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I was browsing various Asian cooking blogs and this seems to be the latest craze among Asian home bakers. Basically, the idea is to heat 1 part flour and 5 parts water (by weight) in a saucepan until the temperature reaches 65C (149F), and then mix the resulting "water roux" into a standard bread dough recipe.

I just tried it and was very impressed with the results. All I did was blend some water roux in with a standard recipe for rolls and the resulting buns were a dead ringer for the soft crust style buns from Chinese bakeries. Normally when I make things like homemade baked char siu bao the crusts would be drier and tougher than the ones you'd buy. But not then buns made using this method. Instead they are soft and pliable.

Has anyone else tried this?

Edited by sheetz (log)
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hi sheetz,

yes, i've tried this a couple of times, both in rolls and in breads. i think the hot water - flour mix was referred to as a "mash" or just "scalded flour", but the idea was to pre-gelatinize part of of the flour. i made some delicious whole-wheat and oatmeal rolls with this technique, and the mash definitely adds a soft, moist texture to breads and rolls. i've read it was pretty common in european (esp. northern european) baking as well.

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This doesn't seem all that different from an Italian (Tuscan? I can't remember) technique where you pour boiling water over the flour, wait for that to cool down, and then add the yeast plus maybe some more flour. Or, for that matter, it's not all that different from using water leftover from boiling potatoes as the liquid.

--

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It's not all that different from using water leftover from boiling potatoes as the liquid.

That's what I was reminded of too, using boiled potato water.

There's a recipe in Judith Olney on Bread (p. 72, ISBN 978-0517558997) for Swiss Potato Rolls that works great. Friends from Alaska order a version of these parbaked direct from Switzerland because they love the texture and flavour so much.

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hi all,

you're right, slkinsey, i think several saltless tuscan breads use part scalded flour. the hot water is probably increasing enzyme activity in the flour, so that more less-complex sugars are freed up. that's probably adding a nice flavour profile to otherwise rather uninteresting breads (well, in my opinion at least).

some of the photos are sadly gone now, but this thread @ dan lepard's forum is interesting reading regarding scalding part of the flour in a recipe.

Edited by hansjoakim (log)
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Sheetz,

There are many "traditional" Chinese doughs [i am familiar with the Cantonese] that use boiling water poured over flour. There are even steamed breads etc. that employ layering "hot water" dough and "cold water" doughs for textural quality.

1. Are these hot water roux breads, then, a modification of the very traditional Chinese techniques?

2. Are the boiling water doughs so popular in the Cantonese styles a borrowing from the Portuguese and thus a European discovery from ancient times, as its widespread use in Europe might suggest? Or is it an independent Chinese innovation? Shortcrust & various types of doughs, even though analogous to European types can be discovered independently in several cultures and there is no need, except that owed to cultural chauvinism, to posit a sole center of origin and subsequent diffusion.

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1. Are these hot water roux breads, then, a modification of the very traditional Chinese techniques?

According to the cookbook authors the bloggers reference, the 65C technique was developed in Japan. How recently I don't know. I have no idea about the boiling water variations.

2. Are the boiling water doughs so popular in the Cantonese styles a borrowing from the Portuguese and thus a European discovery from ancient times, as its widespread use in Europe might suggest?

While the scalded flour/mash technique seems to be fairly common in Western baking, I get the impression (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that it's used mainly to alter bread flavor (as in rye breads) and not so much texture, whereas with the 65C technique the most important aspect is the resultant bread's light airiness and thin crust.

The breads enjoyed in HK were almost certainly influenced by the Portuguese sweet breads. Are those traditionally made with potatoes?

Edited by sheetz (log)
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  • 1 month later...

This is why I love eGullet!

I saw this post just the other day and I knew that I had to try it.

I've been trying for years and years (and years!) to get that fluffy, soft bread for baked baos.

The best that I came up with was using a brioche dough recipe, but hated that I was loading up on the fat.

This technique works great and it gives you a nice soft bread without a ton of butter.

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For anyone who may be interested, the recipe given earlier in this topic can be easily adapted for a stand mixer. Make the roux as described in the recipe and let it cool. Meanwhile add all of the dry ingredients to the bowl of the stand mixer. Attach the dough hook and let the machine run on lowest speed for a minute or so just to combine the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, roux and water and knead on lowest speed for 6 minutes. Now this is when you'll think you really screwed up :hmmm:. Add the room temperature butter a few cubes at a time. You will likely be horrified as initially the butter seems that it will never combine with the dough. Persevere! Scrape down the bowl a couple of times and knead on lowest speed for 4 more minutes and all will be well. This makes a lovely cool, easily managed dough and soft, fluffy buns.

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