How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong: a surefire path to softer bread and rolls

You love your grandma’s homemade sandwich bread recipe, but wish it was just a bit more tender and less crumbly. You’ve found a recipe online for cinnamon rolls but are bummed at how quickly they harden up and become dry once they’re out of the oven. Want to make your favorite yeast bread and rolls reliably soft and tender? Tangzhong is the solution.

Tangzhong, an Asian technique for making soft, fluffy yeast bread, involves cooking a portion of the flour and liquid in the recipe into a thick slurry prior to adding the remaining ingredients.

This pre-cooking accomplishes two positive things: it makes bread or rolls softer and more tender, and extends their shelf life. For the science behind this, read our Introduction to tangzhong.

Tangzhong: the best thing to happen to soft bread and rolls since... well, since sliced bread. Click To Tweet

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

If you’ve tried our Japanese Milk Bread Rolls or Soft Cinnamon Rolls, you know how deliciously tender they are. And you’ve probably thought about trying tangzhong with some of your own favorite yeast recipes. Softer, moister dinner rolls? Nothing wrong with that.

How to build tangzhong into your favorite recipes

So how, exactly, do you convert a standard yeast bread recipe to use tangzhong?

Thoughtfully.

Start by managing your expectations. Do you really want to pair tangzhong (soft, tender bread) with crusty baguettes or chewy bagels? That would be like making potato chips in a steamer: it goes against the nature of the beast.

It’s important to choose an appropriate recipe: a yeast bread that’s inherently soft, tender, and light. Be it a white sandwich loaf or buttery dinner rolls, tangzhong will enhance bread’s texture, and keep it fresher longer.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

It all starts with hydration

Once you’ve chosen a recipe, you need to determine its hydration: the percentage of water (or other liquid) compared to flour, by weight. A dough’s hydration determines how stiff or soft it’ll be, and also influences how vigorously it rises. Finished loaves with low hydration are usually dense and dry; those with higher hydration, soft and moist.

To take a simple example, a recipe that includes 75g of water and 100g of flour has a hydration of 75%. Or here’s an example in American weights: a recipe using 1 cup water (8 ounces) and 3 cups flour (12 3/4 ounces) has a hydration of 63% (8 divided by 12 3/4).

Don’t have a scale? I highly recommend you acquire one, because trying the tangzhong technique without a scale requires quite a lot of extra effort converting volume to weight.

And by the way, if you’re following an older recipe that most likely doesn’t include ingredient weights, see our handy ingredients weight chart.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

The typical sandwich bread or dinner roll recipe (like these Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns) has a hydration level of around 60% to 65%.

But when you’re using the tangzhong method, you want your recipe’s hydration to be about 75%.

Why? Because when using tangzhong, some of the liquid in the dough is “trapped” by the pre-cooked slurry (the tangzhong), and thus plays no part in the dough’s texture; as far as hydration is concerned, it’s as if that liquid isn’t even there.

Let’s say your original recipe’s hydration is 60%. When you transfer some of its liquid to the tangzhong, the resulting dough will behave as if its hydration is much lower.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

The dough will be stiff and dry, which can inhibit its rise and lead to dense, heavy bread.

So in order to wind up with dough that’s as soft and smooth as the original, you need to add more liquid initially.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

Test case: Our Favorite Sandwich Bread

Let’s convert this popular recipe to use tangzhong and see how it goes.

1 cup (227g) milk
2 tablespoons (28g) butter
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (361g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

What’s this dough’s hydration? 227g (weight of milk) divided by 361g (weight of flour) = 63% hydration.

But remember, in order to use tangzhong you want your hydration to be 75%: the liquid should equal 75% of the weight of the flour.

Do your arithmetic: 361g x .75 = 271g. So you want the amount of milk in the recipe to be 271g, not 227g. Result? You’ll add 44g additional milk to your recipe.

Making the dough

Let’s see how this works. I’ll make the recipe three ways:

(A), as written, with a hydration of 63%;
(B), using tangzhong without increasing the recipe’s hydration to 75%;
(C), using tangzhong after increasing the recipe’s hydration to 75% by adding 44g milk.

First I make the tangzhong slurry, the cooked mixture of flour and liquid. A standard slurry uses between 5% and 10% of the flour in the recipe and is composed of one part flour to five parts liquid (by weight).

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

This slurry was made in a saucepan, but it’s quickly and easily done in a microwave as well.

I’ve now made this standard slurry often enough that this is what I use for any yeast recipe calling for between 3 and 4 cups of flour: 3 tablespoons (23g) of the flour in the recipe + 1/2 cup (113g) of the liquid.

Remember, you’re using flour and liquid from the recipe, not adding extra flour and liquid! Take that into account when you’re measuring out the remaining flour and liquid for the dough.

For each of the test loaves using the slurry (B and C), I combine 23g of the recipe’s flour with 115g of the recipe’s milk. I cook the mixture over medium heat until it thickens, and put it into the mixing bowl to cool down a bit while I assemble the other ingredients.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

Next, I mix and knead the three doughs. (A), the control, is soft and smooth; (B), with the slurry but without any added milk, stiff and gnarly; and (C), with the slurry and added milk, very similar to (A), perhaps a bit softer.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

Rising and baking

I let the doughs rise, then shape them into loaves and place each in an unlidded 9″ pain de mie pan (my loaf pan of choice). I let the loaves rise, then bake them.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

Look at the difference! (A), the original recipe, and (C), the added milk/slurry recipe, (C), rise beautifully. (B), the recipe using the slurry but without any added milk, rises much less.

It’s impossible to photograph texture and moistness, but right out of the oven (C) is slightly moister and more tender than the original loaf (A). After a few days, (C), the loaf with the slurry, is still nice and fresh; while the original loaf is definitely showing signs of staleness.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

Conclusion: 75% hydration + tangzhong is a winner

Bottom line: By bringing your favorite sandwich bread or dinner roll recipe to 75% hydration and then using tangzhong in the dough, you’ll make bread that’s softer, lighter, more tender, and with longer shelf life than the original.

Extra credit: determining water content

Once you feel comfortable with the basics of tangzhong, you can try fine-tuning your hydration math. While water is obviously 100% water, there may be other ingredients in your dough that are adding to its hydration: for instance, eggs or honey.

This fine-tuning is potentially only necessary in recipes that use a lot of butter and/or eggs, like brioche; or recipes with a significant amount of liquid sweetener.

Truthfully, most of my colleagues here at King Arthur consider simply the main liquid and flour when assessing a recipe’s hydration. Because almost all of the time, that level of simplicity is fine: If your recipe includes just 2 tablespoons of butter, its minuscule water content isn’t going to make or break your bread. Still, once you’ve got the calculator out, it’s fun to take this extra step towards accuracy.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflourHow to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

If you want to drill down with hydration, here’s a list of common yeast bread ingredients and their percentage of water:

Milk: 87% water
Large eggs: 74% water (1 large shelled egg weighs 50g)
Liquid sweeteners (e.g., honey): 17% water
American-style butter: 16% water
Vegetable oil: 0% water (100% fat)

Use the information above to calculate how many grams of water are in any of these “rogue” ingredients in your recipe. Then add them to the total grams of the main liquid before calculating hydration.

How to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflourHow to convert a bread recipe to tangzhong via @kingarthurflour

A final note on hydration

A great variety of factors come into play when you’re baking yeast bread, and some of these affect hydration. Keep the following in mind as you experiment with tangzhong:

Mashed potatoes or other mashed fruits/vegetables (pumpkin, squash) can affect dough’s hydration. There’s no way to judge their effect ahead of time; it’s best to add them, then adjust dough’s consistency with additional flour if necessary.

Hot/humid weather increases flour’s moisture content; cold, dry weather makes flour drier. You’ll typically use a bit less liquid in yeast recipes in summer, a bit more in winter; see our blog post, Winter to summer yeast baking.

Sourdough starter can be thick and viscous, quite thin, or anything in between. As with mashed vegetables, adjust the mixed dough’s consistency as needed.

Have you tried baking yeast bread or rolls using the tangzhong technique yet? If so, how did you like the results? Please add your thoughts in comments, below.

For more on tangzhong:
Introduction to tangzhong: an intriguing technique for softer yeast bread and rolls

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Regine

    Hello. Wow. Wow. I have a sweet brioche recipe that I make in a Bundt. It looks like a regular Bundt cake but when you slice it, it is a really light and airy sweet brioche. Although I already knew of the Tangzhong method (in fact, I had already tried it in other recipes), I never thought to use it with this recipe until I read your instructions and new idea (at least to me) of adjusting the hydration to 75%. After adjusting the hydration level (flour was 250 grams so the original 100 grams of milk was adjusted to 187.5), I took 7% (between the 5%-10% recommended) of the flour (and 5 times the amount in milk) to make the slurry.The end product was a revelation! It was way more soft and moist. It almost had the same texture as the Italian Pandoro; actually mine might have been even more moist and soft. I wish I could upload some pictures. Thank you! Regine

    Reply
  2. Jen

    Pls. pls. pls. HELP ME I can’t seem to do the math.
    For all my liquid ingredients:
    1C milk
    1/4 C warm water
    3 egg YOLKS only
    For my dry ingredients:
    3 1/2 C flour

    How much flour and liquid ingredients will it be to come up with the 75% hydration to make tangzong roux. Can you pls. do the math for me. I been trying for days but it seems that I can’t get it right. Pls help me do the calculations. Math is not my strong. Thank you very much

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jen, we love that you’re so persistent in your quest to adapt your recipe! One of the reasons we share posts like this is to empower people to adapt their recipes on their own, as we’re not able to tackle the large number of conversion requests we would otherwise receive. We totally understand that it’s a challenging process. However, don’t lose hope, because this math doesn’t have to be as tricky as it is for you right now! Volumetric measurements make this kind of conversion really fussy from a mathematical perspective as well as in terms of accuracy. So while we can’t comment on your specific recipe, we expect that the math will simplify itself greatly if you try measuring your ingredients in grams instead. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

  3. Anne Clayton

    So I’m working with the challah recipe from the Rose Levy Beranbaum Bread Bible. I’ve calculated a native hydration level of 47%, taking into account the water, eggs, honey & vinegar (total fluid quantity is 380g). The recipe calls for a total of 804g of flour, so it seems that to get to a hydration level of 75%, I’m going to have to add 223g of water. Does this seem right? There are 5 eggs, 142g water & 160g of honey. Thanks for your help!!

    Reply
  4. Chef Sandy

    A question about the soft cinnamon rolls vs. your KAF Cinna-bun recipe. Both have about the same amount of flour, eggs, milk, etc., so how do you get 24 rolls out of the former and do you put all 24 in the same 9″ x 13″ pan or do you use 2 pans.
    (BTW, I make the Cinna-buns and sell at a farmer’s market. Everyone loves the amount of cinnamon in thise. Think I’ll try it with the soft TZ version.)
    P.S. I’ve made your Japanese milk bread and love it for toast, just like what we had in Japan many years ago. Bake on, PJ.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The Cinna-Buns are much larger and generous than the Soft Cinnamon Rolls, especially in the thickness/height of each roll. The Cinna-Bun dough is rolled up from the short edge of the dough, while the Soft Cinnamon Roll dough is rolled up the long way, creating a thinner, longer tube that can be cut into more slices. Since there are more of the shorter Soft Cinnamon Rolls, that recipe calls for a larger pan to ensure they have enough room to rise and bake evenly. We hope that helps clarify. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  5. KAFdevotee

    Would you include the weight of dry milk and potato flour into your flour conversion, i.e., if a recipe had 567 g flour + 35 g. of dry milk and potato flour (each) would you use 637 g. or just 567 g. to do your 75% conversion? (You may notice that I’m trying to convert your wonderful pain de mie recipe to tangzhong!) Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there fellow baker, you’ll want to only consider the flour weight when trying to figure out the hydration of your recipes. It’s that easy! Good luck with the tangzhong version of the Pain de Mie. It’s going to be delicious! Kye@KAF

  6. Ann

    Will this method work with a dough recipe that already calls for >75% hydration and water + dried milk? Someone suggested using this method for your cinnamon star bread recipe and I’d love to give it a try, just not quite sure how.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ann, that would be an interesting experiment! We haven’t tried it here in our test kitchen, but it seems like it would make the dough a bit challenging to work with. In a recipe like our Cinnamon Star Bread — which requires a lot of shaping — that could make things extra tricky. If you do decide to give it a go, let us know how it turned out! Baking is a series of experiments, and we’re always happy to learn what’s working for people and what isn’t. Kat@KAF

    2. Susan

      I am curious how it turned out,and how long it stayed fresh, if it lasted long enough to know. It usually doesn’t.

  7. Michael

    Hi! Looking forward to trying this method. Using a mixture of white flour (with essential gluten added to raise protein percentage) and whole wheat flour. I assume to make the mixture, I should use white flour but, will the whole wheat flour effect the outcome?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Michael! We’ve found that the tangzhong works great with whole wheat bread. It helps improve the shelf life just like with a white bread. In fact, we have a new blog post that goes into detail about this exact topic; it’s called Tangzhong beyond white bread. We hope you like it! Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  8. Nancy

    Hi, I do not take milk or butter, but love to bake. I like to try the tangzhong method of making bread. Please tell me if there is any substitute for milk and butter in most of the recipes using tangzhong method. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      No problem, Nancy! Use your favorite vegan butter and non-dairy milk as a 1:1 substitute. Annabelle@KAF

    2. Nancy

      Hi Annabelle, thank you for the reply. I have another question. What would happen if I replace the milk and butter with water and oil in making bread using the tangzhong method. Will that change end result of the bread and will it be soft and fluffy in this case? Also does it matter if I use all purpose flour or bread flour in this scenario?
      Thanks, Nancy

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      There would be some changes in flavor, texture, and appearance, but it would still make for a really nice bread. The texture won’t be quite as tender, the flavor won’t be quite as rich, and the loaf won’t brown as much. However, we think it’s worth trying! Annabelle@KAF

  9. Rachel

    How can you work with bread at a 75% hydration?
    I tried to convert a One Hour Cinnamon Roll recipe to a tangzhong method and it was darn near impossible to form that dough. It was just too fluid and free moving and I had to add in more flour as I was rolling it out. I will say that it was absolutely the softest cinnamon roll I have ever had. It pulled apart in gushy pillow like layers.
    How can I keep the softness but still be able to work with the dough? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re sorry to hear that recipe gave you some trouble, Rachel. We encourage you to try out our Soft Cinnamon Rolls recipe which is written using a tangzhong. The recipes tested in this article had 75% hydration so we’re not sure why it made for such a squishy dough — though it’s hard to know without having more info on the recipe itself. We’d love the chance to talk through it with you, so we encourage you to reach out to our free and friendly Baker’s Hotline staff to help troubleshoot at 855-371-BAKE (2253). Kindly, Annabelle@KAF

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