Cook's Illustrated

Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

ears ago, I developed a popular recipe for light, fluffy dinner rolls. The key to the recipe’s success? A baking technique commonly called by its Chinese name, tangzhong, thanks to being widely popularized by Taiwanese cook Yvonne Chen in her recipe for fluffy Hokkaido milk bread. The term, which loosely translates as “hot-water roux,” refers to a pudding-like mixture made by cooking a small amount of flour in water until the two form a gel. Mixing that gel into my dough enabled me to add a high proportion of water without making the dough unworkably soft and sticky, because some of the water was effectively “locked away” in the gel. When the rolls hit the oven, that abundance of water turned to steam and inflated the rolls, making them light and soft. The gel also extended the shelf life of the rolls, so they remained moist even on the next day.

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