OT: An improved way to make bread

Jeff (@OrmontUS) wrote earlier about “hot mixing,” an ancient Roman technique of concrete making that uses high temperature to cause chemical reactions that won’t occur at lower temperature. (The article mentions “quick lime” (CaO) which is highly reactive and made by heating limestone (CaCO3). The article also mentions mixing concrete while hot instead of room temmperature.)

Last week, I saw a YouTube video about tangzhong and yu-dane, similar Asian techniques for heating flour with water to form a “water roux” which is added to conventional bread dough to create a softer, longer shelf life (slower staling) bread.

Heating the flour with water causes the starch to gelatinize. Starch is a polymer of sugar molecues that are covered in -OH groups. The starch is semi-crystalline because the -OH groups form hydrogen bonds along the length of the polymer which are like a closed zipper. The hydrogen bonds in the starch granule break when heated, allowing water to come in and bind to the starch. The starch molecules then “unroll,” enabling them to hydrogen-bond to each other. This is how a roux is thickened into a gel or “creamy” texture.

The tangzhong or yu-dane process uses part of the water and flour to pre-make a roux which is then blended into the rest of the dough.

I have baked challah every week for over 10 years. My challahs are lofty and (in my husband’s opinion) far better than any commercial bread. But I am always open to new ideas.

This is what I did. I used the same amount of water as my usual recipe (1/2 cup) but I split it and used half to make the yu-dane. I make only one loaf because I don’t eat bread (except the slice for the blessing on Shabbos) and my husband can only eat one loaf a week (usually less).

All flour in the recipe is King Arthur brand bread flour. This is a high-protein flour that makes superior bread to any other brand I have tried.

Challah (one loaf)
1/4 cup cold tap water
2 tablespoons flour
Mix the flour into the water in a pyrex measuring cup (or other pyrex bowl). Heat in the microwave 45 seconds. This produces a gel. If it hasn’t gelatinized, heat it more until it does. (That’s a lot easier than mixing it in a pot and heating it on the stove where it might burn.) Let the yu-dane gel cool before adding to the recipe.

1/4 cup cold tap water, heated in the microwave for 10 seconds (until warm, not hot)
4 eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2.25 teaspoons of dry active yeast
3 cups bread flour (more if the dough needs it to not be sticky)

Heat 1/4 cup water in a Pyrex or ceramic cup. Mix in the yeast. Wait 2 minutes for it to dissolve. Once the yeast is dissolved, mix in one teaspoon of the sugar. Wait 10 minutes. This is to “prove” the yeast. If you see bubbles the yeast is active. If you don’t see bubbles, the yeast is dead. Do not proceed because the dough would not rise.

Place 3 eggs and one yolk into a very large bowl. (At least one gallon.) Whisk the oil into the eggs. Add the rest of the sugar and salt. Add the proved yeast.

Add the yu-dane. It takes a bit of work to distribute the gelled yu-dane into the egg/ yeast mixture. I did it by hand but maybe an immersion blender would do this more easily.

Add the flour to the dough, mixing and kneading for 8 minutes. I knead by hand, turning and stretching the dough until it is elastic and “pulls back” when I stretch it out as if making pasta. Keep adding flour until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands or board. This makes a very strong dough that can hold a high rise. If a finger is pressed 1/2" inch into the dough it should spring back.

Oil a very large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise for 2 hours at room temperature. (Alternatively, put into a cool area such as my 50 degree basement and let it rise overnight.) The very slow rise gives plenty of time for the gluten to adapt so the bread is loftier. At this point, the dough has more than doubled in size – it has filled the entire bowl.

Push the dough down after the first rise. Let it rise another 2 hours at room temperature.

If you are making a Jewish challah, take out 1/20 piece of the dough to burn in the oven or fire. (Halachically, this isn’t needed unless baking about 5 pounds of flour but I do it anyway.)

Push the dough down. Now form it into its final shape. I usually roll it into a rectangle with a rolling pin, fold it in thirds and put it into a glass bread loaf pan for sandwich bread. But it can be braided into a conventional challah or any other shape. At Rosh HaShanah, I twist it into a circle to symbolize the completion of the New Year. In the age of Covid, I made dozens of mini-circle challahs and wrapped each in a napkin for my tiny, remote congregation to share.

If making a loaf, oil the loaf pan. If making a braided challah, oil the pan and coat with corn flour for easier release.

Let it rise at least 1.5 hours at room temperature. This strong dough will get larger than a weaker dough can tolerate. It will make a BIG challah with a light texture.

Beat the reserved egg white. Paint the top of the challah with the beaten egg white. This makes a golden crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Place on a cooling rack once it can be handled. The bread will get a soggy bottom from condensation if it cools completely in glass or on a pan.

This bread will last a week without getting stale if placed in a sealed plastic bag because the high amount of oil inhibits starch crystallization. Maybe with the yu-dane it would last even longer.



I’ll pass this on to my daughter as she’s a keen bread maker. My newly discovered hack is to add vodka when you’re mixing pastry.

I messaged a couple of cronies …one who was our domestic science teacher’s favourite at school and who actually became a cookery teacher and the second who did a masters in food science. Neither had heard of it, but checked out the link and gave it a whirl. We all declared that this year was the best for our mince pies


Interesting. Vodka pizza is a storied style, but the vodka is in the sauce, not the crust.

Since we’re on the topic, an improved way to make pizza is no-knead dough. It requires overnight rise, but classic pizza doughs require that anyway. The real advantage for me is that it comes out round, which is a step I have trouble with.

My favorite bread (I’m addicted to it and have been making it weekly for months). I use my own sourdough, but I suppose you could use store-bought yeast:


Mixed Grain Cranberry Nut Sourdough Bread Loaf

Of course, you’ll need some good, active sourdough starter for this. I always use what bread bakers call a “liquid levain” – it’s equal weights of starter, water, and flour. If my starter has been refrigerated (I can keep it there without feeding for a couple of weeks), I feed it once or twice according to those proportions to get it good and bubbly before I use it for this recipe. The formula below starts at that point.

Makes one 26cm (10-inch round) 15cm (6-inch) high loaf weighing about 1.5kg (3 pound)


60 grams active, bubbly sourdough starter
120 grams warm tap water
120 grams unbleached bread flour (I always use Gold Medal)

All the sponge, above
340 grams warm tap water
32 grams dark rye flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
430 grams unbleached bread flour
16 grams (1 tablespoon) maple syrup
6 g cocoa powder (1 Tbs) into flour for a darker loaf
15 grams fine sea salt or 14 grams granulated table salt

10”-12” cast iron Dutch oven

3/4 cup (125g) chopped nuts (I like walnuts or pecans)
3/4 cup (140g) dried cranberries and/or raisons which have been soaking in water for an hour

Reconstitute (soak in water for an hour) Craisins and raisins. They get added, with the nuts, between the two rises.

For the sponge, use a rubber spatula to stir together the starter, water, and flour in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge ferment until it more than doubles. It will take about 2 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature. Today it was relatively warm and humid so it was ready after 2 hours. In cold weather, make the sponge the night before.

To make the dough, use a rubber spatula to stir the sponge and the water together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the flours, cocoa, maple syrup and salt. Place the bowl on the mixer and beat on low speed until the dough is soft and fully moistened, about 3 minutes.

Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Start the mixer on medium speed and beat the dough until, it is smoother and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 minutes or a bit longer.

Scrape the dough to a floured surface and fold it over on itself several times to make it smoother. Invert the dough, smooth side down, into a very lightly oiled bowl; turn the dough over so that the top is oiled and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until it is almost double in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature. I cover the dough in a 10-inch bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and figure the rise is done when the dough is high enough to hit the covering.

Once the dough is risen, scrape it to a floured surface and turn it: press it into a rough rectangle and fold one side over the middle and the other side over both. Roll down from the top to a fat cylinder.

Push the dough down into a square. Invert, then sprinkle 1/4 of the nut/fruit mixture on the top. Then fold the dough over the mixture from the right side, sprinkle more on top, then fold from the top, sprinkle more, fold the dough over from the right side, then repeat from the bottom, finishing by folding fresh dough across the top. This will distribute the nuts and fruit throughout the ball. Try to keep raisins from breaking through to the top as they sometimes burn during baking.

Place the dough back in the bowl, smooth side up this time, and cover it. Let the dough rest until it starts to puff a little again, about an hour.

Preheat Dutch oven in your oven for at least 20 minutes at 250°C (482°F). The heat absorbed during this time is super important in helping the loaf rise.

(While I don’t, if you have the option to heat the bottom plates inside your oven, as well as use the fan-forced function, this is ideal. Turn it all on!)

Flour the work surface generously and invert the dough to it, smooth top side downward into the flour. Pull all 4 corners of the dough into the center and continue around the loaf until it is round. Flatten the loaf until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick and about 9 or 10 inches in diameter. This helps the loaf to rise more evenly while baking.

Cut a sheet of non-stick parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot, leaving enough excess around the sides to form hand-holds to remove the bread. (If it is thin, double it and oil the surface the bread will sit on).

Use a peel, dough cutter or a damp cotton towel to transfer the dough to the baking pot.

Brush your sourdough loaf generously with water*, about 1-2 Tablespoons, and lightly dust with flour. (Wetting your sourdough loaf stops the crust forming early, restricting the size of the loaf. It also helps to add gloss to the crust and make it crunchy).

Using the tip of a bread lame, small, serrated knife or a razor blade, make four shallow 4-inch long cuts at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock around the dough.

Placed the dough into a 10”-12” cast iron Dutch oven.

Cover the Dutch oven and place it near the center of the oven (making sure there is room to remove the cover later).

Reduce the heat to 425 F. Bake the dough on the center rack for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes uncovered. Crack the oven door open and bake an additional 10 minutes. This allows the moisture to escape, leaving your sourdough bread with a crisp crust. Alternatively, remove the bread from the pot and let it bake directly on the rack. The latter produces a more crisp crust.

The internal temperature should read 205-210 F.
When finished, transfer to a wire rack. Cool for 1 hour before slicing, for best texture. (Be patient! If you cut into it too soon, the texture will be gummy).
Notes - Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

I cut the loaf into quarters and freeze them in ZipLok bags.


1/4 of water?

This is my suggestion and it was researched in a bake off between a French baguette maker and an American baguette maker. The American won the contest.

The bread you make is supposed to have a different consistency than a baguette but the comments on NPR on the contest stated this was true with all bread making.

More water. Sticky is what you are after. A little hyperbole a puddle is what you want.

The shell of the bread, excuse my lack of terminology, v the interior should have a tension on the shell v a very fluffy interior. More water is the trick.

The water should make kneading the dough very easy. The dough needs to be very soft.

If you are working with a hard dough to knead that is a mistake.

500 + challah breads have come from my hands.

A mistake? Not if my husband and I like them.


American chefs teaching French chefs how to make a better baguette cant go wrong.


BTW the French chefs agreed to add more water.

Wendy, I think I would like your challah because it isn’t overly sweet. All our kids were home this weekend, and our middle daughter made the challah, but she made it quite sweet (one loaf even with sweet struesel on it). Yummy, but I prefer less sweet. We’ve also been making homemade challah for many years, it’s just so much better than the store bought ones.

1 Like

Hi Wendy -

I saved your recipe for challah bread. I’ve not been too successful making my own bread, but I will have to give this a try!


I would point out that, while cooking is art, baking is science. Wendy bakes her challah at a much lower temperature and for less time than I bake my multigrain/etc. dark bread. I start the baking by wetting the dough and enclosing it in a cast iron Dutch oven to make sure it doesn’t crust-over until it finishes rising and then uncover it to allow a crust to form. Wendy’s, on the other hand, depends on no crust at all being formed (contrary to French bread) and the level of moisture in her dough is critical for an egg-enriched bread.

For those with a sweet tooth, stuck with extra challah dough (though, as a matter of taste, I’ve switched the flour used from break flour to all-purpose flour to cut down the chewiness a bit), few uses can compare to the chocolate babka. The following are two recipes, the second of which is by “Bread Bakery” in NYC which makes an obscenely delish version with Nutella in addition to chocolate.


Chocolate Babka

Based on America’s Test Kitchen (TIME: 3 hours, plus 6 hours rising, chilling, and cooling)

To ensure layers of chocolate throughout the loaf, we split the log in half lengthwise, laid the halves next to each other cut sides up, and twisted them together five times total. We baked the loaf uncovered for 30 minutes and then covered it with foil to finish baking. For an extra-special finish, we made a sugar syrup and brushed it over the warm babka.

2 ¼ cups (12⅓ ounces) all-purpose (or bread) flour
1 ½ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
½ cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (tastes better, but optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing pan

8 ounces (Ghirardelli) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar, chopped fine
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (1½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
¼ cup water

The preferred loaf pan is a 1 lb Volume, measures 8½ by 4½ inches. I use a glass Pyrex one the same size with good results; if you use a 9 by 5-inch pan, start checking for doneness 15 minutes early.

FOR THE DOUGH: Whisk flour and yeast together in bowl of stand mixer. Add milk; eggs; orange zest, if using; and vanilla. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on medium-low speed until cohesive dough comes together and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes. Turn off mixer, cover bowl with dish towel or plastic wrap, and let dough stand for 15 minutes.

Add sugar and salt to dough and knead on medium speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and, with mixer running, add 6 tablespoons butter 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to incorporate before adding next, about 3 minutes total, scraping down bowl and dough hook as needed. Continue to knead on medium-high speed until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl, 7 to 10 minutes longer.

Transfer dough to greased large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic and let rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

FOR THE FILLING: Just before removing dough from refrigerator, combine chocolate and butter in medium bowl. Microwave at 50 percent power, stirring often, until chocolate is fully melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, and salt until combined; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto lightly floured counter. Do not overflour the counter when rolling out the dough, or it may slide when rolling and shaping. Using floured rolling pin, roll dough into 18 by 12-inch rectangle, with short side parallel to edge of counter.

Using offset spatula, spread chocolate mixture evenly over dough, leaving ½-inch border along top edge (to seal the seam). If the chocolate filling becomes too stiff to spread in step 6, use a rubber spatula to work it back to a softer texture. Beginning with edge nearest you, tightly roll dough away from you into even 12-inch log, pushing in ends to create even thickness. Pinch seam to seal.

Using greased serrated knife and slicing in only 1 direction, gently cut log in half lengthwise and lay halves next to each other cut sides up. Forming tight twist, cross left log over right log. Continue twisting, 5 times total, keeping cut sides facing up as much as possible. Pinch ends together and carefully transfer to prepared loaf pan cut sides up. Tap loaf pan on counter to pack dough into pan.

Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and center loaf pan on wire rack. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover babka with aluminum foil. Return to oven and continue to bake until center registers 190 to 205 degrees, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If you use a 9 by 5-inch pan, start checking for doneness 15 minutes early.

FOR THE SYRUP: Meanwhile, combine sugar and water in small saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside off heat.

Remove babka from oven. Leaving babka in loaf pan, brush syrup evenly over entire surface of hot babka (use all of it). It will feel like a lot of syrup when brushing the loaf in step 10, but use all of it. Let cool in loaf pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Carefully remove babka from pan and let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours. As hard as it is to do, let the babka cool for the full 3 hours before slicing it. Slice 1 inch thick and serve. Can be frozen in whole or by the slice.

Breads Bakery’s Chocolate (Nutella) Babka

Makes 4 babkas

For the dough:
170 grams (3/4 cup) whole milk
30 grams fresh yeast
325 grams (2 1/4 cups) bread flour, sifted
325 grams (2 1/4 cups) pastry flour, sifted
2 large eggs, at room temperature
110 grams (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
120 grams (8 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

For the chocolate filling:
450 grams Nutella
200 grams (1 1/3 cups) bittersweet chocolate chips

For the sugar syrup:
160 grams (3/4 cup) granulated white sugar
120 grams (1/2 cup) water

Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Break up the yeast into the milk and dissolve it into the milk with a whisk or using your fingertips. Dump the flour on top of the milk, then the eggs on top of the flour, then the sugar, then the vanilla, then the salt, then half of the butter. Begin mixing at the lowest speed. After 2 minutes increase the speed to medium and continue mixing for another 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl, if necessary, so that it all mixes together. The dough should begin to come together but won’t be smooth.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the rest of the butter, cube by cube, only adding more butter once the previous cube disappears into the dough. This process should take 2 to 3 minutes. Once all of the butter is incorporated, turn off the mixer — the dough should be smooth and elastic.

Lightly flour a work surface with bread flour, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead the dough into a smooth ball.

Form the dough into a rectangle (measuring about 10 inches by 6 inches) and place on a tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but up to 12 hours.

Lightly grease four 8 1/2-inch-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick baking spray. Lightly flour a work surface with bread flour, and transfer the dough to the floured surface. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle measuring about 36 inches by 9 inches — it’s fine if the rectangle is bigger (up to 40 inches by 12 inches) but no smaller than 36 inches by 9 inches. If the dough shrinks back as you roll it out, cover it with a towel or plastic wrap for 5 minutes to let it rest and then continue rolling again.

Using an offset spatula, spread the Nutella evenly out onto the dough, spreading it out to all of the edges. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly out over the Nutella.

Place the dough in front of you with the long, 36-inch side towards you. Starting from the lower left side of the dough, use your fingertips to roll the dough, working your way from the left side to the right side and using your fingertips to the roll the dough into a roulade as tightly as possible. The tighter the roulade is rolled, the more layers of chocolate the babka will have. Once you’ve rolled the dough, gently pull the roulade so that it reaches about 48 to 50 inches in length. Using a serrated knife, cut the roulade in half lengthwise, along its 36-inch length. Cut the dough crosswise into 4 even pieces. You should now have 8 roulade halves in 4 pairs of 2. Place one of the pieces cut-side up. Place another piece on top (also with the cut-side up) to make an X with the two pieces. Twist the two halves around each other, gently pulling the dough to wrap the two pieces around each other. This is what gives the babka its telltale braided characteristic. Transfer the babka to one of the loaf pans and repeat this process with the remaining 6 roulade halves to make 4 babkas in total.

Cover the babkas with a towel or place in a clean plastic bag to cover completely. Set in a warm place until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. In the meantime, make the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350oF. Bake the babkas for 25 minutes in a convection oven or 30 minutes in a regular oven. Once they’re done baking, the babkas should be golden brown.

Remove from the oven and immediately brush generously with the sugar syrup. You should still have about a quarter of the syrup leftover after brushing the babkas. You can refrigerate the syrup for up to a week and reserve it for a later use.

Let the babkas cool completely at room temperature before turning them out from their loaf pans.


@Wendy, so what the difference in the final product between yu-dane and the traditional way?

@syke6 someone made a YouTube video showing the difference between tangzhen and yu-dane. They didn’t seem much different to me, which is why I did it the easy way – mixing some flour into water and heating in the microwave.

The major difference between the traditional way and the new way seems to be in delaying the time the bread stays moist instead of becoming stale. There is a YouTube video that shows this.

Challah with oil and eggs does not become stale rapidly because these ingredients interfere with crystallization of starch and losing moisture. Challah kept in a sealed plastic bag stays pliable for over a week at room temperature. Traditional bread lacking these ingredients will become stale in a day or two so delaying this can be significant.

1 Like

I had a history some three decades ago in the Pizza business. We made some 500 pizzas in less than a month. I went to another busier place that made far more.

The first place made a hard dough ball that would rise over the course of several days slowly in the walk in.

The busier place made a wetter dough that was given less time to be used.

The owner of the second place was a chip off Pepe’s in New Haven. His business in my shop was $27k per week. His store at one time in Glastonbury was doing $57k per week but his competition spread rumors that place was a hangout for kids. He did not have enough ovens in the place and the business fell off, the Glastonbury store.

He did other things. He chose a cheaper pepperoni because it had less salt. Pizza sauce and cheese have salt. He roasted small mushrooms and put them uncut on the pizza. He made meatballs to die for roasted as well. He used fresh mozz when no one in town in the business thought of it. He was an Italian out of NYC who thought he wanted to be Scottish. He was kicked out of restaurants across greater hartford because he’d get irate and critical in every restaurant causing a scene.

He knew what he was doing food wise but not businesswise. He never made his management grow properly for success. He stowed away trash bags of money and disappeared to NYC. He owns a shop near the Brooklyn Bridge today.

Cool! One of my teen sons works at a pizza place since they opened last summer. Apparently he’s getting good at it. Once in a while he makes himself a custom pizza, and they sound great. He’s working there right now as we speak!

The owner of the place refuses to use canned or jarred tomato sauce and insists on making his own. I can’t see how that could possibly be economical. Personally I find his tomato sauce to be too sweet (but the majority of customers seem to like it), so the rare times that I eat pizza, I choose a white pizza (no tomato sauce), and it is terrific.

The better place was using canned pear tomatoes. We would grind them and add oregano and pepper.

The other place was using tomato paste, water and crap for spices, herbs and sugar.

The better place had a specialty pie that was a white smoked salmon pie. It was excellent.

I’m pretty sure I would LOVE that!!!

Most of the time, fresh ingredients are going to be cheaper than canned or otherwise prepared, especially when buying in the bulk necessary for a restaurant. For something like tomato sauce that a pizza restaurant uses a lot of, it’s pretty much a guarantee.

Plus, fresh ingredients allow the chef to personalize the sauce (in this case) to make it his/her own and make it stand out from other restaurants. For tomato sauce, they might use a specific type of tomato, or a combination of tomatoes.



Tomatoes for a sauce are way over priced.

The canned skinless pear tomatoes were imported at a lower cost. Canned meant they could be.

Fresh tomatoes shipped in are gassed to make them go from green to red in the truck. The taste of fresh tomatoes shipped this way out of season and often in season is terrible. Well lets say there is little taste which is a shame.

1 Like

The ingredients may be cheaper, but once you add the labor it is way more expensive.


Well, that depends on the labor rate, and AFAIK home cooking hasn’t determined a labor rate. Some of the union benefits are great, however.