The Best Milk Bread Recipe Experiment Ep 1 | Chopstick Chronicle (Yudane) vs 우미스베이킹 Umi’s Baking (Tangzhong)

To make milk bread, you technically do not need the starter 湯種, or yudane (“you-da-ney”, Japanese) or tangzhou (“tahng-drung”, Chinese). But chances are that the most popular recipes you’ll come across will use one as a means to get a taller, fluffier and softer milk bread.

So what does 湯種, yudane or tangzhong mean?

Yudane and tangzhong are technically the same word, just a different pronunciation of the same characters in Japanese and Chinese respectively and a slight variation on the method. Despite the debate about which came first, the Japanese or the Taiwanese/Chinese, my theory is that the word itself give us a clue. As I come from a Chinese family and my sister-in-law is Taiwanese, I learned that in Chinese and Taiwanese the word 湯種 literally translates to soup and to plant (verb), which doesn’t really have a strong meaning but could roughly translate as water/liquid starter. Because of this, the term in Chinese seems more like an adaptation word, or borrowed term, which leads me to believe that it must have actually originated in Japan. The second reason why it seems quite plausible that it started in Japan, is that Taiwan has strong influences from Japan and it’s common to see Japanese style breads in Taiwan. Therefore, it’s not unlikely that the famous Taiwanese baker that came up with the tangzhong method would have been inspired by the Japanese yudane. A sort of weird irony is that the well known “Hokkaido milk bread” seems to more commonly call for tangzhong rather than yudane… But I think it might be one of those things that’s called Hokkaido not because it’s from there but rather that it was inspired by Japanese milk bread. If anyone has more ideas or information on this, please let us know in the comments below!

What does 湯種, yudane or tangzhong do?

Typical bread recipes have around 60% moisture content. Using either the yudane or tangzhong technique allows for higher hydration, like about 80% hydration! The higher water content means the bread will steam during baking which creates height and fluffiness. The increased moisture also helps the bread’s shelf life. Yudane uses a 1:1 ratio of flour to water. You simply mix boiling water with flour and comes out pasty and gritty. Tangzhong uses more liquid, somewhere closer to 1:5. You mix your water, sometimes milk, and flour and then cook it until and comes out as a smooth paste.

Testing both a yudane and a tangzhong recipe

For our first foray into milk breads, we’re testing both a popular yudane and tangzhong recipe just to get a sense of how they are made and what they might taste like. We’ll use the popularly Google searched Chopsticks Chronicle Shokupan (yudane) and the popularly Youtube’d milk bread recipe Umi’s Baking Tangzhong Milk Bread. We’ll try out both recipes and get familiar with the techniques and see if we have a preference!

Important Things To know Before Making Milk Bread

  • One of the first things to do is to bring out your refrigerated ingredients to get them to room temp before using. This is mainly so you don’t kill the yeast.
  • Mixing and rest times are important to allow gluten to form, so try to stick to the suggested times until you’re really familiar with baking the bread.
  • Resting the dough allows the gluten to expand and fully absorb the water, which makes the dough easier to handle (less sticky) and shortens the time needed for kneading.
  • If you’ve mixed the suggested time and the dough doesn’t come together away from the bowl, that’s ok as long as it passes window pane test (it stretches thin enough to look opaque without breaking). If not, keep mixing!
  • If while resting, the dough starts to shrink, then it has over-fermented and you should hurry to make the bread before it continues to ferment.
  • If you’re working in a cold environment, your bread may not rise as much. That’s totally ok, you can either use a proofer, a longer proof time, or just accept a shorter bread.
  • Lots of recipes suggest waiting until the next day to slice, but we prefer consuming the bread while it’s warm and fresh. You can slice it once it’s cooled.
Umi's Baking and Chopstick Chronicle milk bread comparison
Umi’s (R) and Chopstick Chronicle (L)

Chopstick Chronicle Shokupan

Original Recipe: chopstickchronicles.com/shokupan-japanese-fluffy-white-bread

Ingredients

Yudane:

  • 50g Bread flour, around 12% protein
  • 40ml Boiling water, above 194°F(90°C)

Bread:

  • 150ml Milk (room temperature)
  • 15g Sugar
  • 3g Dry instant yeast
  • 10g Unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 200g Bread flour
  • 5g Salt, we used Morton’s Kosher salt

Guide

  1. Make the yudane by mixing the bread flour and boiling water. Set aside to cool. You can make it the night before and cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. Bring it back to room temperature before using.
  2. Pour the room temperature milk and butter, sugar and yeast into a stand mixer bowl. Break apart the yudane into smaller chunks and add them into the bowl.
  3. Add the bread, flour and salt.
  4. Use the kneading hook to combine all ingredient on low speed 1.
  5. When all ingredients are combined, turn the speed up to 5 or 6 to knead the dough for 20 min.
  6. When the dough comes together away from the bowl, take it out and shape into a boule (round ball) and place the dough into a greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap rise for about 45 min to 1 hour or until double the size.
  7. To test readiness of the bread, coat your finger with flour and poke the center of the bread. If the dough doesn’t bounce back and the belly button looking hole you poked stays there, it is ready.
  8. Punch the dough down and cut the dough into two equal parts with a scraper and roll them into boules again.
  9. Cover the rolled doughs and stand it for 20 minutes bench time.
  10. Roll out (or flatten using your hands) each dough roughly into a rectangle.
  11. Fold the dough in thirds, then rotate the dough 90 degrees and fold again in thirds and then pinch the seam closed.
  12. Grease a loaf bread tin and place the folded doughs the tin, then cover it and let the dough rise for a second time until the dough rises to the size of the bread tin, about 30 min.
  13. Preheat the oven to 365 °F (185°C).
  14. When the dough has risen to be level with the tin, it’s ready to bake. Optionally brush an egg wash over bread.
  15. Bake for about 25-30 minutes.
  16. When it’s baked through, remove the bread from the tin immediately and let it cool on a rack.
  17. Enjoy while warm or wait until completely cooled to slice.
Chopstick Chronicle Shokupan
Chopstick Chronicle Shokupan

Umi’s Baking Tangzhong Milk Bread

Original Recipe, which is for 2 loaves: youtube.com/watch?v=tc3coiL36Cg

Ingredients

Tangzhong:

  • 20g Bread Flour
  • 100ml Water

Bread:

  • 290g Bread Flour
  • 30g Sugar
  • 6g Salt, we used Morton’s Kosher salt
  • 5g Dry Yeast
  • 5g Dry Milk Powder
  • 130g Milk (room temperature)
  • 25g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
  • 25g Egg (room temperature), this is essentially half of an egg, we used the other half for the egg wash
  • Egg Wash (remaining half egg and a splash of milk)

Guide

  1. First make the tangzhong. Mix 40g bread flour with 200g water in a small pan. Once thoroughly mixed, put on a medium heat and keep stirring until mixture thickens to a paste. Scrape out into a container and set in the fridge for 6 hours. You can even make this the night before. Allow it to come to room temperature before use.
  2. Using a dough hook on your mixer, combine bread flour, sugar, salt, dry yeast, powdered milk.
  3. At low speed, mix in milk, egg, and tangzhong until it all comes together.
  4. Add in butter and mix at low speed.
  5. Slowly turn up the speed to high and mix until all dough sticks together. (15-20 minutes) or until the window pane test passes.
  6. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape it into a smooth ball. Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let it rest for 40-60 minutes.
  7. Test the dough by poking your finger down into the middle. If the dough does not spring back, it is ready.
  8. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each piece into a boule. Cover again and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Roll each ball of dough out flat. Fold flatten dough using thirds. Turn 90 degrees, and roll dough up, pinching it together at the seam. Place 3 molded doughs into the greased pan and let it rest for 30 minutes to rise.
  10. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven, 355°F for 25-30 minutes.
  11. When it’s baked through, remove the bread from the tin immediately and let it cool on a rack.
  12. Enjoy while warm or wait until completely cooled to slice.
umi’s baking tangzhong milk bread
umi’s baking tangzhong milk bread
Sliced milk bread. Chopstick Chronicles (L), Umi's Baking (R)
Sliced milk bread. Chopstick Chronicles (L), Umi’s Baking (R)

Yudane vs. Tangzhong Conclusion

In the finished breads, there weren’t super distinct differences though the tangzhong recipe did come out just a tiny bit softer and with a hint more flavor. The yudane had a little more chew and a more distinct crumb. Both excellent breads and they are reminiscent of Hawaiian bread though lighter. And similarly, I could eat the tangzhong one by itself, otherwise with some butter and jam would be really nice. As sandwich bread it probably needs toasting as both are a bit soft to hold anything too wet.
There’s nothing like eating it fresh, though it’s still super moist the next day. Both breads will firm up a bit on day 2 and Umi’s tangzhong recipe tastes a bit more gummy or melt in your mouth while the Chopstick Chronicle’s yudane recipe held a nice delicate chew. Next time we’ll be testing Kitchen Princess Bamboo’s recipes where it’s a more direct comparison of the yudane and tangzhong techniques themselves. Check out Part 2 of our experiment here.

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