Tips for Baking Japanese Bread

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What you need to know about baking

I love baking bread so much that I have been baking it several times a week since I was in Japan. I’ve put together a list of tips that can’t be written down in a recipe, such as how to choose ingredients, how to store them, and even a few tricks. Please take a look at it before you bake bread.
The Easiest and Simplest Japanese Bread Dough
The easiest and simplest Japanese bread dough recipe. Easy to handle and bakes up fluffy, perfect for sweet buns and souzai pan.
Let's Bake Japanese Bread
Here you will find everything you need to bake Japanese sweet breads, souzai pan, and shokupan. Let's try The easiest and simplest Japanese bread!
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Types of Yeast

Fresh yeast

Warm and activate

Fresh yeast is sold in the refrigerated section. This is because yeast bacteria do not work in cold places = they work when warmed up. Before using it, always dissolve it in warm milk to wake up the yeast.

Store in the refrigerator

Of course, it should be stored in the refrigerator. It should be stored in a plastic bag to prevent it from drying out, and in an environment with some air to prevent the bacteria from dying.
I store my yeast in small glass jars with the yeast on the lid and the jars covered. This keeps the yeast from drying out, provides some air, and is easy to remove.

Short best before date

Use it up within the expiration date. I don’t recommend it, but if I accidentally let it go past its expiration date, I bake bread with a little more yeast.

Instant dry yeast

Ready to use

This is the easiest yeast to use. In Japan, I mainly used dry yeast. The flavor of the bread is slightly poorer than fresh yeast, but it is very easy to use and store. If you don’t bake bread very often, I recommend using a small batch of yeast.

Store in the refrigerator after opening

After opening the package, store it in the refrigerator and use it up as soon as possible. I stored mine at room temperature and had to clean it while crying because it was infested with bugs. Since then, my motto has been to use up dry yeast on the spot.

Beware of dough with a lot of sugar

Instant dry yeast may not work well in doughs that contain a lot of sugar. If you are making a dough with a lot of sugar, such as brioche dough, choose a dry yeast that is sugar resistant.

Dry yeast

Pre-fermentation required

. Dry yeast that is not labeled “instant” requires pre-fermentation. I have yet to use one.

Weighing and Kneading Dough

Measure accurately

In the basic bread dough recipe, the amount of water has been adjusted quite finely to achieve a balance between the ease of handling the dough and the texture of the baked product. A small difference such as 5g more flour or 2g less milk will affect the ease of handling the dough and the texture of the finished product. Be sure to measure accurately with an electronic scale.
The Easiest and Simplest Japanese Bread Dough
The easiest and simplest Japanese bread dough recipe. Easy to handle and bakes up fluffy, perfect for sweet buns and souzai pan.

Moisture content

The dough will vary depending on how dry the flour is, the humidity of the day, and other factors.
If you are using dry yeast, just follow the recipe and you will be fine.
If you use fresh yeast, you may need to make adjustments depending on the amount of water in the yeast and the amount of water lost when the milk is heated. If you are not sure whether you should add flour or not, do not add it.
When you have kneaded for more than 5 minutes;
The dough sticks to the bowl and does not come together at all.
When you open the stand mixer, the dough on the spatula starts to drip.
If this happens, add 2 tsp (5g) of flour at a time and see how it goes.
Again, if you are not sure if you should add flour or not, don’t add it.

Kneading time

If you are using a home baker, you can use the dough course and leave it to the first fermentation. If you are using a stand mixer, mix well until the surface of the dough becomes smooth. At first, the dough will cling to the hook, but keep kneading for a few minutes. If you have 300g of wheat, total 10-15 minutes is enough time to knead. Do not over-knead. Check the condition of the dough frequently until you get used to it.

Fermentation

Not to over-ferment

The longer the fermentation time, the less good it is. Too long a fermentation time will result in a doughy bread that does not rise when baked, and a less sweet, more sour taste. Be very careful not to over-ferment.

Check by volume

Various recipes give a rough estimate of fermentation time, but there are many conditions that affect fermentation, such as room temperature, the temperature of the initial dough, and the performance of the oven. What is important is the volume rather than the fermentation time. Check frequently until you get used to it, and determine how long fermentation will take under the conditions of your own kitchen.

Temperature should be below 40℃

Japanese recipes often say to use the fermentation function of the oven, but most Finnish ovens have a minimum temperature of 50℃. The temperature is too high for fermentation. In Finland, the room temperature is stable throughout the year, so it is safe to ferment at room temperature.
If the room is really cold, preheat the oven at 50°C, turn it off, and then put the dough in. Even then, the bottom of the oven will be quite hot, so place the bowl with the dough on a baking sheet.

Guideline temperature and time

The following is all based on my experience. Be sure to check the degree of fermentation yourself.
Instant yeast, milk from refrigerator, up to 60 minutes at a fermentation temperature of 40 °C.
Instant yeast, milk from refrigerator, 30-45 minutes in a preheated and cooled oven.
Fresh yeast, milk, rinsed for 1 minute, room temperature 25°C for 30-45 minutes.

Not to dry out

During fermentation, cover the bowl with a wet cloth or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. You do not need to make the plastic wrap stick to the dough. Just covering the bowl with the dough is enough.
By the way, I bake bread so often that I feel the plastic wrap is a waste, so I use homemade beeswax wrap.

Forming

Divide accurately

If you divide the dough in a way like sausage rolls or edamame cheese, the amount of dough in each portion will vary.
Easy and Delicious Sausage Rolls - Piece of Oishi
Cute looking bundles of sweet dough and savoury sausage. Sausage rolls are perfect for children's parties, awesome for adult's get-togethers!
Edamame Cheese Bread, Japanese Souzai Pan
This edamame cheese bread is delicious with the texture of edamame and grilled cheese smell. It is a popular souzai pan in Japanese bakeries.
With these forming methods, even if the amount of dough varies, the height is almost constant, so it is not a problem.
However, when you roll the dough like dark syrup bread or sweet boule, the height tends to vary, and the browning will be different for each.
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Sweet Boule
This bun is called Sweet Boule or Hat Bun, originally from France. Sweet Boule is so fluffy bun with some sweet crispy cookie dough on top.
Although it is tedious, it is recommended to weigh the dough after the first fermentation to determine the weight of each piece of dough, and divide it while measuring within a few grams of error.

Align the height

Even if you divide the dough accurately, it will be useless if there are variations during the forming stage. It is important to keep the thickness and height of the dough the same after forming. You don’t need to be too particular, but it will make a big difference in the appearance of the bread.

Setting the oven

In the middle or middle top

Bread needs to be heated from both the top and the bottom. Basically, you can bake it in the middle section all the time without any problem. If the bread has cheese or other ingredients on it and you want to brown the top surface thoroughly, you can bake it for a while and then raise it to the middle-upper level or turn on the convection function.
Edamame Cheese Bread, Japanese Souzai Pan
This edamame cheese bread is delicious with the texture of edamame and grilled cheese smell. It is a popular souzai pan in Japanese bakeries.

With normal oven function

The temperature settings in the recipe are for baking with the normal oven function. If you use the convection function with the same temperature settings, the dough will brown nicely in a short time, but sometimes, especially in sweet boules, you may want to release a little more moisture from the dough. If you use the convection function, you may want to lower the temperature a little lower than the recipe.
Sweet Boule
This bun is called Sweet Boule or Hat Bun, originally from France. Sweet Boule is so fluffy bun with some sweet crispy cookie dough on top.

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