Asian-style Breads -- recipe tweaks and crust help?
I'm trying to recreate Asian-style bread loafs and buns at home, like the type that bubble tea places use for their thick toasts and what not. What I'm looking for is sweeter and richer than most white bread with a dense crumb that is somehow still quite light.
Here is the recipe I'm currently playing with (makes 2 loaves)
2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar
1 pkg dry active yeast
5 ~ 7 c. all purpose flour
Bring the milk up to temperature, dissolve sugar and add melted butter. Cool milk to lukewarm and proof yeast. Add milk/yeast mixture to standing mixer, gradually add flour until dough is no longer sticky. Knead for 2 more minutes in the mixer, oil bowl and proof for one hour. Punch down, shape and let rise for another hour. Bake at 400F until done (40 ~ 45m for a loaf)
There were some things that I messed up on, mostly in the proofing, so for three to four hours of work, I was left with one sad looking loaf and several sadder looking buns that had ended up getting a skin during their second rise and therefore wouldn't rise anymore. (Darnit!)
Happily, though my bread is very sad looking flat discs, I'm happy to report that the flavor of the bread is somewhat close to what I'm looking for. Next try, I'm going to do a slower, overnight proof in the fridge to see if that helps the flavor at all which is okay so far. It's somewhat sweet and rich but somehow a little flat. Maybe I should add salt? Hmm.
What I'm really in need of help on is the crust. I'd like to achieve an evenly coloured but SOFT crust on my bread. What wash should I put on top of my bread to achieve this? Any and all suggestions are really appreciated!!
The variable in your flour amount is about 30%. That's far too great a variable for consistent results. Just make sure your dough is "slightly" tacky and not sticky and that it passes the window pane test. "Punch" down doesn't mean handle the dough roughly, it merely means to degass it gently.
Reduce the flour (weigh it rather than dip/level/pour volume measure), increase the kneading time to 8 - 10 minutes with dough hook in stand mixer, increase active dry yeast by 30%, make sure the milk temperature is below 100 degrees before proofing the yeast, brush with whole milk as a wash.