Soft and Fluffy Wool Roll Bread (Tangzhong)

Wool Roll Bread is everywhere on Instagram. And no wonder. It’s a beautiful thing to look at – so tempting with a lovely, crisp, striated crust over a soft, fluffy loaf bursting out of the pan.

fluffy wool roll bread loaf

This wool roll bread loaf is made with my fluffiest milk bread recipe and is filled with cheese and brushed with garlic butter. But you can fill your bread with anything you like – sweet or savory. (Like Praline Gianduja. Think “Nutella”, but with lovely notes of caramel. Mmmm.)

If you have your own bread recipe that you want to use and would like to go straight to HOW TO SHAPE YOUR WOOL ROLL BREAD, click HERE.

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here.(RECOMMENDED)

Makes 1 9-inch (23 cm) round loaf.

INGREDIENTS:

Tangzhong:
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) water
  • 23 g (3 tablespoons) bread flour
Dough:
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) half & half
  • 25 g (2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 7 g (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 packets) active dry yeast
  • 325 g (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 32 g (1/4 cup) milk powder
  • 6 g (1 teaspoons) salt
  • large egg
  • 28 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
Cheese filling: OPTIONAL
  • 62 g (3/4 cup) cheddar cheese, grated
  • 62 g (3/4 cup) pepper jack cheese, grated
Garlic butter: OPTIONAL
  • 113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1.5 g (1/2 teaspoon) garlic salt
  • 1 round cake or springform pan – 9-inch (23 cm) in diameter x 3-inches (7.6 cm)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make the tangzhong.

– In a small pan, over medium heat, combine water and flour for the tangzhong.
– Whisk until thick like pudding, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.
– Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate to cool while gathering the remaining ingredients.

2. Activate the yeast.

– Warm the half & half to about 110°F (49°C).
– Stir together the warm half & half, sugar and yeast.
– Let sit for up to 10 minutes, until foamy.

3. Combine the dough ingredients.

– In a stand mixer bowl, briefly stir together the flour, milk powder and salt to mix and to remove any large lumps.
– Add the egg, the foamy yeast mixture and the cooled tangzhong.
– Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour has been incorporated and everything roughly comes together to form a shaggy dough.

4. Knead the dough.

– Using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the hook attachment on low speed (setting #2) for about 30 seconds to a minute to bring the ingredients together.
– Increase to medium speed (setting #4) and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic and, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. (It will be soft and sticky. That’s OK.)
– Test if the dough has been kneaded enough by pulling on a bit of it and stretching it thin. If you can stretch the dough thin enough that light can shine through it without tearing, it has been kneaded enough. (See TIPS)

  • This is dough is pretty soft and sticky. That’s OK. Do not add any extra flour.

5. Knead in the butter.

– Add in the 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter and knead on low speed (setting #2), making sure the butter is fully incorporated. 
– After the butter is incorporated, increase speed to medium-low (setting #3) and knead for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth, glossy and elastic.

6. Let the dough rise until almost double in volume. (first rise)

– Scrape the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl.
– With lightly greased fingers, pull up the sides of the dough and fold into the center. Do this a few times to gather the dough into a ball.
– Flip the dough ball so now the top is smooth and greased.
– Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes or until almost double in size.

7. Punch down the dough, reshape and let rise until increased in volume by half. (second rise)

– Punch down the dough, pressing out all the gasses.
– With lightly greased fingers, pull up the sides of the dough and fold into the center. Do this a few times to gather the dough into a ball.
– Flip the dough ball so now the top is smooth and greased.
– Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes or until the dough’s volume has increased by about half.

8. Fill and shape the dough. (See Tips)

– Grease the round pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, if you wish.
– Divide the grated cheese into 6 equal portions. Set aside.

– Remove the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
– Divide the dough into 6 equal parts (use a scale, if you have one) and shape each into a smooth ball. 
– Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.

– On a lightly-floured surface, roll out a rested dough ball with a lightly-floured rolling pin into a long oval about 4-inches wide and 8-inches long.
– Using dough scraper, slice just the top half of the oval into thin vertical strands.
– Place a portion of cheese on the bottom half of the oval.
– Roll up the dough snugly.
– Place the rolled up dough in the pan along the side seam-side down.

– Repeat with the remaining five dough balls, fitting them all along the side of the pan to make a ring.

9. Let rise for about an hour or until double in volume. (third rise)

– Cover the dough loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and a tea or kitchen towel.
– Let rest and rise (proof) about an hour, or until just about double in size.

10. While proofing, preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).

– While proofing the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) . (Expect the oven to take about 30 minutes to preheat.)
– Place the oven rack just below the center position.

11. Brush the bread dough with garlic butter and Bake.

– Make the garlic butter by melting the 1/2 cup (113 g) butter and stirring in the garlic salt.

– Brush the garlic butter over the risen bread dough.
– Bake the bread for about 40 minutes, until the bread is deep golden brown with an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C). (If the bread is browning too fast, just tent with foil.)

  • If using a springform pan, place a sheet of foil on the oven rack under your pan to catch any oil from the melting cheese (or from whatever filling you decide to use) that may leak.

12. Cool the bread on a wire rack.

– Brush garlic butter onto the wool roll bread while still hot.
– Give the bread a good tap or two on the counter and remove from the pan onto a wire rack to cool. (Place a towel on the counter to protect it from the hot pan.)

wool roll bread cooling in the pan
*****
wool roll bread

About this recipe

Wool Roll Bread apparently originated in Vietnam and in Malaysia and has been featured extensively on Instagram and YouTube.

There’s definitely reason for this bread’s explosion in popularity. Shaping the bread dough this way (which results in the bread resembling a wool roll) forms a crust that is not just beautiful, but also crisp and light. And the loaf itself becomes soft and feathery.

*****

This wool roll bread is made from my softest milk bread recipe. It’s fluffy and light with a velvety soft texture. It uses tangzhong (a gelatinous roux of water and flour) which not only promotes softness and fluffiness, it also promotes a longer shelf life – soft and fluffy for days.

This loaf is savory – filled with cheese and brushed with garlic butter. But this loaf is perfect for customizing. Go savory or sweet, or with no filling at all – whatever you prefer!

  • The Brioche loaf below is filled with Praline Gianduja – a delicious confection of roasted hazelnuts, caramelized sugar and dark chocolate. So good!

Tips:

Here are 6 helpful tips:

1) Starting your dough:

Use a scale, if you have one.

– While I sometimes find using volume measures more convenient, weight measures will give more accurate and consistent results. So if you bake regularly, you really should get a scale. (Preferably one that reads ounces and grams.)

scale
Don’t forget to cool the tangzhong.

– Be sure to give your tangzhong enough time to cool. If your tangzhong is still too hot when used, it may kill the yeast.

Tangzhong - water roux
Make sure to soften the butter.

– Butter will incorporate into the dough best when softened. Allow cold butter to sit out for at least 30 minutes to soften, or until you can press it with your finger and it will give beneath light pressure.

To speed up softening butter, I usually cut my cold butter into thin pats or small cubes. Then after a few minutes, I mash the butter with the flat side of a knife or the back of a spoon until it becomes smooth and spreadable.

softening butter

2) Kneading your dough:

Knead until smooth and elastic.

– Proper kneading is necessary to give bread dough enough structure to bake into the softest, lightest, well-risen loaves. Sometimes 5 minutes is enough time for proper kneading. Sometimes you need 10 or more. The goal is a soft, smooth and stretchy dough.

  • One way to test if the dough has been kneaded enough is to perform the windowpane test.

– With the windowpane test, you can see the dough is ready when it is smooth and elastic enough to be stretched until almost translucent without tearing.

Siopao dough windowpane test
Smooth and elastic.
If your dough didn’t pass the windowpane test:

– If you have kneaded for the allotted time but your dough is not passing the windowpane test, don’t stress:

  • Rest your dough for 10 to 20 minutes then test again. (It’s amazing what a little rest will do for for dough’s smoothness and elasticity.)
  • If the dough is still not smooth and elastic, knead for 2 or 3 minutes and then re-test.
  • Repeat (rest and knead) if needed. But if you start to feel the dough becoming firm and less stretchy, stop kneading or else you risk over-kneading your dough.
If you are kneading by hand:

– I think kneading milk bread dough by hand is tricky. It is soft, sticky and messy and takes more time and effort than kneading by machine. Especially when kneading in the butter. But if you don’t have access to a mixer or choose not to use one, here’s one way to knead your dough:

  • Before kneading, cover your shaggy dough with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Scrape the dough out onto a lightly-oiled surface. With lightly oiled hands, fold the dough toward you, then stretch it back by pushing dough with the heel of your hand in a rolling motion. Do this a few times and then give the dough a quarter turn and repeat.
  • If the dough is very sticky, do not add any flour. Instead, use a lightly-oiled pastry scraper to scrape, push and fold the dough toward you while kneading. Very lightly oil the counter and your hands just enough to get the stickiness under control.
    • It will be messy and sticky. That’s OK. With time and patience, the dough will come together, becoming less and less sticky as you progress. Adding extra flour may make your bread heavy and dense.
  • Knead for 10 minutes. Then cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. After resting, the dough should look and feel smoother and finer.
  • Repeat kneading and resting, if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic enough to pass the windowpane test.
  • A little time and patience….

Feel free to take breaks.

– Bread dough continues to build structure (gluten) even while resting. Feel free to take breaks (10 to 20 minutes) while kneading. Be sure to cover your dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Kneading in the butter:

I am sure there are many ways to this. This is the way that works for me:
– Mash/poke about a third of the butter into the dough with your fingertips.
– Pull up the sides of the dough and fold over the butter, pressing firmly into the center with your fingertips or knuckles.
– Continue going round the dough pulling up the sides and folding/pressing into the center until the butter is fully incorporated before adding in the next bit of butter. Use a pastry scraper to bring back any butter oozing out onto the counter.
– After all the butter has been incorporated into the dough, knead for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is completely smooth.

  • This may take some time and will be messy at first. But be patient and continue to knead in the butter until the dough is smooth, homogeneous and glossy.
  • Incorporate the butter a bit at a time. This will not only be easier, it will actually take less time to get the job done than trying to knead in all the butter at once.

3) Shaping your wool roll bread dough:

  • Divide the dough into 6 equal parts (use a scale, if you have one) and shape each into a smooth ball. 
  • Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • On a lightly-floured surface, roll out a rested dough ball with a lightly-floured rolling pin into a long oval about 4-inches wide and 8-inches long.
  • Using dough scraper, slice just the top half of the oval into thin vertical strands.
  • Place your filling, if any, on the bottom half of the oval.
  • Roll up the dough snugly.
  • Place the rolled up dough in the pan along the side seam-side down.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough balls, fitting them all along the side of the pan to make a ring.

5) Before and after baking the bread:

  • Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and a towel.
  • Let the wool roll bread rise for about an hour or until puffed and about double in volume.
  • Brush the risen dough with butter, milk or beaten egg white before baking, if desired.

NOTE: Don’t forget, if using a springform pan, place a sheet of foil on the oven rack under your pan to catch any oil from the melting cheese (or from whatever filling you decide to use) that may leak.

  • Brush with butter after baking, too, if desired.

6) Baking times vary. (Get an instant-read thermometer!)

– Ovens vary, so the baking times given are just estimates. It may take more or less time for your bread to finish baking.

– When bread is done, the crust will look nice and evenly browned. It will also sound hollow when tapped.

instant-read thermometer

Instant-read thermometers are the most reliable way to check for doneness. Bread is done baking when the internal temperature reaches 190°F (88°C).

*****
fluffy wool roll bread loaf

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