After making numerous sweet and savoury buns using my favourite Japanese-style water-roux bun dough the past few years, I guessed it was about time I tried something new.
I got hold of a new Chinese bread-making cookbook recently, 麵包教室：5°C冰種的美味 (literally translated as Bread Baking Tutorials: The Flavours of 5°C Pre-Ferments), by two Taiwanese pâtissiers/bakers 許正忠 & 柯文正, which utilizes the age-old European techniques of overnight pre-ferments, biga and poolish, to produce mostly Asian-style breads and buns, as well as some traditional European breads. To some lesser degrees, the same technique has also been featured in another recent cookbook from Malaysia, Baking Code by Alex Goh. I don’t have Alex Goh’s cookbook, but from browsing through online recipes shared by bloggers, I gathered that his book has similar recipes.
I decided to try out the poolish version first. The poolish has to be made the night before and chilled at 5°C for about 16 hours in the refrigerator. The next day, after the 16 hours, the poolish should be bubbly and can now be used to make the buns. This method also produces soft buns that stay soft for at least a couple of days at room temperature. So to me both versions are equally good, as direct comparison is difficult due to different ratio of ingredients (for example very little milk powder in this recipe compared to the larger amount of milk powder used in the water-roux version which made that recipe very milky in aroma and flavour) used in the two recipes. The only thing is to make this poolish version, you just need to plan ahead, while the water-roux version can be made on the spur of the moment.
For this first try of my poolish buns, I was inspired by this short video (above) I came across recently showing two types of breads being made in a baking class, plain rolls and pumpkin bread loaves. The plain rolls were shaped like croissants, but not bending them. I loved the look of those plain rolls and naturally I had to make them, and how deliciously looking they turned out to be, yeah!
Makes approx. 12 to 16 buns, depending on size
150g bread flour
150g lukewarm water
0.5g (1/8 teaspoon) instant yeast
250g bread flour
100g cake flour (or plain flour if desired)
15g milk powder
50g caster sugar
6g (1 1/4 teaspoons) salt
5g (1 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
75g (approx.) lukewarm water, adjust as necessary
50g butter, cut into small cubes
1. For the poolish, mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl together until incorporated (pic #1). Cover with cling film and let it prove for about 1 hour in a warm place (pic #2), then place into the refrigerator to chill (preferably at 5°C but not strictly, a couple of degrees off is still fine) for at least 16 hours (pic #3); it should be bubbly at this stage. Let poolish return to room temperature, about half an hour, before using.
2. Sift bread flour, cake flour, milk powder, caster sugar and instant dry yeast onto the working surface and mix well. Form the flour mixture into a well and add lightly beaten egg, room-temperature poolish and salt, then gradually add just enough lukewarm water to form into a slightly sticky, soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (You can do the kneading in a breadmaker if you own one.) If you are kneading by hand, the dough also needs to be thrown onto the working surface once every few minutes between kneading to improve the dough structure. (I usually just pick up the dough to about head-high and throw it down onto the working surface 10 to 20 times every few minutes between kneading.)
3. Finally knead in the room-temperature butter, a cube at a time, until incorporated. (In many cookbooks, they mentioned that the dough at this stage should be able to be pulled and stretched into membrane – “window pane test”, but it’s hard to achieve with hand kneading because the dough does not heat up as much as when using machine. I usually stop kneading when the dough stretches like chewing gum when pulled!) Form the dough into a round ball and let it rise in a warm place (preferably at about 26°C – 28°C) until at least double or nearly triple in size in a large greased bowl, covered with cling film (should take about 1 hour in optimum warm tempearture, longer in winter months). To test if the dough has risen properly, dip a finger into bread or plain flour and poke down into the centre of the dough as far as your finger will go and pull out again – the hole should remain if it is ready. If the dough springs back, then it is not ready, continue to prove further.
4. Punch down, knead briefly and form into a ball shape. Then divide into 12 or 16 equal portions. The easiest way is to first divide equally into 4 larger portions first, then divide each of these again into thirds (for 12 portions) or quarters (for 16 portions) each. Form each into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Shape and fill the buns according to recipe. Place all finished buns on a greased baking sheet, lightly cover with cling film, and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour in warm weather, longer in winter months).
6. Brush with eggwash if the recipe calls for it and bake in preheated 190°C oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Soft Plain Rolls 冷藏液種餐包
To shape plain rolls (for 12 portions):
1. Follow preparations as above up to step 4. Roll each dough ball into carrot shape of about 15cm long (pic #4). Roll out using a rolling pin to about 30cm length (pic #5), then roll up from the wider end like shaping a croissant (pic #6).
2. Place the shaped rolls (pic #7) evenly apart, sealed ends down, on a greased or lined 30cm × 25cm slice tin or baking tray (pic #8), lightly cover with cling film, and let rise in a warm place until double in size (pic #9). Brush with eggwash (using one lightly beaten egg) and bake in preheated 180°C oven for about 22 minutes, or until golden brown (pic #10).
Taste: Flavourful, soft and fluffy soft buns
Consume: Served warm or at room temperature
Storage: May be kept in a container at room temperature in cool weather for 2 to 3 days, or up to a week in airtight container in the refrigerator & re-heat before serving
Recipe Reference(s): 16-hour poolish recipe from the Chinese cookbook ‘麵包教室：5°C冰種的美味’ by 許正忠 & 柯文正