My powers of concentration are shot at the moment, so bear with me if this post goes awry. That said, even though I can't be relied upon to make a cup of tea, successfully go to the shop to buy a paper or remember to leave a key out, I did manage to make this bread for January's Fresh From The Oven challenge.
I'd never heard of the Tangzhong method, which involves making a flour and water roux (rhymes with - and looks like - glue), and at first glance this seemed horribly complicated. But I followed Silvia and Ivan's advice and all was well. Mostly. The point I'm trying to make is that if I can get this to work, you can.
The glue-roux may seem odd but it is supposed to make the bread very light and fluffy, with good keeping qualities. The former is definitely true, but we've eaten both the loaves I made too quickly for me to confirm the latter. Do not attempt this without a freestanding mixer, unless you are a masochist or very strong.
155ml cold water
1tsp dried yeast
350g strong flour
First, prepare the tangzhong. Whisk together the cold water and flour (there should be no lumps) in a small saucepan and cook over low heat (stirring all the time) until the temperature reaches 65C. This takes about five minutes. If you don't have a thermometer, cook until the spoon you're stirring with leaves a trace. Pour the tangzhong into a small bowl and leave to cool to room temperature (by the time you have everything organised it should be fine).
Wash out the tangzhong saucepan and scald the milk, then pour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and let cool to blood heat. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve.
Wash out the saucepan AGAIN and use it to melt the butter. Set aside.
Add the flour, salt, sugar, egg and 120g of the tangzhong to the yeast and milk. (Don't throw the remainder of the tangzhong out, you'll need it later.)
Stir to a soft dough, then add the melted butter. Turn the mixer to low speed and let the dough hooks work their magic for 15-20 minutes. The dough is very soft and sticky. You can tell if it's ready by taking a small piece of it and stretching it to a very thin membrane before it tears.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover and sit it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (around 90 minutes).
Knock the dough down on a lightly floured counter top and knead gently to let the gas escape. Form it into a loaf shape - I took advice from here (though I found it very difficult to roll out and just pressed it out with my fingertips, then rolled up). Put in a well-greased loaf tin, cover with plastic and let double in size again (about an hour).
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Carefully brush the risen dough with the rest of the tangzhong (it will be quite solid by now, so thin it down a bit with milk or water) and bake for around 30 – 35 minutes until golden.