I grew up eating Chinese style bakery bread. I actually dislike regular crusty breads. Blech. I like my bread to be lightly sweet and pillowy soft with a slight chew to it. Think King’s Hawaiian bread rolls, but a tiny bit more dense and chewy. I never knew what this type of bread was called Hokkaido milk bread until my recent bread obsession. I found a few recipes for Hokkaido milk bread and mashed them up together to create my own (arguably better) version. The bread by itself is SO GOOD, but my husband LOVES taro so I thought I’d put some in as filling. Instead of having having a big mass of taro paste in the center, I opted to swirl it it in like they do with red bean past at my local Chinese bakery. YUM.
There are 4 parts to the recipe: Taro Paste, Tang Zhong (more on this later), Dough, and Egg wash. Here’s what you’ll need to make my Taro Swirl Hokkaido Milk Bread:
- 700 g Steamed Taro + 300 ml (about 1 1/3 c) Water
- 100 g Cake Flour + 80 ml (about 2/3 c) Water
- 160 g Granulated Sugar (about scant 1/2 c)
- 1/2 c All Purpose Flour
- 2/3 c Whole Milk
- 1/3 c Water (or Taro liquid from steaming)
- 800 g (about 5 c) All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 c Granulated Sugar
- 50 g (about 1/2 c) Milk Powder
- 1/2 c Half and Half
- 3/4 c Whole Milk
- 2 Large Eggs
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 4 tsp Instant Yeast (Bread Maker Yeast)
- 1 tsp Salt
- All of the Tang Zhong
- Stand Mixer, Bowl & Dough Hook Attachment
- Steamer or Make-shift Steamer
- Wooden Spoon
- Cutting Board/Clean Flat Surface
- 2 Loaf Pans
- Plastic Wrap
- Optional: Scale
I assemble most of these things simultaneously, but they are timed so that while you’re waiting on one thing, you start putting together the next. So we’ll start with the Taro Paste since this takes the longest. You can also opt out of this part of the recipe and buy some, use canned/store bought red bean paste, or any filling you want instead. Its the most time consuming and when I’m short on time/energy I skip and buy the filling instead.
I buy taro in a vacuum sealed pack from my Asian grocery store. I’m sure you can buy this at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I bought a bunch and threw it in my freezer to use whenever I need it. So I unpacked my giant piece of Taro and put it in my make shift steamer (my wok with a metal tray and bowl on top) and steamed until the taro was cooked through. To test this, you should be able to stab a chopstick or skewer through easily. Its like cooking potatoes. Same deal.
While the taro was steaming, I started on the Tang Zhong. Directly translated from Chinese to English, it means “soup type”. Basically this is a method to making bread that gives it a soft texture (that stays soft) and has a chewy texture. Exactly the way I like my bread. This method basically cooks part of the flour with a liquid to develop the gluten in the flour to give it the soft and chewy texture. YUM.
To make the Tang Zhong, I throw all the ingredients into a pan and mix it up over medium heat.
As soon as the mixture starts coming together, I turn the heat off.
Continue to stir as the mixture turns into a big blob of white goo. This is normal.
Optional: Instead of using water, for the Tang Zhong, my taro steaming process produced some taro water that accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. I used this in lieu of water to infuse more taro flavor into the dough.
Once this is done, I transfer all of the Tang Zhong into my stand mixing bowl to cool while I gather the rest of the ingredients for the dough. I basically throw everything listed in the ingredients into the bowl in no particular order except that I put in the yeast last.
I attach the dough hook and set mixer speed to 2 and let it run for 20 min or so until all the dough comes off the side of the bowl. At about the 10 min mark, I’ll scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and turn it back on. Sometimes the goopier parts of the dough gets stuck on the bottom and I want to make sure it all gets mixed in evenly.
Once this is done, I cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and place it in a warm-ish place. I usually will turn on the oven for 30-60 seconds, turn it off, the set the bowl inside to allow the dough to rise for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, I continued on the Taro paste. At this point, the Taro was done steaming and I left it out to cool. I measured out 700 g of steamed taro and placed it into my blender with the water and sugar. I blended this quickly for about 15 seconds and poured it out into a saucepan. Next, I mixed the cake flour and water together to form a paste and also poured that into the saucepan.
I turned on the stove to med heat and mixed all the contents together for 2-3 min before turning the heat down to low. This process is to extract all the water out of the mixture until it turns into taro paste. I continued to stir the mixture every 2-3 min for about 45 min. Takes forever, but this is the time I start cleaning up the huge mess I’ve made up until this point while stirring every 2-3 min. After 45 min, I took the saucepan off the stove and let it cool.
Around this time, the dough doubled in size and was ready to assemble into the loaf pans. Seeing it double is sooooooooo satisfying.
I pulled the dough out of the bowl and divided it into 8 pieces. I eyeball this every time. It doesn’t need to be exact, but shouldn’t be glaringly off either. I do this by cutting the dough in half, then cutting each half into 4 equal pieces.
You can use a rolling pin for this part, but its much easier for me to stretch it out with my hands. I took one piece and stretched it out to about 3″ x 9″. This is very, very, approximate. I just need it to be the right size to swirl enough taro paste inside. Once the dough is stretched out, I spread a 1/4″ layer of taro paste on top.
Then, I fold the dough in thirds long ways.
Next, I stretch the dough out in the other direction until its about double in length.
Then I take one end and roll it up and put it seam side down into the pan.
Repeat 7 more times until you have 4 rolls in each loaf pan.
Now, place the loaves back into a warm location to rise for another 20 min. Instead of putting them into the oven to proof, I placed them on top of the stove where its warmish but not hot and preheat the oven to 350°.
While this is going, make the egg wash. I beat one egg with 2 Tbsp of water. This is to keep the tops from turning crusty brown. Once the loaves have risen, I slather the egg wash onto the tops of the loaves with my fingers. I could use a brush, but why?
Next, I place the loaves into the preheated oven for 35-40 min on the lower middle rack.
After 38 min, I pulled out my loaves and let them cool in the pan on a wire rack before taking them out of the pan and slicing it up to serve. I skip the slicing if I’m giving the loaf to my dad who just rips into it and devours half the loaf in one sitting. Om nom nom nom.
This is more work than using a regular bread machine but its SO worth it. Promise. You won’t regret it.