Thursday, 23 September 2010

Back to Basics

I think I am almost there...

I don't seem to have much luck when it comes to making loaf bread lately. I always have this problem with dough taking too long to fill up the bread pan during the second rise. Most of the time, the dough rose beautifully within an hour or so, during the first proof. But, after shaping, it took forever before the pan is 80% filled. There was not much of an oven spring too...the bread didn't expand much upon baking. I experimented with different recipes...using straight dough or tangzhong (water roux) method. At first, I thought maybe the dough is too little for my pan, so I even tried increasing the portion, even then, the dough just couldn't fill up the pan.

It soon occurred to me that I should just go back to the very basic of bread making, that is, to make a simple white bread. I went on to choose this recipe using the gelatinised or scaled dough method. Besides the gelatinised dough, an overnight sponge dough is also called for in the recipe. Both have to be done the night before, as they need to be chilled for at least 12 hrs. They were rather easy to prepare, as all that was required was to mix the ingredients to form a rough dough, no kneading was required.

It was a pleasure to knead the main dough...soft and elastic, and not too sticky. I was able to knead until it pass the window pane test...I could stretch it fairly thin before it started to tear away :)

Most importantly, the dough proof very well during the second rise. I am quite sure it has got nothing to do with the yeast as I didn't use a fresh pack. My pullman tin was 80% filled within 50 minutes. It has got nothing to do with the room temperature either, as the weather was just like any other day, around 29 ~ 30 degC.

I was very so pleased with myself when I removed the bread from the pan! What a lovely loaf...with straight sides and yet the edges are slightly rounded and not too sharp. This means the dough was sent into the oven at the right time...if the edges are razor sharp, it implies that the dough was slightly over-proof.

The only problem I had was, the crust was not baked to a nice golden brown. Thanks to my oven! Despite preheating it to 230 degC, the oven temperature dropped by about 20~30 degC, so the loaf was baked at a temperature of 200 instead of 220 degC. The other reason for the slightly under-browned crust was, I lined my pullman tin with parchment paper. I had to resort to using parchment paper as I had difficulties unmolding bread from the pan :(

The crumbs was very soft and light, and the crust was so thin that I wouldn't even consider it as crust. The bread was so tender that a slice would flopped over if I slice it too thin. I tasted one slice of bread everyday, plain, without any jam or butter. The very first slice, a few hours after the bread was baked, was cottony soft and I could even feel the moisture in it. It must be the most delicious slice of bread I have ever made. It was also the first time my untrained palette could detect this nice fragrant from the wheat flour! It tasted better than any store-bought bread. The second slice, 24hrs later, tasted good...just as tender and soft...comparable to any commercial loaf. The third slice, 48hrs later, had aged a little. It felt heavier, and the surface was a little dry. Nevertheless, I still think it tasted good. I had the last piece 72 hrs after it was out from the oven. The bread had aged further. The texture was just like any commercial bread that was just before its shelf life. Even though I could still eat the bread without having to toast it, I had to spread some kaya to make it taste better.

There is no doubt that this recipe is going to be a keeper. It is the perfect recipe for me...the dough is not too difficult to knead by hand, and the finished bread could stay soft for days.

White Sandwich Bread

(makes one 11cm x 11cm x 20cm loaf)

(A) Gelatinised dough (烫种)
75g bread flour
53g boiling water

(B) Overnight sponge dough (隔夜中种面团)
100g bread flour
60g water (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

(C) Main dough(主面团)
225g bread flour
10g milk powder
22g caster sugar
5g salt
4g instant yeast
143g water (room temperature)
60g overnight sponge dough
gelatinised dough from (A)
30g butter (cut into cubes)


- Gelatinised dough (烫种)
Add the boiling water in (A) into the bread flour, stir and mix to form a rough dough. Cover dough and set aside to cool. Wrap dough and leave it to chill in fridge for at least 12 hrs. (Bring back to room temperature before using.)

- Overnight sponge dough
Mix bread flour in (B) with instant yeast. Add water and mix to form a rough dough. Cover dough let it proof for 30mins. Wrap dough and refrigerate overnight. Note: only 60g is required. Bring back to room temperature before using.

- Main dough
  1. Mix together bread four, milk powder, caster sugar, salt and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add in water and overnight dough. Knead to form a rough dough. Knead in gelatinised-dough.
  2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough till smooth. This should take about 10mins. Knead in the butter. Continue to knead the dough until it no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about another 15~20 mins. Do the window pane test: pinch a piece of the dough, pull and stretch it. It should be elastic, and can be pulled away into a thin membrane without tearing/breaking apart easily.
  3. Place dough in a lightly greased (use vegetable oil or butter) mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about 60mins, or until double in bulk.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each dough into smooth rounds, cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let the doughs rest for 10mins.
  5. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten each dough and roll out to form a longish oval shape. Starting from the shorter end, roll it up swiss-roll style. Leave the doughs to rest for another 10 mins.
  6. Flatten each dough and roll it out again to form a long rectangle (around 30cm x 10cm). Flip the dough over and roll up swiss-roll style, roll up as tightly as possible. Pinch and seal the seams. Place the three doughs, seam side down, in a well greased (with butter) pullman tin.
  7. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 50~60mins, or until the pan is 80% full. Cover the lid (well greased with butter) and bake at 220degC for 35mins. Unmold immediately and once cool store in an airtight container.

Recipe Source: adapted from Magic Bread by Alex Goh


Anonymous said...

Your bread look so fluffy and soft :)

Bakericious said...

HHB, you are tempting me again, guess I have to try this recipe soon, I am backing off with bread making cos of the kneading but this one, I must try :).

Baking Fiend said...

congrats! all yr efforts are paying off, being rewarded with such a perfect loaf. :)

Kitchen Corner said...

This is a super successful attempt! Perfect square and nice crumbs! It's inspiring me to try this recipe soon. I did have the some problem that the dough sometimes takes more than an hour to proof at the 2nd proofing, really don't know what's wrong. This recipe no doubt is a good one as you've prove it brilliantly! Thank you so much for sharing!

Passionate About Baking said...

Again, your bread looks so good even though it's the basic. I have problem with basics to start with! May I know how long do you take to knead your dough? Do you have muscle aches after that? :p I really salute you for kneading by hand, I never bother with that!
Btw, I don't quite understand what you meant by "razor sharp" as over proof. I usually over proof my bread because I don't knead that well. :P

Honey Bee Sweets said...

HHB, congrats! You found your favorite bread recipe! But I think I am such an impatient person, I cannot wait .... overnight sponge will make me uneasy in my sleep, lol! I will be thinking of it too much. I probably have to go with recipe that doesn't require over night wait. :P Because to me, even direct method already takes half a day to complete, it will be too much time taken up just to make a loaf. :p But your loaf sure looks super soft....guess it was worth the wait for you. :)

Pei-Lin said...

HHB, I think you're a perfectionist too! Aren't you? =P

I dunno if it's my problem ... I think the final pic of the slice of bread you showed looks odd ... as in the shape!? How come the bottom part (as depicted in the image) looks concave? Visual deception?

Oh, yes! I've tried making buns but not loaf by combining 12-hour sponge and scalded dough. Will blog about it. Thanks for reminding me! HAHA! There are in fact two backlogs about it! HAHA!

We def share this commonality: Our love for bread is forever. HAHA! I'm a bread person, too! Throw Asian-style soft bread or rustic European bread at me, I'll be more than happy to finish the bread up for you! LOL!

lena said...

Hi HHB, i've also tried the gelatinised method and i must say the results were good. I just made a batch yesterday and keep aside 2 buns to see the softness can last till 3rd day...and the dough was so much easier to handle.

Happy Flour said...

Great job! A simple and basic recipe produced a perfect loaf of bread. The kind which I like to try. Thanks!:)

Miss B @ Everybody Eats Well in Flanders said...


You know what, I also made this sandwich bread by Alex Goh 2 days ago. U recommended it in my blog, remember? Thanks for ur recommendation! I agree with u, that the bread tastes very good, but it does age on the 3rd day, but even commercial breads also dun last that long lah! :)

My pics are not as professional as urs though :)

Miss B

Happy Homebaker said...

Jess, you should try this, the dough is not as wet and is easier to knead as compared to tangzhong dough, and I could always get to the window pane test.

Baking Fiend, thanks for you comment, till today, I can still remember the first time I tried making the chocolate marble/swirl bread you shared on your blog. You are among one of the first few bloggers whom I have learned a lot from your generous sharing :)

Grace, I have problem especially with tangzhong method during the second proofing. I dont know why, maybe it is the way I made the tangzhong?

Jane, I usually take about 30mins, if it is the tangzhong dough, which tend to be wet and sticky, I will take 35mins to 40mins. I won't continue to knead for longer, reasons:
(1) I have warm hands, so the dough tend to feel warm after kneading for so long, and the yeast started to activate and I could see small bubbles forming.
(2) I have a constant nagging pain on my shoulder and neck area, for the past few years. I usually need to use sanoplas after I made bread, and I will feel as though I am 'Batman'...can't really turn my head to my sides too much, it hurts!

If the edges and sides are sharp, meaning they are at perfect 90deg angles, it implies that the dough has expanded too much before it is sent into the oven (the term used in Chinese is 出角). As such the dough expanded too much and fill up ever corner of the pan, see examples
here and here.

Bee Bee, you can just leave the overnight sponge dough in the fridge, you don't have to worry about it. The only downside is, you need to prepare it the day before, bad for people like me who tend to bake on impulse ;) and sometimes, I may not have the time to make the bread the following day as planned.

Pei Lin, I was holding the slice of bread in one hand, and the other hand holding the camera, and the bread was so soft it just 'flop' over at the 'right' moment ;) I will venture into baking rustic European bread next year...when I get a bigger oven ;)

Lena, yes, yes, I do find this dough so much easier to handle. It feels soft and wet, yet not too sticky. I made the gelatinised dough two nights ago, planning to make some ham buns, but till now I still didn't manage to find time to make them :(

Angel @ Cook.Bake.Love said...

It's a square!! Very nice loaf, looks soft and fluffy.

Wingzy said...

I am glad someone else other than me prefers this over the overrated tangzhong method. I've always had fantastic results with this method. Tangzhong is decent but not great.

busygran said...

Well done! It's good that you don't give up easily! That's the essence of baking. Don't get it right? Try and try again! The feeling is wonderful when you succeed!
Btw, that is an awesome-looking loaf!

Your #1 Fan said...

The bread looks so soft!! It came out so beautifully too.

Unknown said...

1st time visit to your blog. I love it so much. I have link you, hope you don't mind.

I do have the same problems when making white toast and been trying for so many time but failed. I will try yours soon.

Thank you.

Fong said...

I always had the same problem - 1st proof was excellent, then the 2nd proofing was forever and ever, and NEVER RISE further during baking. Will try your method this time. Do you know if I can make this into sweet bun with fillings?

Anne said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe. Would love to try this one of these days but I think I would be changing some of the flour to wholewheat :)

LimeCake said...

the crumb on your loaf looks amazing!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

dear HHB, Thank you so much of sharing this basic loaf recipe, now i can use my pullman tin (use it not more than 3 times) to bake this perfect loaf! Have a nice day.

Small Small Baker said...

SSB got this book from popular at least one year ago but left it untouched. She has finally brought it down from the shelves to the table where it can get more attention from its owner. A pullman tin was bought back just days ago. SSB knows nothing about baking a loaf bread. HHB comes to her rescue. Thanks for the recipe and tips! ")

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Congrats HHB, you found your perfect bread recipe. Today, i'm going to make strawberry jam using your double berry jam recipe :) Warmest Regards, May :)))

Happy Homebaker said...

Wingzy, I have problem proofing tangzhong during the second rise, but this one proof really well. The bread keeps well too, probably because of the sponge dough.

busygran, guess I am quite a stubborn person ;)

Sow Ling, thanks for visiting :)

Fong, this recipe is meant for plain bread, for the sweet dough, you can refer to my earlier post here (

Anne, there is a wholemeal version, I have yet to try it.

Sonia, I think you will like this recipe, happy baking!

SSB, I borrowed the book from the library. Have fun baking a square loaf :)

Thanks, May!!

Anonymous said...

Nice one.. I never thought of making a loaf of bread myself actually, but seeing those process and pictures.. I wish to try it too someday =] Thanks for sharing~

Angie's Recipes said...

This is a super duper soft pullman loaf!

Pandora said...


I am a new visitor to your blog and like everyone here, your wonderful looking pictures and the joy you demonstrate through your blog have tempted me to pursue baking as my new hobby.

I recently tried your matcha swirl loaf bread recipe and I'd say it resembled yours 70%, but my bread was more dense and less fluffy than yours. I wonder if it has to do with me using all purpose instead of bread flour? I also want to know how you keep your bread. I usually keep them in a sealed plastic bag to prevent it getting dried, but I find the process of waiting for the bread to completely cool down usually already dries it out. Please advise.

Finally, I'd like to know for your recipe above, if I don't have milk powder, can I substitute with milk? If so, what would be the corresponding portion?

Aunty Liew said...

I've baked some buns yesterday, but the texture are not soft. Luckly, you have written this method, I should try this and see whether I managed to get the soft texture on my buns or not. Thanks for your recipe.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Pandora, you need to use bread flour, which has got a higher protein gluten. I usually leave the loaf bread to cool off for about 30~45mins or so (shorter for buns), before storing in an airtight container.

Cahide & Jibek said...

Looks very delicious breads!

Mj said...

Hi hhb, yr raving is very persuasive, makes me feel like i wnt to go bake a loaf now lol! Can u tell me where i can get a pullman tin pls?

Happy Homebaker said...

MJ, I got my pullman tin from Sun Lik. You can also get it from Phoon Huat.

Edith said...

Oh gosh, it is soooo fluffy and in perfect shape.

Mj said...

Tks, will look for it when i nxt go to PH.

Anonymous said...

I love ur blog.. and tomorrow I am gonna try ur white bread recipes... I always having problem making a cottony bread that is so soft and fluffy,.. thanks to you for not being stingy sharing this wonderful recipes with us :)

sonewhere in indonesia....

Passionate About Baking said...

Thanks very much for taking the time to explain the differences to me. Now I understand. I didn't notice the distinct differences in covering the whole bread tin and not totally covering it. Gee, I'll have to examine my loaf the next time I baked it.
I really salute you. Despite having shoulder and neck pain, you still insist on manual kneading. It just shows that you're a perfectionist! And your foods are really baked/cooked in 100% TLC! What a wonderful mother/wife you are. :)

Blessed Homemaker said...

I've said this before and I'm saying this again. You are a woman with great perservances, kudos to you!

Anne said...

Tried making this was very good. We all loved it :) Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Love the look of your bread... so much so that I have decided to try it myself !! Would you consider making a wholemeal version anytime soon? Thanks for sharing !

Anonymous said...


your bread looked so nice, so as your "Paah Mee"!! they made my tummy rumbling at 12.30am!!! I would like to try to make the bread also, but what is the size of the pullman tin that u use to bake this bread? If I am using a bigger tin, how should I convert the ingredient? Do you know of any conversion table for this? THanks!


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi sw, I am using a 11cm x 11cm x 20cm pullman tin. How big is your pullman tin? Maybe you can double the ingredients proportionately. Double all the ingredients in (A) and (C), but for (B) use the same amount, since the overnight sponge dough will be around 160g but u need about 120g under (C), hope this help :)

Anonymous said...

hihi! can i ask where did you buy your pullman tin from? in sg? freshly baked bread looks so delicious!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, yes I got it in sg.

Anonymous said...

hihi! sorry that I forgot to add in my name! I have trouble looking for pullman tin... but i haven try the poon huat at bugis yet.. will like to ask where do you buy it from? thanks!=D

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Ying, my first pullman pan was from phoon huat and the second one was from Sun Lik.

kk said...

The bread looks soo soft! just like the ones from the bakery. I can't wait to try this recipe!!

Anonymous said...

Ar.. I shall take a look at phoon huat then!

Amanda said...

Can i change this recipe to wholemeal bread version? Heh

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Amanda, I have not tried replacing it with wholemeal flour so I am not sure how it will turn out.

Anonymous said...


I just want u to know that I'd baked this loaf today following ur recipe and loaf turned out great success! As I do not hv a pullman pan, I baked it in a 6" cake pan and the result was really very good. This recipe is clearly a keeper for me.

U know, half way thru the baking, the loaf continued to rise and rise and it was tall by the time it was completely baked. And like u said, the texture is very tender and the crumb was soft and light with crust so thin and fresh. Since, I used an open pan, the top crust was nicely brown in colour and look so so delicious. This loaf definately tastes better than those from the commercial bakeries.

I am really grateful to u for sharing this basic recipe and I will continue to use this recipe and recommend my friends to try it too. I will also continue to use ur other recipes featured in ur blog.

Priscilla Poh

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Priscilla, thanks for sharing your baking experience :) This recipe is certainly keeper, but I have not been able to make bread lately, as the kneading will hurt my arms and shoulder too much (I have chronic pain on my shoulder area). It certainly brightens my day whenever someone share their baking story, hope you have fun baking at home :):)

Anonymous said...

Thanks HHB for ur response.

Like u, I was very much lured into bread baking. As I discovered more and more how creative and artistic bread making can be, I was however, quite unwilling to expand too much energy into the kneading of dough by hand. Hence, I recently invested almost S$1K into owning a quality stand mixer.

I was amazed to see how useful my new stand mixer helped me in the kneading job. FYI, I used my stand mixer first time to knead this dough recipe.

Now making bread is a breeze to me which in time to come, I can try many different bread recipes without any physical side effects other than the effect of expanding waistline, haha!

Priscilla Poh

Happy Homebaker said...

Priscilla, you can make all sort of bread with your standing mixer! I doubt I will get a standing mixer since I hardly use my handheld one...I am also too cheapo to spend the money ;)

Anonymous said...

Thnx for ur response. Yes, a stand mixer, esp. one which has high power (mine is 1400W) with a quality bread dough hook for kneading is capable of performing any kneading. Moreover, a powerful stand mixer has more functionality compare to a bread machine. Bread machine might get jamed if bread ingredients contain fibre veins, eg. sweet potato, etc. as the veins might gets stuck in the knife. That was why I opted for a stand mixer. Anyway, I let my oven do all the baking, eg. buns, pizzas, hence, I am not limited to just baking loaf which bread machine does aside from kneading.

Priscilla Poh

Happy Homebaker said...

Priscilla, I am more inclined to get a bread machine instead of a standing mixer. Besides being so much cheaper, I prefer to use a bread machine to knead bread dough, there is no danger of over kneading. In the past, I made many types of bread with my bread machine. I hardly use electric mixer since I made small portions and very very simple cakes (no skills to make complicated ones). Anyway, if anyone were to give me either a stand mixer or a bread machine, I will be a happy person ;)

prispoh said...


I wud like to use this recipe again but this time I wud like to incorporate wholemeal flour into the loaf.

Are u able to advise me for the main dough, how much of wholemeal flour I shud add to it and how much of the bread flour shud minus off.

I know u do hv other wholemeal bread recipes in ur blog but I just love using the 'back to basic' recipe again as this is a keeper recipe to me.

Priscilla Poh

Happy Homebaker said...

hi Priscilla, I have not tried using wholemeal flour for this recipe so I am not able to recommend the amount...the texture will be affected as wholemeal flour will absorb more water. There is a wholemeal version from this same cookbook, you may want to check it out...should be able to google for the recipe from blogs.

Veronica said...

Hi I loved your bread, it looks so soft and fluffy and the texture is very beautiful. This recipe is a keeper. Lately I've been on a bread making frenzy and been trying different methods to see which one yields the best bread. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Veronica, thanks for dropping by, so far, I find the tangzhong method yields the best bread :)

Anonymous said...


I am a newbie baker. Like your blog very much.
Can you please explain on your step 5 and 6 in details. If you could provide picture to show it would be better! TIA!!

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, I do not have pictures to show. for step 5, with a rolling pin, roll the dough into a long oval shape, then roll (with hand) it up into a log. for step 6, flatten the dough in step 5 and roll with rolling pin to form a long rectangular shape, then roll (with hand0 into a log. You may want to take a look at similar illustrations from this site:
hope this helps.

Vion said...

Hi HHB, thanks for providing me the link to have a better idea of rolling and flattening the dough.

I tried yesterday with my Zojirushi Breadmaker. The dough function is a total of 1hr 30 mins inclusive of kneading, 1st rise, kneading 2nd rise. So after everything i remove the dough and punch out the gas and shape it to three ball shape (not according to your mention swiss roll style)and put it to rise again. after rise till 80% pullman tin covered. i bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins 190Deg. Viola! Although the bread did not come out in a square shape it remains as the shape when it is 80% rise. It's still soft fluffy and so tasteful!!

Btw, how do i know whether my bread is ready to remove from the oven?

Vion said...

Btw do you know why my bread remains as the 80% size after baking?

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Vion, do u use an oven thermometer? I suspect your oven was not preheated to the right temperature. The bread should expand ver soon after you put it in the oven (within the first 5 mins). To check whether bread is ready, first by visual, the bread should expand and the crust golden brown. After unmould, tap on the base/bottom of the loaf, u should hear a hollow sound.

For details you can read about it from this site:

Anonymous said...


how to make the bread softer and whiter ????


Anonymous said...

May i know where did you bought your bread tin?

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, i got it from Sun Lik.

Anonymous said...

Hello HHB,

I hope you're still responding to this post :)

May I know what should the result of the gelatinized dough be like? I find 53g amt of boiling water too little and it's hard to combine the water + 75g bread flour your recipe has called for. Any advice is appreciated. Thank you :)


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi, you just need to gather the dough together to form a rough dough, just fold and knead a few times and it should come together. The dough is rough and dry/hard not soft.

Anonymous said...

Dear HHB,

Thanks for your reply :)) appreciate that

Cheers, and keep baking! Love your bakes

Teng said...


I've tried your recipe. It's superb!! However, can I know how long can i keep the unused portion of overnight dough?


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Teng, I kept it no longer than 2 days. I tried to use up asap.

Anonymous said...

Hi HHB, thanks for reply. I've just used the overnight dough which I've kept for about 3 days before your reply. Keeping fingers crossed that bread will come out fine.