For the longest time, I have been wanting to try the tangzhong method. What is this method you speak of? It's a Japanese bread technique that yields the softest bread. You basically cook a small amount of flour with liquid to make a thick slurry and add that to the rest of the dough. Well, today was the day to finally test this method on my sun-dried tomato pesto swirl bread. Let's find out the result, shall we?
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Swirl Bread
- 3 tbsp water (45 grams)
- 3 tbsp milk (45 grams)
- 2 tbsp bread flour (18 grams)
Sundried tomato pesto
- ½ cup walnuts toasted
- ½ cup parmesan grated
- ½ cup fresh basil
- 4 ounces sundried tomatoes with 2 tbsp jarred oils
- 1 tsp garlic minced
- ¾ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 ½ cups bread flour (370 grams)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar (25 grams)
- 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (7 grams)
- ½ cup warm milk, 100-110 degrees F (125 ml)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup butter, softened (57 grams)
- 1 tsp salt
- Make the tangzhong. Heat 3 tbsp water with 3 tbsp milk and 2 tbsp bread flour in a small pot over low heat. Whisk the mixture constantly until it turns into a thick paste, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the sundried tomato pesto. In a food processor or blender, combine ½ cup toasted walnuts with ½ cup grated parmesan, ½ cup fresh basil, 4 ounces sundried tomatoes with 2 tbsp of the jarred oil, 1 tsp minced garlic, and ¾ cup olive oil. Blend together until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Continue making the dough for the bread. Combine the tangzhong with 2 ½ cups bread flour, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast, ½ cup warm milk, 1 egg yolk, 1 egg, ¼ cup softened butter, and 1 tsp salt. Knead the dough until smooth about 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and proof in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Dust a clean work counter with flour and roll out the dough into a large rectangle ¼ inch thick. Spread the pesto in an even layer on the dough; you will have extra pesto leftover. Roll the dough lengthwise in a long roll. Cut the roll in half lengthwise and face the cut sides up. Braid the two ropes together to create a twist. Shape the rope into a circle and gently press the two ends together. Lightly cover the bread and proof for 45 minutes in a warm area.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake the sundried tomato pesto swirl bread for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Brush on extra pesto on top and serve warm.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Before we dive right into the recipe, let's take a step back and figure out why the tangzhong method creates soft bread. Cooking a small amount of flour prior to adding it to the dough enables it to absorb more water. Not only can the flour absorb more water but it can also hold onto that water throughout the cooking process making the bread softer and moister. Another added bonus? The bread will stay fresh longer! I love homemade bread but it never stays as soft because it's not full of preservatives like the storebought ones. Well with the tangzhong method, I can enjoy this sun-dried tomato pesto bread days later.
Okay now that we know what tangzhong does, let's get started. Cook a small amount of flour with milk and flour in a pot over small heat, whisking until it becomes a thick paste. Let the roux cool completely before adding it to the dough. You can make the tangzhong the day before to save you some time.
While the roux is cooling, make the sun-dried tomato pesto, which can also be made the day before. Sun-dried tomato pesto is a variation of the classic pesto, just adding sun-dried tomatoes to the mix. Use some of the oils in the jar to add more of the sun-dried tomato flavor to the pesto. Just by the addition of one ingredient, basil pesto completely changes into something else magical. I like to make a large batch and use the leftovers to toss with pasta, spread on bread, or serve with cheese and crackers.
Finish making the dough by combining all of the ingredients including the tangzhong. Since we're using instant yeast, make sure to add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other side. Salt kills yeast so you don't want them to come into direct contact. Knead the dough until smooth and let it proof until doubled in size.
When the dough is ready, roll it out into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Spread the sun-dried tomato pesto in an even layer on top; you will have extra pesto. Roll the rectangle into a long log and cut the log in half lengthwise. Flip the dough so that the cut sides are facing up.
Then, twist the two ends together to create a braid. Don't worry if it's not perfect because it will look beautiful no matter what. Grab the two ends and seal them together to create a circle. Loosely cover the bread and let it proof again for 45 minutes.
Bake the sun-dried tomato pesto swirl bread for about 25 minutes in a convection oven or until golden brown. Let it cool slightly and brush on more pesto. If you brush the pesto on immediately after it comes out of the oven, the oils will soak into the bread and it will lose that shine.
You can enjoy this bread at any temperature but I preferred to have mine warm. I tasted the bread four days later and lo and behold, it was still so soft. I can attest that the tangzhong method does truly work and guess what? You can convert any bread using this method!