Enriched bread is my guilty pleasure. Made with white flour and enriched with eggs, milk, and butter, it is the dessert of bread family. It doesn’t necessarily have the complexity of sourdough or the depth of crusty country bread. But I love its unpretentious appeal. Challah and brioche are equally tempting. I can never say no to a slice of coffee braid or chocolate babka. However, I always have a soft spot for soft pillowy Asian-style sandwich bread.
I love the perfectly square slices thanks to baking in a pullman loaf pan. I love the whisper thin crust that yields to fine white crumb I can tear into threads. I love the subtle taste of fresh dairy from the famous Hokkaido milk bread variation. Although it is perfect for sandwiches, I enjoy eating it unadorned more than anything.
One of the keys to Asian-style sandwich bread success is the use of roux as part of the starter. When the cooked flour swells to gel-like substance, it lends an incomparably soft texture to the finished loaf that stays fresh for days. Thanks to food52 and Two Red Bowls, I finally was able to make this favourite treat at home.
To be honest, I wish I tried this recipe sooner. It is no more difficult than most of the bread recipes I usually use. The only exception is cooking a couple of tablespoons of flour with some water to make a roux. The dough was a little sticky initially but it quickly turned smooth and pliable with a little bit of rest. I followed the recipe closely for my first loaf. I was so impressed with the result that I soon used it as a master recipe for other variations.
The delicate crumb of milk bread immediately made me think of cinnamon buns. Usually cinnamon buns are made with brioche which I think is a bit too rich when paired with the sticky filling. The relatively (yes, only relatively) lean milk bread dough offers all the softness but far less butter. Two Red Bowls had this refreshing twist using black sesame paste in lieu of cinnamon swirls. Despite being a sweet filling, black sesame has an inherently savoury undertone which I highlighted with a dab of white miso paste. The restrained breakfast roll was fragrant with black sesame taste and not overly sweet. My tasters at work and I unanimously agree that the recipe is a keeper.
Armed with confidence of two recent successes, I ventured to step a little further away from the master recipe. One of my quibbles was that the bread did not taste particularly milky. So I went overboard and created this Cinco Leches Bread using milk, cream, condensed milk, malted milk powder, and dulce de leche. Laden with all these enrichment, the bread did not quite turn out the way I thought it would. Instead, it was closer to a caramel-y dessert than earnest breakfast fare. Dessert for breakfast? I am not complaining!
I am still experimenting and learning more about this different way of bread baking. I look forward to perfecting my technique and eventually bring you recipes that I am proud to share.