Earlier this year, I came across another sweet bread/bun dough recipe which is a variation of the water-roux technique that I’ve been using for a few years now. Instead of the water-roux which needs to be cooked on the stove to 65°C, this other technique is to scald part of the flour with boiling hot water rather than cooking it.
The recipe is from a book called Magic Bread by Malaysian cookery author and Chef, Alex Goh. The recipe is quite unusual in that it calls for the scalded flour to be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before being used. However no explanation was given as to the reason why the need for the 12-hour delay.
I wonder if that is just the way the commercial operators do it by preparing the scalded flour the night before to make sure the flour is hydrated properly before being used the next morning, rather than a specific technical reason… (Update July 10, 2010: I finally found out the reason for the 12-hour chilling time for the scalded flour. Autolyse in bread making, invented by French baker Raymond Calvel, is a technique of mixing flour and water – not boiling water – then let it rest for at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour. This rest period helps to make the dough stronger and more extensible, i.e. better able to stretch without tearing. Breads made with autolysed dough are easier to form into shapes and have more volume and improved structure. On top of that, another French baker, Philippe Gosselin, introduced the technique of Overnight Cold Autolyse which produces a sweeter bread. If you google Gosselin baguettes or 12-hour autolyse, you should be able to find more detailed explanation. Alex Goh’s method here is just adding the extra step of scalding the flour then chill it for 12 hours for the 12-hour cold autolyse. However this raises another question, since the recipe is for sweet bread, meaning we are already adding a lot of sugar to the recipe, do we really need the cold autolyse? A normal room-temperature autolyse of 20-60 minutes should suffice, I would think…)
Anyway from discussions with forumers who had tried this recipe, they all raved about it. A few of them did not even follow the 12-hour rest for the scalded flour and their breads/buns still turned out well. So I made a mental note to try out the recipe to compare with the water-roux one.
After clearing some time over the weekend, I finally got to work on the recipe. As usual trying to be practical with my time, I thought since the scalded flour needs to be chilled for at least a few hours, I might as well make a sponge dough at the same time to improve the flavour of the dough. Since some of forumers chilled the scalded flour for as little as 1 hour with no disastrous consequences, I thought the proving time for my sponge dough which usually needed about 4 to 5 hours would be good enough for the scalded flour as well.
However being winter at the moment, my sponge dough proved very slowly in the cold room temperature. After 4 hours, I finally got tired of waiting and turned my oven on at the lowest setting and put the sponge dough in to hasten it. But alas, I overproved it slightly and it smelled like sourdough! Luckily that did not really matter as the buns would have more flavour because of that.
Originally the scalded flour part was to add 70g boiling water to 100g bread flour. However with that proportion, I was not able to hydrate all of the flour. The dough was very dry with a little flour still not incorporated. So I decided to add 5g more, but I tipped a little too much in ending up with using a total of 80g boiling water in the end. Then with the 300g of bread flour used for the main dough in the original recipe, I turned it into the sponge dough. In the end my final dough was a little on the wet side, and I added 2 tablespoons plain flour to the recipe to keep it manageable for kneading.
The result was very good and due to my overproving the sponge dough slightly, the buns were very aromatic and flavourful.
As to the comparison with the water-roux version, they were very similar as far as I can tell without both to compare with side by side. I would say to use this scalded-flour method if you could not be bothered with cooking the water-roux, but as I did wait for about 6 hours when my sponge dough was finally ready, I don’t know how different the results will be between one-hour rest (as some forumers did) for the scaled-flour, and the 12-hour rest specified by the original recipe. Obviously if you want to wait for 1 hour only, then the sponge dough cannot be used…
Makes approx. 16 buns
100g bread flour
80ml boiling water, adjust as necessary
300g bread flour
180ml lukewarm water, adjust as necessary
1 1/2 teaspoons (4g) instant yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
100g plain (all-purpose) flour
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (3g) instant yeast
25g milk powder
50g butter, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour, extra
1. For the scalded flour, pour boiling hot water over flour and stir with chopsticks until combined into a slightly tacky dough. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Start making the sponge dough.
The scalded flour dough, it should be tacky, not dry.
2. For the sponge dough, combine all ingredients and knead just enough to form into a dough. Round the dough into a ball. Cover and prove for about 4 hours, or until the surface of the dough flattens out and the structure inside is bubbly. The time recommended for proving is just approximate, it may takes less time in summer, or longer time in winter, so you need to check it occasionally.
Sponge dough just after mixing and ready to prove.
The proven sponge dough, surface has flattened out.
The successful bubbly structure inside the sponge dough.
3. When the sponge dough is ready, remove the scalded flour dough from the refrigerator. Add all the main dough ingredients, except the butter and extra flour, to the sponge dough together with the scalded flour dough. Knead until smooth and elastic. Adding the extra flour, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too wet, or if it is too dry, add a little water. For more detailed description on the kneading process, see the post on Japanese-Style Sweet Bun Dough.
4. Knead in butter until incorporated. Form the dough into a round ball and rest for 15 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. Form each into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
6. 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 until double in size (about 1 hour in warm weather, longer in winter months).
Finished buns ready to prove.
Proven buns double in size.
7. Bake in preheated 190°C oven for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Taste: Soft, fluffy and light with a slight chewiness in texture
Consume: Equally good served warm or at room temperature
Storage: Can be kept for up to a week in airtight container in the refrigerator, re-heat in the oven or microwave before serving
Recipe Reference(s): Basic Sweet Bread Dough recipe by Alex Goh