A simple, versatile loaf that can serve a crowd. And it’s vegan!
Once in a while, when I have some time to myself, I enjoy reading my old cookbooks. It’s a great way for me to get inspired by great bakers or chefs, taking their traditional recipes and recreating them the way I like them. This recipe is a great example.
Traditional Western style breads, which use whole grains or whole wheat, are often more rough, with less moisture, and are not as pillowy as Asian baked goods. There are multiple factors that cause these results. First of all, Asian baking doesn’t use whole grains or whole wheat in baking, which are more “thirsty” compared to plain white flour, which means they absorb more moisture during the process.
Second of all, in Asia (Hong Kong or Japan, mainly), they use tangzhong, which is something magical that you just don’t see in traditional Western baking. Nowadays, you can find the tangzhong method being used in baking worldwide, so we can say goodbye to dry and tough whole grain baking and enter the new world of pillowy and healthy breads!
In this recipe, I used sesame seeds and poppy seeds. You can also try flax seed, sunflower seeds or chia. (Watch the hydration level of the dough if you are using chia, as it absorbs even more moisture.)
Makes one large loaf
350g plain flour
150g whole meal flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
350ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil
100g tangzhong (see method below)
40g sesame seeds
To make tang zhong
In a medium microwave-proof bowl, whisk together 1/8 cup plain flour and ½+¼ cup water and microwave at 600-800 watts, at three 30-40 second intervals, stirring between each, until a roux is formed. Set aside to cool, covered with plastic. Make sure to cool tangzhong completely before mixing it with other ingredients.
Tang zhong can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered. Once it turns gray, discard and make a new batch.
Mix 50ml lukewarm water with yeast and a pinch of sugar, whisk well to combine, and set aside until foamy.
Mix flours, salt, sugar, oil, foamy yeast mixture, tangzhong and the remaining 300ml of lukewarm water in a standing mixer with dough hook for about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping down mixture on sides of bowl.
Add seeds and continue to knead for 3 minutes longer.
Cover dough to rise for 45-60 min, until it’s almost doubled in size. Punch down the dough once you remove it from the bowl onto a lightly floured counter, then knead a few times to loosen. Gently stretch out the dough and fold from outwards in, like an envelope, on all four sides, repeating twice. (This will help increase the tension within the dough and improve rising.) Tuck in the sides of the dough to form a round shape.
Lightly dust a piece of parchment paper with flour and place the shaped and folded dough onto the middle. Using the parchment paper as a sling, holding the corners, carefully place dough and paper into a medium metal or plastic colander. (I used an IKEA metal veggie colander. The reason I am using a round colander in the second rise is to keep the dough within a certain diameter and also limit the rise vertically to increase volume during proofing). Let it rest once again, covered with a plastic dome-shaped lid. (I usually use a microwave lid.) Let rise for 45-60 minutes until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, place a 4qt./4L Dutch oven and its lid separately into the oven and preheat oven to 220C with fan assist. Once the dough is ready to bake, place it, together with parchment paper, into the Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 10 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake for 15 minutes further until the loaf is golden. Remove Dutch oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before removing. Remove bread and cool on rack. Wait for at least one hour before slicing. Serve with flavored butter/olive oil and flaky sea salt.