 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.
- Immediately 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.
- 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.
- 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 and 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Shape: Roll out each dough ball with a rolling pin into a long oval shape. Fold in 3rds lengthwise like a dosa or a letter and press down the edges Now turn it over so its the seal is facing downward. Roll 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.
- 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.
- 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.