Baking the mother of all milk breads with Kristina Cho

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“Milk bread is so versatile which makes it an incredibly fun dough to master,” says Kristina Cho. A pullman loaf pan with a lid imparts that satisfying, square profile. Photo by Kristina Cho.

With cultural influences from Britain, Chinese bakeries became popular in Hong Kong, offering breads, teas, custards, and tarts melding with popular ingredients like mango and teas to create a subset of baking. Similar to other enriched doughs like challah and brioche, milk bread is set apart by the addition of tangzhong — a milk and flour roux. Bread is treated differently across China, from the soft milk bread to mo,  which looks and cooks like an English muffin. Kristina Cho began her career as an architect, but turned her love of both the sweet and savory pastries into her blog Eat Cho Food, which has given rise to a new cookbook, “Mooncakes and Milk Bread.”

Milk Bread

Ingredients 

  • 100g (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) milk
  • 20g (2 tablespoons) bread flour
  • 125g (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) warm (110°F) milk
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar, plus a pinch
  • 335g (2 2/3 cups) bread flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt 1 large egg
  • 55g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • 1 teaspoon canola or other neutral flavored oil, for bowl
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream 

Instructions 

  1. Make the tangzhong: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the flour and milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the paste into a small bowl, scraping the sides of the saucepan with a flexible spatula; let cool until warm, 5 to 10 minutes. Texture should resemble mashed potatoes.
  2. Make the milk bread: In a clean or new small saucepan, scald the milk over medium heat, bringing the milk to a gentle simmer (watch carefully as milk tends to boil over). Pour milk into a small bowl and cool until warm to the touch (about 110°F). Stir in yeast and a pinch of sugar, and set aside until the surface of the mixture is foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and egg. Add the tangzhong and milk and mix on low until shaggy. Add the softened butter one piece at a time, mixing until fully incorporated before adding the next. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to knead the dough until it is tacky and slightly sticky, 8 to 9 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking, pinch and pull the ends of the dough to form a smooth ball.
  4. Coat a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the dough to the bowl, gently turning it to cover with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours (or place in the refrigerator to proof for at least 8 hours or overnight).
  5. Line the bottom and long sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. (If baking in a pullman pan there’s no need to line with parchment paper.) Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball. Roll out a piece of dough into a 5 x 8-inch oval. Fold the long edges of the dough over by 1/2 inch and then roll into a 4-inch log, starting at one of the short ends. Place the dough seam-side down, in the loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough, placing them side by side in the pan. Cover the pan loosely with a damp, clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to proof in a warm spot until it reaches just above the rim of the pan (or just below the rim for a pullman pan), 60 to 90 minutes. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  7. To make the egg wash, whisk together the egg and heavy cream in a small bowl. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash. (Omit the egg wash if using a pullman pan.) Bake on the center rack of the oven until the top is golden brown, 30 to 33 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Use the edges of the parchment paper to help lift the bread from the pan, then transfer to the rack to cool completely. 


What can’t milk bread do? Kristina Cho deep fries it for a doughnut with salted egg yolk cream. Photo by Kristina Cho.


Hot Dog Flower Buns made with a milk bread dough ignited the idea for Kristina Cho to turn her blog, “Eat Cho Food,” into a full-fledged book. Photo by Kristina Cho.


Kristina Cho turned her architecture skills to baking, focusing on both savory and sweet items found in Chinese bakeries in her book, “Mooncakes and Milk Bread.” Photo courtesy of Harper Horizon.

Credits

Host:

Evan Kleiman