Picking up from Part 1, I have solved the problem of stone hard buns by increasing the water content in my dough. The challenge now is to make it taste more like bread than muffins. How do you make it soft, springy and chewy like the buns they sell at the bakeries? I knew it wasn’t the kneading or the yeast or the type of flour. But what else?
I looked somemore and found this recipe for butter buns. The picture looked very promising so I decided to give it a shot, with some modifications. I added a few tablespoons of sugar and used self-raising flour instead. My logic tells me – more raising agents leads to more raising of the dough and hopefully a lighter bun.
This time, the dough was soft but not as wet as the no-knead recipe I tried in Part 1. So I was able to make more decent looking buns. It was slightly sticky initially but as I carefully push, roll and folded it with my fingertips around the mixing bowl, it became easier to handle with time. The buns were very tasty and buttery. However, it only remained soft when its hot. Though it departed from the muffin texture, it is still not springy or chewy. I suspected that using self-raising flour (baking powder) had a role to play in this as well. So probably all-purpose flour was better.
Sighs, I was ready to give up bread-making by then.
After a short discussion with a friend who also is an avid baker, he pointed out that I have been using basic white bread loaf or dinner rolls recipes. While what I really wanted was sweet buns. He suggested that I look at Asian sweet buns recipes instead. Which didn’t really convince me because the ingredients and steps are very similar. But it gave me a new perspective.
Then finally I landed on this blog which talked about a special water-roux method to make soft buns. Apparently, ever since a Chinese cookbook published this method, it became wildly popular among the Chinese and Asian baking community. The blogger explained that a water roux is basically one part flour and 5 parts water, cooked at 65 degrees Celcius. The gelatinisation of the starch when cooked with water gives the springy soft texture to buns, the blogger claimed.
I was convinced! So I decided to incorporate this water roux into the butter bun recipe I used above since I am confident the recipe yields good flavour. And I used all-purpose flour this time.
I was relieved to read further in forums that the water roux doesn’t need to be cooked exactly at 65 degrees Celcius. See, I don’t have a kitchen thermometer. One member of the forum pointed that as long as it cooks in low heat without boiling until a thick paste is formed, all is good. Because this is my first attempt, I incorporated only a minimal amount of the water roux paste to see if it really works. Please note I used proper measuring spoons for this recipe. This makes 16 fist-sized buns.
So, here we go again:
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 egg
- 4-5 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Water Roux paste – 1 tablespoon flour and 5 tablespoons water
- Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup water and set aside.
- Make Water Roux paste – dissolve flour in water in a small saucepan, heat it on low and stir until it thickens into a paste, like a thick, creamy soup. Do not boil! Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt. Make a well in the middle.
- In the well, crack in the egg, pour in butter, yeast solution and water roux paste. Stir everything with a spoon to incorporate. Never mind lumps.
- Pour in milk slowly, until a soft dough is formed. You do not necessarily need a whole cup of milk for this.
- Using fingers, gently push, fold and roll the dough around the bowl to incorporate the ingredients. It feels a little sticky.
- Continue to lightly knead by rolling and folding in the bowl (I was lazy to clean up a flat working surface) for 15-20 minutes. Very good exercise!
- The dough is ready when a dent made by a finger on the dough springs back slowly.
- Cover with cling wrap and let rise for an hour in a warm and humid place. I usually rise my dough in the oven (not switched on), with a baking tray filled with hot boiling water in the bottom rack.
- After an hour, the dough would’ve doubled in size. Roll and fold to push out the gas.
- Roll into 2-inch diameter balls and arrange in a greased baking tray, about an inch apart.
- Cover and let rise another 30 minutes, the balls would have conjoined at the edges.
- Brush bun tops generously with melted butter and bake at 200 degree Celcius for 20 minutes or until tops are browned.
- Brush bun tops again with melted butter for a soft crust right after baking.
The buns were soft and springy….YES!!!
After cooling down, I poked the buns and was extremely happy that they were still soft and fluffy….YES, YES!!!
I bit into one of them and they are chewy and tasty….YES, YES, YES!!!
The water roux paste is a miracle! The next day, the buns are still soft to the touch but not McDonald’s burger buns soft. Microwaved them for 20 seconds, and they turned fluffy again. Although still not as light and fluffy as the buns in bakeries but definitely a huge improvement. Maybe next time, I will increase the portion of the water roux paste and cut down or readjust the amount of milk and/or flour to accommodate. Hopefully this will increase the lightness and fluffiness.
Practise makes perfect! 🙂