04 October 2014

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Vanilla Condensed Milk

When I was writing the previous post on Cilantro Flatbread, I lamented how long it took to bake regular bread. But as I was typing the post, it crossed my mind that I should really exploit all the free time I finally have on hand to attempt the holy grail of baking (to me).  

While the thought was just lingering at the back of my mind, a newsletter from food52.com popped up in my email inbox with a recipe for Hokkaido Milk Bread. The name brought forward images of white fluffy pillows with a sweetness I could almost already taste. And I knew I had to make it. 

The recipe made reference to 'Christine's Recipes' but had some distinct differences, like the proportion of ingredients and the use of softened butter instead of melted butter. The adapted recipe seemed less fussy as well, recommending an overnight proofing in the fridge to split the work into two parts. Having lent my Kitchenaid to my sister-in-law for a bit, I had to knead the dough by hand and was therefore glad to continue the next day. 

The outcome was very rewarding, and probably a little more dense and chewy than the original recipe intended. It was really, really delicious. Since I split the dough into four separate mini-loaf tins, I had to exercise immense self-restraint to NOT bake (and immediately devour) every single bundle of dough. I even dug into the depths of my generosity and shared some with a couple of friends I met for tea today. And in the spirit of experimentation, I even have one tin in the freezer waiting to be tested in the oven in a couple of days' time. 

While these could have been eaten neat, I happily paired it with my other new found fetish - homemade condensed milk. Who would have thought it would be so simple (just three ingredients! although it does require two hours of slow simmering), and so much more delicious than the canned version? Tasting the condensed milk for the first time was like tasting homemade marshmallows for the first time - the processed and readily available version was the only version I grew up eating and already tasted pretty darn good to me, but the homemade version was so much more nuanced in its flavours and won my heart very quickly. It made perfect sense that anyone would fiddle around with a very troublesome and sticky egg white and sugar mixture than just make a quick run to the supermarket for their marshmallows. Given how simple it is to make condensed milk - no special equipment needed either! - it makes all the more sense to give up the canned stuff and stick to only homemade condensed milk in future.

I use the recipe from this gorgeous looking food blog, but used half a vanilla bean in place of the quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract. I'm not sure what the equivalent would have been (nothing on the internet seems to be able to authoritatively recommend a substitution ratio either), but I would use the same ratio if when I make it again in future. 

It has been a while since I felt this ripple of pride in something I've made. It has even gotten me excited about waking up earlier to have breakfast!  

Click here for the very detailed milk bread recipe.

Vanilla Condensed Milk
Makes 1.5 cups of condensed milk

3 cups full cream milk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean 

Mix milk to sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. 
Split the vanilla bean into two, lengthwise. Using the back of your knife, scrape the seeds from the pod and add to the saucepan. * 
Stir gently until the milk comes to a boil, then turn down the heat to low.
Simmer the mixture for two hours, or until the mixture has halved.  
Pour the milk through a sieve, into a sterilised glass container and let cool to room temperature. 
Keep in the fridge and try to keep your hands from it.

*You may also add the pod into the mixture if you like, but I usually throw mine into an existing bottle of rum stuffed with other empty vanilla pods for my personal bottle of ever-intensifying vanilla extract.


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