Skip to main content
bread

Yudane and Tangzhong: Bread-Baking Techniques for Ultraplush Bread

Want the softest, most feathery-light bread you can imagine? These methods allow bakers to add extra moisture to doughs, maximizing softness and shelf life. 
By Published Nov. 28, 2022

If there was ever a bread that would make you want to bury your face in its pillowy softness, it’s shokupan, the Japanese white bread baked in a Pullman pan.

This bread commonly achieves its extraordinary texture through a baker’s magic trick of sorts: a paste of flour and water that gets mixed into the dough, maximizing the amount of moisture it can hold.

The paste can be made through one of two very similar techniques. Both share the same characters— 湯種—but in English, one is known by its Japanese name, "yudane," and the other by the Chinese name "tangzhong."

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

How Yudane and Tangzhong Work

When making bread, you can only mix so much water into the dough before it becomes so sticky and floppy that it’s impossible to shape. That puts limits on how moist and tender the final bread will be—and how long it can stay that way.

But the yudane and tangzhong methods each allow you to incorporate more water into the dough without making it overly wet and hard to handle. 

The essential tactic is to cook some of the flour with some of the water, creating a sort of pudding in which water is trapped by gelled starch so that it can't make the dough too loose. That mixture, with its secret cargo of water, is then combined with the rest of the dough and mixed as usual. 

When the bread bakes, it becomes wonderfully moist and plush and retains that fresh-from-the-oven quality longer than conventional rolls and loaves. 

Both methods can achieve the same outcome, but they are slightly different from one another.

Book

Bread Illustrated

Our first cookbook devoted solely to bread baking highlights more than 100 meticulously tested recipes that will enable you to bake artisan bakery–quality bread at home.

What Is the Yudane Method?

In this approach, you precook the starch by stirring boiling water into flour, often in a ratio of 1 part water to an equal weight of flour (the exact proportions can vary), and then you cool the mixture and combine it with the other ingredients to make the dough.

Andrea Geary used the yudane method to great effect in her recipe for Shokupan and Oatmeal Dinner Rolls, allowing her to create a beautifully workable dough that baked into a tender baked good. 

What Is the Tangzhong Method?

Tangzhong differs from yudane in how the starch is cooked and because it uses more water, which leads to a wetter, more puddinglike texture. Classically, you combine 1 part flour with 4 parts water in a saucepan; stir and heat the mixture until it thickens. 

In our recipes we have developed a microwave tangzhong technique, which we’ve used to produce tender, ultraplush breads in recipes from Andrea Geary’s Fluffy Dinner Rolls, Sticky Buns, and Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns) to Lan Lam’s Easy-Braid Challah

Watch Lan Lam explain this technique and demonstrate it below.

The History Behind Yudane and Tangzhong

The origins of these techniques are hazy, but the yudane method seems to have originated in Japan (there is a 2001 patent for commercial use of the technique). The tangzhong method was popularized by Taiwanese chef Yvonne Chen in 2007 and thanks to her, became known by its Mandarin name.

In Europe, methods using precooked flour exist in various traditions, such as Scandinavian scalded rye breads. 

Are Tangzhong and Yudane Interchangeable?

Although both methods cook flour and water together to create a gelled starch roux, you can't simply swap one for the other when following a recipe, because the amounts of ingredients differ: Tangzhong incorporates up to four times as much water in a dough as yudane does. If you swapped tangzhong for yudane, you'd have to tweak the amounts of flour and liquid in the rest of the dough accordingly.

Shokupan (Japanese White Bread)

With its thin crust, cloudlike crumb, and enduring freshness, Japan’s shokupan is a baker’s delight. 
Get the Recipe

Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

Can't choose between plush, soft rolls and those with the more interesting flavors and textures of whole grains? Great news: You don't have to.
Get the Recipe

Savory Corn Muffins

Not just for breakfast, these quick, tender, corn muffins rely on one simple method and one key ingredient.
Get the Recipe

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.