Do you remember bread face? That strange instagram account, which went viral for a while, which was just a woman smashing her face into different bread products? Well, if the desire to do something similar ever crosses my mind, this is the bread I would want to use, it’s the lightest, pillowiest bread you’ll ever come across.
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If you’ve ever been to Japan you will immediately recognise this style of bread, it’s incredibly popular and you’ll see it on sale everywhere from high end bakeries, stores inside subway stations and even at convince stores like 7-Eleven. Shokupan is, at its heart, an incredibly fluffy white bread. It has a touch of sweetness and is enriched with butter (sometimes eggs too) and is most often sold in a square format, baked in pullman style loaf pans (square straight sides and with a lid to fully enclose the dough). What makes this style of dough different from any other simple white bread dough is the addition of something called tangzhong or yudane.
Tangzhong vs Yudane
Tangzhong and Yudane are different names for what is essentially the same thing, a roux made with water and flour or in this case milk and flour. When you make bread you’ll know that the more water you add, the stickier and harder to handle the bread dough becomes. If you use some of the liquid to make a roux, you can actually up the hydration without making the dough hard to handle, as the starch in the flour gelatinises, the water is absorbed therefore preventing the dough becoming any slacker. This recipe, for example, has a hydration level of 74% but when its kneaded, and you’re handling it, you’d never know, it feels like a dough with a significantly lower hydration level. The result of making a bread this way is a loaf that is incredibly light and soft but a loaf that also stays that way for longer.
Tangzhong is the Chinese name for this method and Yudane is the Japanese name. After the method was popularised by the Taiwanese author Yvonne Chen, in her 2007 book ‘65C Tangzhong Bread’, the
Cantonese Mandarin (thanks for the correction Christine) name has become the dominant term used in English when describing this method. Whilst the names are often used interchangeably there is actually a difference in the two methods. In the tangzhong, flour and liquid (at a ratio around 1:5) are mixed in a saucepan and cooked to form a paste. Yudane is made simply by pouring the hot liquid over the flour (at a 1:1 ratio) and mixing together to create more of a dough like consistency. Personally I have always used the tangzhong method but both achieve a similar end result in the bread.
To make the recipe below you’ll need one or two pullman pans that measure 9x4x4. If you’re in the UK the brilliant Rackmaster (a metal fabricator that supplies commercial bakeries with various types of equipment) sells a brilliant set of two for just £22 (FYI you order the pan and lids separately). This size pan is smaller than a traditional loaf of shokupan but it is the most common size of pullman pan available outside of Japan. USA Pan also make pans in this style and size but they’re more expensive.
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