Next Up: Asian “Tangzhong” Breads

“Tangzhong method” a.k.a. “water roux” a.k.a. “soup method” breads have been around for about 15 years now. There’s a debate on about where they originated, either China or Japan. I’m not sure that matters much. The upshot is that breads made via this method are extremely soft and fluffy with a very tight and consistent crumb. All that flies in the face of bread trends here in the US where everyone seems to be trying to get back to hard crusts and inconsistent, open crumbs. Still there’s enough reader interest in this technique for me to want to give it a go. I plan to do milk bread and probably melon pan (again) with this method, maybe something else. Let’s do this thang.

18 thoughts on “Next Up: Asian “Tangzhong” Breads”

  1. While you are at it, can you also make a bread machine variation for the milk bread recipe?

      1. LOL, well if you want to make tangzhong bread machine recipe tweak suggestions, I’ll be happy to try them out on my machine and report back to you. 🙂

  2. I’ve tried it numerous times – works great! It’s especially useful for wholegrain breads (wheat or spelt, not rye) to make them softer and less crumbly.

    It was also in the formula of the best variant of Hawaiian sweet bread I’ve eaten, though admittedly that isn’t many.

    The addition of cooked potatoes does much the same thing as water roux by shifting the starch balance.

    1. Nice observation. Also like tangzhong, potato brings a lot of moisture to the party!


      – Joe

    2. Thanks, Tadas! Very interesting. I’ve never thought about making Hawaiian brea before. That’s a great idea!

      – Joe

  3. Looking forward to your interpretation. I had recently started looking into trying it myself after reading a few recipes about it so your time is great.

    1. Thanks, Rob!

      I’m looking forward to this myself. I’ve been wanting to redo the melon pan recipe for a while since it had a more open crumb than I wanted. I don’t know that I’ve ever tasted bread made with this technique so it’ll be an eye-opener for me as well!


      – Joe

  4. I love tangzhong breads! I’ve tried making Japanese shokupan many times with tangzhong and without not quite nailing it. I’ve had quite good results but not as perfect as I’d like. It just doesn’t get enough soft and fluffy. I wonder if you knew if it’s something to do with European wheat??

    1. Hey Yukiko!

      There are differences in the flour, but at the moment I can’t think of why the texture would be different for you. What problem are you running into specifically?

      – Joe

  5. Hi Joe,

    As frequent baker of Asian style breads, I’m really looking forward to this. I have the same problem as Yukiko – never quite fluffy enough, even with Japanese bread flour. Could I also ask you to please consider Indian “Pav”, which is a small fluffy bun used mainly to accompany savoury food in India? Never quite manage to get that right either.

    1. Hi Bina!

      Very interesting. And pave is an interesting idea also. I didn’t get my chapati quite right and boy did I hear about it from the mamajis! That’s another recipe I need to revisit. Cheers,

      – Joe

  6. I’ve never had this bread, so I can’t imagine what you mean by “not fluffy enough.” I will have to seek some out. But what, exactly, am I seeking? If I bought milk bread, would that automatically mean they used the “Tangzhong method”? Does this differ from, say, Portuguese milk bread? Is this bread made with lard?

    1. Hey Chana!

      Some versions have lard, and it is related to Portuguese milk bread. But I’d go to a Japanese bakery to seek some out. Even though most people don’t associate Japanese cuisine with wheat bread, there are several Japanese bakeries in New York. There’s one over in Stuyvesant town called Panya that’s very good. But I’m sure there are others.

      Let me know what you find!

      – Joe

  7. It just so happens that I’m traveling to San Fran this week. Now I’m going to have to hunt down an Asian bakery to see what all the fuss is about.

    I used to get these Chinese sugar buns (doughnuts?) when I was kid at a local Chinese restaurant, I’ve only had them infrequently since then, as they seem kinda rare. They were super light and a perfect finish to a rich Chinese meal. Are these made with that method?

    1. Oh my! I’ve tried to recreate the Chinese Donut and just could not get it fluffy (or white) enough. I assumed it was the flour and the fact that I’m baking at mile high. Am looking forward to Joe’s recipes and results, for sure. I’ll be in heaven if I can make a Chinese Donut!

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