Citizens, the gloriously glutinous Bohemian that ALONE is TFD loves bread in virtually all of its forms – but is especially fond of the classic pull-apart rolls that adorn every Winter holiday table!
This recipe from King Arthur Flour is my go-to version of these delights – especially this version enhanced by a unique Japanese baking technique that makes them even softer and more delicious!
As noted on kingarthurflour.com:
At last! The quintessential soft, buttery dinner roll. Nestled — we might even say “crowded” — into a couple of 8″ round pans, the shaped buns rise into one another as they bake. The result? Soft-sided pull-apart buns, ready for melting pats of soft butter.
This recipe uses a Japanese baking technique known as Tangzhong. What does it do, exactly?
How can you elevate your favorite dinner rolls to new levels of pillow-y softness — in one simple step? Ditto your old-fashioned sandwich bread, tender cinnamon rolls, and gooey sticky buns. The answer: tangzhong, the Asian yeast bread technique that’s gradually making its way into American kitchens.
These days, with “artisan” the byword for many yeast bakers, we aspire to breads that are ever more crusty/chewy, such as pizza crust, baguettes, bagels and more.
But let’s not lose sight of a whole world of classic soft yeast breads: the sliced white bread of our youthful sandwiches, the Sunday morning platter of tender sticky buns.
Sadly, all too often our quest for super-soft rolls falls far short of our dreams. The brioche buns are oddly dry and chewy; the cinnamon rolls, downright tough. What’s a frustrated baker to do?
Tangzhong: the quick and easy path to softer, more tender dinner rolls, sandwich loaves, and cinnamon buns.
This Japanese technique cooks a small percentage of the flour and liquid (water or milk) in a yeast recipe very briefly before combining the resulting thick slurry with the remaining ingredients.
How does this technique affect yeast dough? It pre-gelatinizes the starches in the flour, meaning they can absorb more water. In fact, flour will absorb twice as much hot water or milk as it does the cool/lukewarm water or milk you’d usually use in yeast dough.
Not only does the starch in the flour absorb more liquid; since heating the starch with water creates structure, it’s able to hold onto that extra liquid throughout the kneading, baking, and cooling processes. Which in turn means:
• Since there’s less free (unabsorbed) water in the dough, it’s less sticky and easier to knead;
• The bread or rolls may rise higher, due to more water creating more internal steam (which makes bread rise in the oven — along with the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast);
• Having retained more water during baking, bread and rolls will be moister, and will stay soft and fresh longer.
Citizens, this recipe is simply superb – I hope you choose to incorporate this into your Christmas meal and the tangzhong technique into your yeasted bread baking repertoire!
Battle on – The Generalissimo