Friday, March 8, 2013

Super Soft and Silky Pai Bao 超軟排包

For some reasons, a lot of Asians prefer softer, silkier bread than the hearty and chewy European style. Just check out some of the bakeries in heavily Asian populated areas in Southern California and you will concur. It is a phenomenon for people to line up and wait patiently to get some freshly baked bread.  (I bet Atkin's low carb diet followers won't be there lining up ^_^) And many of them come out easily with a receipt of more than $20.

Friends, students of my baking classes, and patrons from library demonstrations often ask a similar question: what makes that bread so soft and silky? I am not a professional baker nor have I ever worked in a bakery before. But from my limited experience and knowledge of bread baking, I can share with you my little tips.

There are only four basic ingredients needed to make a loaf of bread: flour, yeast, salt and water. This is called lean bread. Examples are baguettes, cibattas, bagels, pizzas, etc. They are characterized with a hard crust and soft crumb and are best to be served within a few hours after coming out of the oven.

Another type is called enriched bread, like brioches and many Asian sweet baos. In order to make it soft and stay soft for a few days, sugar, eggs, and butter are added. Not only does sugar give it a sweet taste, its hygroscopic property helps to attract water from the air and allow it to stay moist and soft. Fat and lecithin in eggs make the bread richer. Butter helps shorten the gluten, tenderizes the bread and adds flavor. Moreover, commercial bakeries often use dough enhancer or conditioner in their products for texture and longer shelf life.

Besides looking at the ingredients, the way bread is made also contributes to its texture. Tong Zhong and a pre-ferment/sponge are widely used methods to make bread that have a long lasting nature.

This soft and silky pai bao is a prime example of enriched bread. Instead of using water, milk and even heavy whipping cream are used in addition to sugar, eggs and butter. The result is a pillowy soft and velvety bread.





除了材料之外,做法也會影响成果。湯種 及 冰種 方法都能夠做出軟綿及持久保鮮的麵包。


Ingredients for a pan of 8"x8":
450g unbleached bread flour  高筋粉
65g sugar  糖
6g instant yeast  即溶酵母
12g milk powder  奶粉
half of a whole egg (keep the other half for brushing)  半隻蛋(另一半作掃面用)
1 egg yolk 蛋黃
100g whole milk  全脂牛奶
28g condensed milk  煉奶
75g heavy whipping cream  奶油
120g tong zhong (20g bread flour in 100g whole milk)  湯種
5g salt  鹽
35g unsalted butter, softened  無鹽牛油,室温

1)  Make Tong Zhong and let it come to room temperature before mixing with the rest of the dough. (Click here to review how to make tong zhong)
2)  Put all the ingredients in the mixer bowl of the stand mixer, except salt and butter. Mix at low speed until it forms a ball. Add salt and increase the speed to 2 and knead for about 7 minutes. Hand kneading may take up to 15 minutes.
3)  Add the softened butter and knead until all are incorporated and it forms a smooth dough.
4)  Let it rise until doubled, which will take about 2 hours.
5)  Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces.

6)   Roll each piece out to the length of the pan and roll it up lengthwise.

7)   Put the dough into an oiled pan and let them rise until almost double and reach the rim of the pan.

8)   Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 35 minutes. Unmold and let it cool on a rack.

You can either use a bread machine or hand knead it. This dough can be molded into other shapes, or optional fillings for other flavors can be incorporated into the dough in different ways. Adjust the baking time accordingly.

Recipe modified from Christines Recipes



  1. Hi Phoebe,
    My husband always likes for silky bread and thank you for your explanation of that.
    Mei from Boston

  2. 好柔软的面包。看了很心动的。

  3. Hi Phoebe,
    I baked this bao and result came out perfect.This is the memory of my childhood bao.
    Thank you so much.
    Welcome to Boston, I definiety will see you there.
    Mei from Boston

    1. I am so happy for you. Couldn't wait to meet you soon.

  4. How much yeast would i need if i were to use active dried yesst rather than the instant kind ??

    1. You need to increase the amount of active dry yeast by 25%. So about 8g of dry yeast.

  5. i just made this! :) but i realized halfway that i don't have whipping cream, so i used evaporated milk... :P still tastes really good!!

    1. That's a great alternative. You are very resourceful, Joyce!

  6. Hi, the original recipe use 370g bread flour,but you use 450g, why is that so? Does affect the softness?

    1. I have a different size pan. Not much difference.


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