April 29, 2010

Tangzhong Rotiboy, Plus Troubleshooting the Tangzhong Method and Bread Making

Pei-Lin has been having a headache all day. There was this little fight debate in her.
Ego: Dude! You’ve abandoned your journal for 13 solid days!? Ugh … What’s wrong with you? Now, move your butt and get the words flowing!

Id: I’m tired … I’m tired … Gimme my bed and pillows … I want sleep … I want at least 8 hours of sleep!

Ego: But, but … if she's really giving in to you, she will lose her momentum to write for fun – and her love for creative writing! Remember only practice makes perfect! The passion for writing in her will extinguish … Her world will be dark and cold …

Id: I spent goddamn 10 hours out on the road and at work every day. Don’t I deserve a good-night’s sleep!? Where’s my bed? Where are my pillows?

Ego: Pei-Lin, listen to me! Write, write, write! You know the muse is always with ya! At least, a little entry on your journal, okay? Pretty please?

Id: Hush, hush! Pei-Lin, close your eyes … Clear your mind … Take a deep breath … and let go. Sleep now. Sleep now. Here are some nice little cuddly and fluffy pillows for you on the sofa …

Ego: #@%$&%^@#$!!! Get the hell outta here, you moron!

Id: No, you’re the one who should leave her in peace!

Superego: Shut up! Knock it off! Why not straighten things up with a compromise so that Pei-Lin can get over with both her itch to write and her desperate need for 8 hours of sleep! Remember she’s got to work tomorrow. Pei-Lin, what say you?
I still want to write because writing keeps me sane amidst all the confusion in life. I feel more organized that way. Ha!

About 2 months ago, on a tiring Wednesday evening after work, as I ran towards my room to grab a few things, the blinking and ringing of my cell phone caught my attention. The number was unidentified. Feeling dubious and wary at the same time, I was very curious. So, I answered the mystery call anyway.

“Hello, is this Pei-Lin speaking?”

“Yes, this is she. May I know who’s on the line? *Silent for 5 seconds* Are you ZM?”

“You’ve got it right, my friend! It’s me, ZM!”

Memories flashed back, it was overwhelming. I was dumbstruck on the spot for another 5 seconds before I could utter, “Hey! How’re ya?”

It’d been 4 years since I last saw her. We’ve been close, close friends since the first days we knew each other in high school. Close to 8 years I’d say. Since the day I left for the U.S., I’d lost touch of her. When asked of how she got my number, she said it was through another high school buddy of ours. Now, this is what I call destiny or yuan fen (緣份). It looks like our friendship is destined not to vanish despite the different directions in life we’re pursuing.

These two girls decided on a meet-up, in 4 years since 2006. With our busy schedules, we compromised and settled on a Friday evening, which meant we’d have to get off work sharp and rush to KLCC. KLCC was the only place that worked best for the both of us.

Me: But hey, where should we be waiting for each other at KLCC then?

ZM: Erm … I dunno. At the subway?

Me: No, that isn’t a good idea. I hate the crowd and pickpockets!

Me: No, no point of clambering up to the top of the shopping mall for that bookstore. Hey, how about Rotiboy? It’s close to the entrance of the shopping mall. A strategic location. Oh, and remember those good old days? Well, it’s feasible. Don’t you think?

So, on that very Friday evening, I found ZM in front of the Rotiboy we talked about. It was an awesome girls’ night-out: We chatted for 3 hours! (No drinking, please. No alcohol for me except in my baking and cooking.) Though it was hard, we still had to part and say goodbye.

Oops, sorry that I digressed! Anyway, this very Rotiboy outlet means a lot to us. We love it not only for its strategic location, but for the fact that since high school, it’s been a point for us to meet up whenever we wind up chilling out at KLCC. Last but not least, we LOVE to inhale the addictively sweet caffeinated aroma it carries.

Caffeinated aroma!? A few years back, the bakery Rotiboy started selling Mexican buns, a.k.a. Rotiboys, which is another name apparently named after the business. Thanks to the bun, the business bloomed and Rotiboy opened gobs of outlets in many parts of the Far East. We were once struck by the Rotiboy fever. Inexplicably, people would queue up, patiently waiting for their turn, right outside the bakery, for their share of the Rotiboy.

The Rotiboy is such a lovable creature. Don’t be fooled by its humble look. The pillow-soft bread within is enclosed, not quite actually, in a slightly crisp and crumbly sweet shell … or should I say topping. I swear that your nose will be engulfed in the mysteriously addictive aroma Rotiboy unleashes, fresh off the oven: It’s a cross between the scent of burned sugar and coffee! I always call it “THAT burned caffeinated smell!” Engrossing indeed. If only perfumeries carried such fragrance ...

So, to emulate the softness and fluffiness of the bun, I went with the trusted tangzhong (湯種) method, which is known for its ability to slow down the staling process of bread – on top of giving our home-made bread a soft texture without the use of additives such as bread improver. And for another record breaker, I used plain bread flour instead of whole-wheat flour for these buns! (Bah ... This ain’t whole grain, Pei-Lin. Ya know, it’s refined food, eh!)

I’ve already given a fairly detailed review on the tangzhong method here. Due to the overwhelming response and based on the comments and questions I’ve received so far, here’s a little troubleshooting write-up to share with y’all on tangzhong and bread making:
  • Whole-wheat/Wholemeal bread won’t be as soft and fluffy as plain white bread. With the fiber, whole-wheat bread isn’t going to melt in your mouth, unlike white bread.
  • The consistency of the tangzhong should be slimy and on the runny side. As you cook the flour-and-water mixture over low heat to obtain tangzhong, pay close attention at all times! The soonest you start to feel the mixture has barely thickened and to see that there are trails with every whisk that you make (with the metal whisk you use for stirring the mixture), remove tangzhong from the heat to stop its cooking process. Yeap, you’re not wrong – tangzhong should be that runny!
  • You may also use milk in place of water to cook tangzhong.
  • Bread dough made with tangzhong is always relatively stickier than the one made via the (regular) direct method (直接法). For some odd reasons, if the dough ends up dry(!?), work in more water, milk, egg(s), heavy cream (if you’re willing to spend on that) or tangzhong (if there’s any left).
  • Don’t knead the COLD, CUBED butter into the dough too early. You’ve got to wait till gluten has developed before incorporating the fat into the pile of mess; otherwise, the fat will stop gluten from forming.
  • The wetter and stickier a bread dough is, the softer and more tender the end product (i.e. bread) will be.
  • Eyeballing works like a charm – I sometimes don’t follow recipes to a tee when it comes to bread making. If you’re baking bread with a Pullman loaf tin, for a perfect square loaf, make sure 1/3 to 1/2 of the tin is filled with bread dough before the second round of proofing. If you want the loaf to be taller than that, fill the prepared loaf tin half-full or a little beyond that. Remember, whole-wheat bread requires more dough than plain white one to fill the tin due to the presence of fiber and its lower gluten content.
  • Bread can be baked in just about any pans provided that they’re ovenproof, e.g. an 8-inch round cake pan, a 9x13-inch pan, muffin pan and so forth. Do bear in mind that you need to eyeball the quantity of dough needed so that the dough will eventually fill the pan(s) after proofing and baking. Also, adjust the time it takes for the bread dough to cook through as it bakes.
  • If you let your bread machine or sturdy stand mixer to knead the dough while you run some other errands, remember to pay attention every so often because you may just have the dough overkneaded by the machine! I knead my bread dough with a pair of good old trusty hands my parents have given me and with assistance from my eyes and brain. So, it’s pretty unlikely for me to end up with an overworked dough – the arms may even become exhausted halfway through the kneading process. And, I usually knead mine for close to 1 hour.
  • If the bread crust gets too hard, which is untypical of Asian-style soft bread but resembles that of European artisan bread, it could be that the oven temperature is unstable that it fluctuates during baking. If that wasn’t the case, your bread could have been overbaked! Different ovens behave differently. So, the suggested time in the recipe is just a reference. That said, you may set your oven timer according to the recipe; however, do check your oven 5 to 10 minutes before the time’s up! On top of that, here’s a wild guess of mine as this has happened to me personally: The surface of the dough got “air-dried” that a layer of “skin” formed prior to baking because the dough wasn’t properly covered (with e.g. cling wrap) during proofing. BUT, don’t take my words here as this is, once again, purely a wild guess of mine based on personal experience.
  • If you’re short of time halfway through bread making but still want to proceed anyway, you may perform low-temperature proofing on the dough. Just be sure to wrap the dough up real well with at least three layers of (clean) plastic bags, then press out the air inside the bags thoroughly so that no air gets trapped within before tying a dead knot to the bags. (Oh, oil the insides of the bags so that the dough can be removed easily later on!) You may now let the yeast do its job slowly in the refrigerator at low temperature (5°C) for up to 72 hours. Beyond that, you’re going to get an extremely wet dough, dead yeast and a strong alcoholic smell – GAME OVER! However, I gauge by looking at the size of the dough, which should have been doubled in size by then. For me, it’s always been 36 to 56 hours of proofing. Once the dough has been proofed, carefully and gently pull it out of the fridge lest it get deflated. Then, set the dough aside to warm it up to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe (whichever one that you use).
    All the aforementioned measures are to ensure that the bags won’t burst as a result of the expanding dough; and that the dough won’t be overproofed should there be extra room for expansion and more oxygen to feed the yeast till it gets hyperactive that it keeps producing too much carbon dioxide and alcohol, which eventually leads to its suicide. (Well, I suck at chemistry! Pardon me for that.)
    Dough proofed via this method tends to be REALLY wet and flabby. So, don’t hesitate to flour your own hands, rolling pin, work surface and whatever that will come into contact with the sticky mess – of course, don’t overdo it as this may affect the bread’s texture. Bread made via low-temperature proofing is softer and moister due to the absorption of more moisture by the flour during the long hours of fermentation. The bread will also be more flavorful due the slow chemical reactions that the yeast renders as the dough is proofing – you’ll say: “Oh, it’s that good bread smell! Haven’t had that for ages!”
Made when I was a student in the States: my first attempt at making chocolate wassants, via the tangzhong method, but I let the dough proof at low temperature overnight (Dated August 2008)

Coming to think about it, I noticed that I haven’t been sharing bread-related posts lately though in actuality, I do bake bread on almost every weekend to fill my lunchbox for the following week. (If you check out my Flickr photostream, you’ll notice that.) Hmmm … I wonder what’s with my brain … Anyway, set all my BS aside. Without further ado, here’s a good, good Rotiboy recipe I’d like to share with you: It’s made via the tangzhong method and with plain bread flour – definitely not my usual whole-wheat style. (Ugh!) Good luck!

Rotiboys, a.k.a. Mexican Buns 墨西哥麵包 (Makes 9)
Adapted from "Bread Doctor" by Yvonne Chen   摘自《65C湯種麵包》。 陳郁芬

*The following instructions are meant for manual kneading. Adapt them if you're kneading your dough with either a bread machine or a stand mixer.*

For the bread:

210 g bread flour
56 g cake flour
6 g instant (dry) yeast
20 g milk powder
42 g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

30 g eggs -- slightly beaten and at room temperature
85 g water (at room temperature will do)

22 g unsalted butter -- cold and cubed

For the topping:

40 g unsalted butter -- softened
60 g shortening

80 g powdered sugar -- sifted
1 egg -- at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp very hot water

100 g cake flour -- sifted

Enough miniature chocolate chips (optional; I used these for fun. The original Rotiboy doesn't have chocolate chips!)

The "poking test": Checkin' 1-2-3! Dough has indeed been proofed!
  1. Combine (A) together real well, then mix in the salt. Now, mix (B) together and stir into the flour mixture; using a sturdy wooden spoon, combine everything together very well till a dough starts to form and subsequently, pulls away from the sides of your huge mixing bowl
  2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead till gluten has developed -- you can feel the dough tightening up and becoming less sticky. Now, gradually knead in the cold butter cubes till fully incorporated
  3. Once the butter has been incorporated, keep kneading the dough till it has achieved the windowpane stage, i.e. a thin "membrane" will form by slowly, gently pulling the dough out towards opposite directions. The dough shouldn't be sticky by now; it should feel smooth and supple.
  4. Round the dough up and place it into an oiled mixing bowl, then cover the whole deal with cling wrap and set the dough aside to proof till doubled in size. To know whether it's doubled in size, do the "poking test" (as pictured right above): dip your finger in some bread or plain flour and gently, slowly poke into the dough--of course, don't puncture it! If an indentation remains at where you poked your finger in, this means proofing is sufficient; otherwise, if that spot bounces back, let it proof further till the dough has doubled in size
  5. Deflate the dough, knead for a little bit and divide it into nine equal portions (at 60 g each). Round each portion up into a tight ball and cover with cling wrap; let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  6. To shape the dough, shape each portion of the dough into a round ball -- gather and pinch the seams tightly to seal the dough well. As you do this, arrange each portion of the shaped dough on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet(s) -- allow some room for expansion in between each bun.
  7. Once the buns have been shaped, cover the buns with cling wrap and set them aside to proof till almost doubled in size
  8. When the dough is just about done from proofing, prepare the batter for the topping. The thing with the batter for Rotiboy's topping is that you shouldn't overbeat the mixture -- stop mixing once things are just incorporated. An overmixed batter has too much air incorporated, which will give a porous surface to the topping of your Rotiboys upon baking.
    Mix (C) together till just blended with a metal hand whisk, then sift in the powdered sugar and whisk till just combined
    Gradually mix the egg in several portions into the fats-sugar mixture till just incorporated. (Mixing in the egg in one shot will have the mixture and egg separated!) On the other hand, dissolve (D) together to get a coffee paste. Then, mix it into the egg mixture along with the salt till just combined.
    Sift the cake flour over the mixture, using a metal hand whisk, combine everything together till the flour is fully blended with the rest of the ingredients -- the final batter should have attained a glossy look by now. Remember to mix them up till only incorporated -- don't overmix!
  9. Transfer the mixture into piping bag, which is fitted with a 1-centimeter plain-nozzle tip. Pipe the topping batter onto each bun, which should have doubled in size by now, in a circular motion beginning from the center. For each bun, 1/3 of its surface should be covered in the topping batter.
    Now, sprinkle some miniature chocolate chips over each bun (i.e. over the piped topping batter), if desired
  10. Bake at 160°C for 15 minutes
  11. Remove the buns from the oven and transfer to cool on cooling rack(s) slightly before eating -- Rotiboys are at their best when served warm!


Angie's Recipes said...

:-)) Me again...I have baked some Mexican buns before, but not the coffee flavoured, I actually like yours with chocolate chips atop, which makes the whole bun more appealing.
You gotta agree that the best part of this bun is its crunchy melting topping!

qinyi said...

i looovvveeee the smell of rotiboy! i tried a random mexcan bun recipe a few months ago and it was good but didn't have the rotiboy 'feel' to it. i'm sure your recipe will be a much better bet! looking forward to trying out your recipe :)

but i'm sooo busy! with school, with moving house, planning electives etc etc. so can you send some over instead? hehe :)

Tuty @Scentofspice said...

Love this post... and will definitely give this recipe a go (hopefully this weekend).

Those rotiboys are so inviting. Yummy.

Happy Homebaker said...

dear Pei Lin, thanks for sharing such a detailed recipe despite your busy schedule! I have always wanted to make rotiboys, but most recipes I came across requires quite a lot of fat/butter, both for the topping and the filling. Do you happen to know whether those store-bought rotiboys are wrapped with butter? Will certainly give your recipe a shot :)

Food For Tots said...

Thanks for sharing all the valuable tips in bread making. They are indeed very useful to me! You're such a talented baker! (I know I had said it more than once)I'm truly inspired! ;)

Honey Bee Sweets said...

These roti boys are lovely! Well shaped and a lovely touch with the mini chips on top. ;) I remembered the first time I made coffee roti boy, my poor sealing skill caused the butter filling to ooze out. :P Will definitely made another attempt and your detail recipe sure makes it easier for me. ;) Thanks and hope you have a great weekend ahead. :)

faithy, the baker said...

Yums! Makes me want to bake them again..i've tried baking them before too but not using the tangzhong method. i've been using the gelatinized dough method. :)

noobcook said...

Rotiboy! I remember, many years ago (b4 it's avail in Singapore), that my colleagues and I bought them back from KL. Your home made ones look delicious :)

petite nyonya said...

Pei Lin, you've written such a detailed info on tangzhong and bread making. Well done! Your mexican coffee bun looks perfect! Rotiboy now has a competitor!!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

Pei-lin, Pei-lin, what would we do without you? You're so good at all you do. :) This is a great post which I know I will definitely refer to when I eventually come to Tangzhong (on my long, long to-do list).

ICook4Fun said...

I just love the smell of freshly made bread. You know I never try Polo pau/mexican buns before. I have to buy one the next time I am in Chinatown to try it out.

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

Pei Lin, Thanks for sharing the detail recipe, I immediate bookmark this.

Swee San said...

Pei-Lin! It's good to see u blogging again. I totally get it, when I first started working (my shifts were 6am then) I was way too tired and busy to even blog that I stopped for almost a year. And also baking at home. I'm glad there was still a small part in me to pick up blogging again, and look I can even cook now!! tee hee..

tigerfish said...

Heard so much about the Tangzhong method but I am the real moron when it comes to baking.

Passionate About Baking said...

Hi Pei Lin,
Thanks very much for doing the analysis and putting them down in your post to share. It's indeed very useful. I shared with Grace that I've not been successful in creating soft buns using the Tangzhong method. I know many of you are. So I fall back on overnight sponge dough instead! At least, that works for me.
Gee, I thought kneading for 30mins was long enough, you kneaded for an hour?? You're truly very patient and good! I don't have the patience, I relied on my mixer to do the kneading.
Thanks very much for sharing the recipe too! I'll definitely try it.

pigpigscorner said...

ahhh the smell of rotiboy...! I've got to try this!

Jo said...

Pei-Lin, this looks gorgeous and I still love Rotiboy even though there are now so many spin-off versions. I love it when it is still warm and the best part is the crust .. yummy! I hope to give tanzhong method a try one day. Superb post.

Su-yin said...

As usual I must be the only Chinese person to have not heard of this tangzhong method... :P I made my rotiboys with the sponge dough method, which is similar (except I don't cook the 'starter', I just leave it in the fridge overnight). This sounds really interesting though, and I'm gonna bookmark this to try in the near future.

p.s Have also bookmarked the recipe for the chocolate wassants because oh my they look delicious.

edith said...

I can imagine the smell over here now.

Blessed Homemaker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Juliana said...

I've been making bread using the Tangzhong method, and so far we love the outcome :-) Thank you so much for the information on this post, it sure helps a lot...by the way, why you mix bread flour with cake flour, isn't the main difference the gluten content? I've been using in my only bread flour.

Honey boy said...

hi Pei Lin,

I have you in my blog list, but it seems like I can't have your updated blogging. I checked the customize page, and I saw your blog was marked with a cross. Which I can't change it. Do you know why and how to undo the cross??

YOu are so lucky to have the real Roti Boy within your reach! HOw I wish Singapore will re- open Roti Bot again...

wendyywy @ Table for 2 or more..... said...

1 hour???
When I extend the recipes for machine by another 10 minutes, I thought it was enough, and oops... it's not.

Thanks for sharing these.

Lynx said...

My goodness! I tried the Rotiboy inside twin towers last year on my trip to Malay and have been craving them since. I'm definitely going to give your recipe a try. So looking forward to making them. Thanks for posting!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Hello again, Lynx!

Did you? The Rotiboys are good indeed! That very Rotiboy outlet inside the Twin Towers brings back high-school memories to me ... =)

Go and whip up some! Satisfy your craving for the sweet buns! Please let me know how yours turn out, yea? I'll get back to you once I have a moment here ... Busy!

You bet! Good things are meant to be shared. =)

With regards,

Lynx said...

Hi Pei-Lin! So I tried the recipe and the bread came out super soft but not crunchy on the top. The topping was still wet. I baked it a little longer, the topping did set but not crunchy. I only mixed the topping ingredients till just mixed. The next morning when I grabbed one, the topping was wet again and had a lot of moisture. Maybe I put too much topping on top of the dough and the topping couldn't set well? Any tips on getting a crunchy shell? Btw, the flavor is so good! Thanks!

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

Hey, Lynx!

Actually, the recipe for the topping makes basically a cake batter. Mine turned out crunchy but not like super crunchy. Get what I mean?

Of course, for those that have been left out overnight, the topping should soften up, especially in our hot and humid weather.

Perhaps, you were right that you piped too much topping batter on top of the shaped dough. But then, the topping is basically a cake batter. Having said that, it should as the buns bake, expand by a lot and eventually have the entire surface of the buns covered in it. So, don't be overly generously with the topping. Just have the batter covered one-third of the bun's surface. Should suffice, I guess.

On another note, I think maybe toward the last 5 minutes or so of the baking process, crank the oven up to 200C/400F and bake for 5 minutes in an attempt to crisp up the topping? Just a wild guess. *LOL*

You may alo try baking at 200C/400F for 5 minutes or so to first crisp and dry the topping. Then, lower the oven temperature to 160C/320F to cook the buns thoroughly for another 15 minutes or so.

Glad that the flavor was good! Sorry if I've been not much of a help. *LOL* Thank you so much for the encouraging words!


CarinE said...

Hey I tried this recipe and it turned out well. Last time my buns were too sticky...till I couldn't shape them at all(Yes I did knead them for like 1 and a half hours already, the thin membrane already form but yet too sticky).But they turned out great, so incredibly soft and fluffy.This time my dough is not too sticky (I don't know why) but I turned out not as well as last time. They have much more harder interior. What's wrong with my buns!!?

Pei-Lin said...

Dear Carine,

Sorry for such late of a reply. Been working overtime ... I'll get back to you soon. My brain can't function properly now ... Very tired. Need some rest now ... Do on the lookout for my reply next Monday. Okay?

Meanwhile, if you can, please tell me more about those bread episodes of yours so that I can answer you better. =)

Thanks for popping by! Have a good weekend!


Pei-Lin said...

Dear Carine,

When it comes down to bread making, the brand of flour used as well as the climate matter. To me, bread recipes are purely for reference and they shall not be followed to a tee. When it comes to bread dough, I think the best is to get a dough that's tacky to touch, that is, neither too sticky nor too dry while being very manageable at the same time. If your dough ends up too sticky even when it's been kneaded for a long time, knead in more flour till it becomes tacky; if too dry, mix in liquid ingredient(s). Let me ask you: do you have a fast-and-fixed rule when it comes to making Chinese glutinous rice balls (tong yuin)? That's the point I wanna get across.

There's also something else to take home with you, though, and that is, the wetter a bread dough is, the softer it'll be upon baking. (This may strike everyone as common sense, but I think it's not.) And of course, don't expect homemade bread to stay as soft and fluffy and bakery-bought, since ours are void of additives (unless you've chosen to incorporate them into yours); homemade ones are best eaten the first couple of days. In my case, the most I could stretch to was three days.

Hope these help. Happy baking. Have a lovely week ahead. =)


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