Today I did something I haven’t done in a few months; I baked a loaf of bread and then I sat down and I wrote about it. Keeping up with school and also putting in enough love and time into F2B has been a big challenge for me in the last year. I was having a very difficult time juggling both and to be really honest, I was feeling too exhausted and uninspired to do much else.
It wasn’t until I was chatting with my Mom over the phone the other day that I felt, for the first time in a while, a pull towards this space. She’d been bugging me every so often, asking why it had been so long since I’d done a post. I brushed it off and told her I was too busy right now. But this time, when she asked again, she told me that she missed reading my posts. She always loved reading what I wrote here, following the recipes she thought she could tackle, and simply being able to get a little peek into my life from across the ocean. She urged me to find the time. Fast forward a few more days and a friend from school mentioned that her friend who happens to follow the blog had asked about the radio silence too (Hi Robby!). It was then that I was reminded of why I started blogging in the first place. In the last few years, this blog has since turned into a way for me to share food with people from all over the internet, but from the start, its purpose was to connect virtually and through food with my friends and family wherever they may be. And though Moms are always kinda supposed to be your biggest fans, I realized that maybe (for the millionth time in my life) she was right.
Mother’s Day is specifically how I send a little extra love my Mama’s way. I’ve sent her a homemade scone mix, and the year before that I posted a recipe on mini coffee cakes. Sharing foods that remind me of moments from my childhood is my way of expressing my love and appreciation for my Mom and the wonderful memories she’s given me.
This year, I made the sandwich bread of my childhood: shokupan. This is a classic Japanese bread, simple, light yet chewy, and incredibly perfect toasted. I know my Mom still loves it because I see a loaf or two hidden in the freezer whenever I’m back home. I have a very distinct memory of sitting in the backseat of our old black Honda Accord on my way to preschool. My Dad driving us over the Pali and my Mom seated next to me with my favorite lunch in all the 3-year old world, laughing cow cheese spread between two pieces of crustless whole-wheat shokupan. I was going through a Lion King phase at this time and was listening to the read-a-long audiobook in the car. I only know this because every time I hear a thick African accent my mind immediately goes to this sandwich and has be craving it. A perfect example of Pavlov’s law. It is a simple memory for a simple food, yet both filled with so much love and comfort. I wouldn’t trade either for anything in the world. Really though, I love bread and you will at most be allowed one bite of my sandwich.
Though delicious and something that holds a special place in my heart, the shokupan I ate as a child was never homemade. My Mom always bought it from a local bakery when we’d go grocery shopping on the weekends with my Grandma. Making this bread at home and eating it totally fresh and for the first time in years felt like one giant hug for my soul… and dare I say it, tasted even more delicious than the store-bought variety of my childhood. Homemade bread is a game-changer, but this right here is some next level bread. The hardest part is waiting an extra 15 minutes for the bread to set up after it comes out of the oven all steamy and golden brown. But just imagine how amazing your kitchen will smell in the mean time 🙂
PS: Been watching Season 2 of Master of None – episode 6 is JUST THE BEST THING.
Shokupan (Japanese Sandwich Bread)
Recipe from Dreams of Dashi
for the tangzhong
20g bread flour
330g bread flour
24g white granulated sugar
14g dry milk powder
4g instant yeast
95g warm water
1 large egg (around 50g)
20g unsalted butter
1. To make the tangzhong, add the water to a small saucepan on medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to stir until the roux has thickened into a pudding like consistency. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a standmixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, and yeast. Add in the warm water, egg, and tangzhong. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for about 5 minutes on medium speed (level 4 on a KitchenAid standmixer). The dough will look dry but should come together after 5 minutes.
3. After 5 minutes, add in the butter and knead on medium speed for an additional 10-12 minutes. The dough will be rather tacky. Form it into a ball and place in a well greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and cut the dough into two equal pieces (I like using a scale for this). Roll each piece into a ball and let sit on your work surface covered with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes.
5. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough and fold into thirds to form a cylinder. Roll out the dough one more time and roll up into a cylinder again. Pinch the seam closed and place the log of dough on one half of the loaf pan, seam side facing down. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Let the dough rise in a warm place for another 40 minutes to an hour until the dough has risen at least 4 inches in height and there are no longer any gaps at the bottom of the pan.
6. Place the loaf in the oven and begin preheating to 350F. Bake for a total of 35 minutes. If the bread browns too quickly, use a piece of foil to cover the top of the loaf. When finished, the loaf will be well browned and sound hollow when lightly tapped.
7. Remove immediately from the pan and let cool to room temperature. Let the bread set up for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!