Do you judge food by its color? Would you eat a blue piece of chicken? In a study done in the 1970's, participants were given a steak and some fries and asked to just...eat the meal. Nothing appeared strange, but it was soon revealed that special filtered lights were being used in the room, and when the normal lights were switched on, the steak was blue and the fries were green. Immediately after, everyone become quite ill. Weird, right?
Maybe we've gotten more adventurous since the 70's, I dunno. Cause matcha is showing up all kinds of places where green isn't expected. Green cupcakes, green mousse, green cookies....you get it. What is matcha, you may ask? It's finely milled green tea, popular in Japan. Traditionally, it's used the the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but it has made its way into other things. For cooking, you definitely don't want to use a high grade matcha (it would be an expensive waste!)
I decided to make a chocolate matcha swirl milk bread as my first foray into the world of matcha baking. This bread is special because it uses something called the tangzhong method. I'd seen it floating around the interwebs, but was always kind of intimidated because it seemed like it would be something complicated and fancy. Not so. This method just involves making a water roux starter and adding it to the dough. It makes the bread soft and fluffy, it won't get stale fast at all ^_^
The verdict on this bread? Awesome. First of all it's beautiful, but more importantly it's sooooo soft and tasty. Even though half the dough is chocolate, it's not really sweet at all. It has some intriguing, pleasingly bitter (like darkdark chocolate bitter, not poison bitter) notes, but can really be paired with anything.
On a side note, don't eat two pieces of this before bed. Matcha is tea after all, and tea has caffeine. Just thought I'd spare you from a sleepless night. I think it was worth it though :)
(Another note. If you don't have matcha, that's fine. You can just leave it out. Play around with other flavors, or just stick to a classic milk bread)
Chocolate Matcha Swirl Bread
from Une-deux senses
2 1/2 cups bread flour, split
4 Tbsp. sugar, split
1/2 tsp. salt, split
2 tsp. instant yeast, split
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
120 g. tangzhong (about 1/2 of the mixture below)
3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. matcha powder
1/6 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
For the tangzhong:
1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup water
To make the tangzhong, mix the flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up - it will begin to thicken. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 150 F, turn off the stove and remove it from the stove to let it cool.
Grab two medium bowls and divide the flour, sugar, salt and yeast evenly among them. To one bowl add the matcha powder and to the other add the unsweetened cocoa powder and mix well. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg and tangzhong and mix very well. Add one of the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and make a well in the center. Look at your wet ingredient mixture and look at the volume as indicated by the measuring cup, then pour exactly half of the mixture into the center of the well. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together, then add the butter in and continue kneading. Knead until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic, about 18 - 20 minutes (but each mixer varies). When ready, you should be able to take a chunk of the dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before if breaks. When it does break it should form a circle. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead into a ball. Take a large bowl, grease it with oil, then place the dough into the ball and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes. With a clean mixer, repeat the process.
Once the doughs have doubled in size, transfer the doughs to a clean surface. For each ball of dough, roll out each portion with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold it to meet the middle of the oval, then take the other end and fold it to meet the middle. Flip the doughs over with the folds facing down and flatten with a rolling pin. Roll out the doughs until they form thin rectangles - make sure they are about the same size. Place one rectangle on top of the other and begin rolling up the dough along the wide/ long side of the rectangle so you end up with a long skinny roll rather than a short and fat one. Place the swirled roll into a 9x5" bread pan lined with parchment paper. Cover in plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about another 40 minutes. Beat an egg and brush the mixture on top before baking. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.