GUEST POST | Becoming a Japanese bread baker.

Today, I am excited to bring you Kosuke’s second guest post. (For his first guest post, check out Meal Prep: Grocery Shopping List.)

Having grown up in Japan, Kosuke is fond of the fluffy, soft, slightly sweet milk bread common in Japanese bakeries. Since that Japanese-style bread is hard to find in the U.S., Kosuke has decided to learn to make it himself. This post is the first in a series chronicling his bread baking adventures. Enjoy!

 

Hi, this is Kosuke. I’m here to introduce my bread-making journey, and share the recipes (with cute photos of bread).

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First bread! Looks pretty successful.

Starting from somewhere a bit far from bread making…

When I was in college in Japan, I used to take midnight buses for 7-8 hours between Tokyo and Kobe/Osaka during school holidays to go back home.Looking back (although I feel I would be too exhausted if I do that now) I enjoyed the feeling of “traveling” in a positive way instead of seeing the bus as just cheap transportation. That feeling allowed me to enjoy snacking during break time at places called “service areas”, where drivers can stop and rest a bit before another long drive on highways. (The “service area” industry is quite huge in Japan…)

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Highway service areas are totally a weekend destination in Japan.

 

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Bathroom in a highway service area with fresh flowers!
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Another highway service area bathroom with an electronic board showing open stalls.

Not only this service area culture, I really appreciate the part of Japanese culture of trying to make uncomfortable and inconvenient situations as pleasant as possible. When Jessy had 6 hours of layover at Narita airport, she used a “refresh room”  inside of the airport. She could rent the room for several hours to take a nap, take a shower, and do some computer work in a private space, while she was waiting for the next flight. Service areas on the highway and refresh rooms at the airport are like an oasis in a desert (well, traveling itself is enjoyable and saying “desert” sounds a bit too extreme).

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Tokyo Narita Airport “Refresh Room.”

Coming back to my story about midnight bus rides… what I also enjoyed besides the service areas was eating a “morning set” at the bus terminal.

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When you say “morning set” in Japan, it usually means a very simple and small western style breakfast with coffee, a piece of toast, and an egg. It sometimes has more than that, like bacon/sausage and fruit juice. Anyway, eating a “morning set” somehow gave me a sense of traveling, too. The café inside of Osaka station where I used to go to early in the morning after the bus ride is called Café de Clever. It opens at 6am.

 

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Credit: soda-travel.info.

 

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Credit: soda-travel.info.

Ok now about bread making!

As a person who grew up in the culture where people enjoy very fluffy toast in the morning, I have been seriously thinking about baking bread myself, especially since I cannot find Japanese style fluffy bread easily in the US. Then, Jessy got me a book called “Ouchi Pan” (meaning “bread making at home”) when we visited my family during New Years this year. An amazing thing about this book is that it requires very few tools! All you need is – a measuring cup, a dough scraper, and a rolling pin. No appliances like a scale and a mixer! How amazing, especially for a minimalist like me.

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Recipe for PETIT PAIN

Ingredients

Bread flour — 2 cups

Salt — 1 teaspoon

Sugar — 1 tablespoon

Boiled water — 1/3 cup

Milk — ½ cup (use cold milk straight from the fridge)

Dry yeast — 1 teaspoon

Butter — 2 tablespoon (use cold and hard butter straight from the fridge)

Oil to spread on inside of the bowl – as needed

Flour for sprinkling on the counter – as needed

Preparation

Using a whisk, mix salt, sugar, and boiled water in a bowl until salt and sugar melt completely. Add cold milk and mix.

Add dry yeast and wait for a little until it starts melting. Then mix well.

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Dough making

Add bread flour into the bowl and mix it with the prepared milk using a spatula until the dough absorbs all of the milk. Then switch to a dough scraper and cut and knead the dough to make it even.

Move the dough to the counter. Stretch it using your palm, scrape it up together with the dough scraper, and repeat those for about a minute (until the dough holds together well enough so that it peels off smoothly from the counter).

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Push down the dough, fold it in half, and repeat those for about a minute (until the dough surface becomes smooth).

Pound butter gently by hand to stretch it. Stretch the dough and put the stretched butter on top of it. Rip it up, crumple it up, and repeat those until butter completely gets mixed with the dough.

Throw the dough straight down to the counter from 2 to 3 feet high, 30 times. Then make a ball stretching the top surface. Spread oil on inside of a bowl, put the dough in the bowl, and put plastic wrap on it. Let it leaven for 50 to 60 minutes. It inflates a little.

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Shaping the dough

Sprinkle flour on the counter. Move the dough to the counter, keeping top as top. Push it down lightly to release the air inside. Cut it into 4 pieces. (I did 8 pieces.)

Take one piece and make a ball by stretching the outer edge and tucking up at the bottom. Pinch the bottom center to make sure it is closed. Repeat those for all the remaining pieces.

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Put cooking sheet on an oven pan. Put the dough balls on the sheet evenly with some space between each other. Cover them with wet cloth and let them sit for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle flour on the counter again. Move the dough balls to the counter, push them down lightly to release air inside, and make balls again.

Put them in array on the cooking sheet, cover with a wet cloth, and wait for 40 to 50 minutes.

Baking

Sprinkle some flour through a fine screen onto the dough balls. Bake them in an oven pre-heated at 400F.

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“Morning Set” with matcha green tea, fresh OJ, blueberries and yogurt.

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(Recipe adapted from お家パン.)

Thanks for reading! What kind of bread do you like to eat? How do you like to eat it? Leave any comments or thoughts below.

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Check back again next week. New recipes and musings on Japan posted twice a week!

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