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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, August 18

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Recipe Thu Sep 03 2015

Making Milk Bread: A Japanese Staple

rsz_15108827058_c19a139e04_z.jpgBread is glorious--artisanal spelt loafs, hearty rye, French baguettes, eggy challah, naan, bagels, bings, focaccia, injera. For something so utterly delicious, it is an absolute bitch to make. The ingredients used in making bread are usually cheap and simple, but the process is unnecessarily arduous. The ratios, the rise, the oven temperature--all these factors must tango in perfect unison, or the final result will be an inedible block of starchy sadness.

One of my favorites is milk bread, a soft, fluffy variety popular in Japan (but difficult to find in Chicago). It's the same bread used to make panko. It's also soft and buttery like brioche, but the richness and feathery texture actually comes from the Tangzhong paste mixed into the dough (so it's "healthier!") Tangzhong is a flour-and-water starter commonly used in Chinese cooking to create soft, elastic buns (or baos). The following recipe is surprisingly easy and requires only a moderate level of patience and skill.

Tangzhong (1 cup)
⅓ cup bread flour (not all-purpose)
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water

2 ½ cups bread flour
¼ cup sugar
1 packet of yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup warm whole milk
4 tablespoons of room-temperature butter

Put all ingredients together in pot over medium heat. Stir until thick and smooth. Set aside to cool.

1. Combine the dry ingredients (bread flour, sugar, yeast and salt) into your mixer.
2. Add egg, warm milk and 1/2 cup of tangzhong. Knead for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add in butter and knead another 8-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky.
4. Temporarily take dough out of mixer so you can butter the sides of the mixer. Put your dough back in there and cover everything with a plastic wrap, then wait until the dough has doubled in size.
5. After about an hour, cut your dough in half.
6. Gently roll your dough into an oval, about the size of a sheet of paper.
7. Then, starting from a short edge, roll your oval dough up into a log. Repeat with the other half.
8. Arrange the logs seam-side down in a buttered 9"x5" loaf pan. Place one log on each side. Because the logs are a bit long, you might have to smush the edges into the pan.
9. Let dough rest another half hour more, or until the logs have spilled over the edge of the pan, and the logs have met each other in the middle. Don't skip this step unless you want rigid discs of bread.
10. Brush the tops with some heavy cream (or butter or egg).
11. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven (set at 350 degrees) until golden brown and puffed, 35 to 40 minutes.
12. Let cool on rack for at least an hour, for bread to set.

Photos courtesy of The Cooking of Joy.

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marjie / September 10, 2015 12:54 PM

The recipe instructions read that you have 2 logs, yet the picture shows 3. What's the story?

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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