Soft Milk Bread Rolls

To quote Biko Zulu “I love writers who use very simple words and make deceptively simple, beautiful sentences.” Alexander Lobrano, writing for Saveur (May 2, 2016) creates that kind of beauty. “It started, of course, with baguettes. I’d finish one on my own in a day: half for breakfast, sliced horizontally and toasted, a process that filled my small kitchen with a savagely provocative scent of grilled grain and distant notes of yeast; the other half, an amply buttered canvas for a simple sandwich of ham and cornichons.” (I don’t even know what cornichons are but, wow.)

This is not a baguette post, but the reason I quoted that article is for another line he writes. He is a food writer living in Paris but after 30 years, wants to learn how to bake bread. Quoting his tutor, he writes, “Always remember, Alec, baking is the marriage of science and instinct,” he told me. “You’ll learn the chemistry of it, but then you have to hear, feel, and see what the dough really needs.” There is a marriage of science and instinct with bread making.

You know how a movie builds up to the scene where: cue a heart stirring soundtrack and the underdog practices and practices until s/he can take the perfect shot or basically wins? It is similar with baking bread. The more one does it, the more one learns to “hear, feel, and see what the dough really needs”, the more heightened your instinct becomes. So, keep baking bread, different kinds, like these rolls. Keep at it until one day, when you are handling the dough, your instinct tells you, “the dough is good”.

After mentally transporting you to Paris, let’s make these bread rolls using the Japanese tangzhong method. This recipe is versatile and one can add cinnamon, orange zest and raisins; cheese; garlic; you get the idea :).

Milk Bread Rolls


    The tangzhong
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup) water
  • 43 grams (1/4 cup) milk
  • 14 grams (1/8 cup or 1 heaped Tablespoon) flour
  • 113g (1/2 cup & 1 Tablespoon) cold milk
  • 1 cold egg
  • The bread dough

  • 310 grams (2 1/4 cups) flour
  • 40 grams (2 heaped Tablespoons) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 57 grams (1/4 cup) melted butter/margarine


The tangzhong
Place a pan on medium-low heat. Into the pan add 43g (1/4 cup) water, 43g (1/4 cup) milk and 14 g flour, and using a wooden spoon or spatula stir continuously. First it’s watery, and then it gets a little lumpy but then it becomes a paste. Cook until it is thick and then take it off the heat. Let cool for a bit.
And then put the paste in a jug with 113 g cold milk and 1 cold egg and mix vigorously until smooth. Set aside.

Mixing the bread
In a large bowl, put 310g (2 1/4 cups) flour, 2 heaped Tablespoons (40g) sugar, 1 teaspoon yeast on the opposite side from 1 teaspoon salt. If the salt directly touches the yeast, it will kill it. Make a well in the centre and pour the wet ingredients (tangzhong). Mix until combined. Then add 1/4 cup (57g) melted butter/margarine.

Transfer to the work surface and knead for 15 minutes until it is smooth. The dough doesn’t stick to the counter and looks quite smooth and elastic. Transfer back to the bowl, cover with a plate and leave to rest for an hour or 2. It is ready when it has doubled in size. Another test is when you poke your finger deep into the dough, the hole is left on the dough.

Transfer the dough to the work surface and press it down to release the air. Then roll it flat into a large rectangle. Divide the dough into 11 or 12 balls. Cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel. Take one piece of dough and shape it into a small rectangle using a rolling pin or just your fingers. Then roll it on itself. Bring the two ends together and fold and tuck and fold and tuck into a smooth ball. Return the smooth ball under the clingfilm or damp tea towel and repeat with the remaining balls.

Transfer to an oiled baking tin and leave to rest covered for about an hour until double in size.

Preheat oven at 170C. In the meantime, break and whisk one egg and add a pinch of salt. Brush over the risen buns. Sprinkle seeds if you so wish. Bake for 25 minutes.

When the rolls are ready, straight from the oven, brush with melted butter/margarine. Let the rolls cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so and then cool on a rack.(/recipe]

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