Saturday, September 12, 2015

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
A few weeks ago I got the latest King Arthur Flour catalog. It included a picture and recipe for Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. I've been wanting to try a roux-based recipe for a couple of years and finally determined to do it. It was an easy technique — heating a combo of milk, water, & flour until a roux is formed. After cooling, add the other ingredients and proceed as usual.

The end result was fluffy, slightly sweet, large dinner rolls. My husband thought they tasted similar to King's Hawaiian rolls. They were soft & fluffy but with a dense sturdiness that most uber-soft squishy rolls don't have. From what I've read, this techniques can be used with most bread recipes. We'll see...

To make this recipe low sodium, I halved both the salt and yeast quantities. I never have whole, liquid milk in the fridge, so I reconstituted powdered dry whole milk that I keep in my freezer. I do have KAF Baker’s Special Dry Milk, but regular, grocery store nonfat dry milk will work just fine.  Thanks to the sugar and milk, the recipe makes a sweet roll. If you’d prefer something less sweet, use only 2 tablespoons sugar. I used my bread machine’s knead and rise cycles.

Here is the KAF recipe:

Also referred to as Hokkaido milk bread, these rolls are incredibly soft and airy thanks to a simple technique involving a roux "starter," known as tangzhong. The roux is mixed into the final dough, producing wonderfully tender bread each and every time.

Tangzhong (starter)

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (I used reconstituted whole dry milk)
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour


  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used ½ tsp. salt)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (I used 1½ tsp. or ½ tbsp. yeast)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used reconstituted whole dry milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted unsalted butter


  1. To make the tangzhong: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to room temperature.
  4. To make the dough: Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, divide it into 8 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.
  7. Place the rolls into a lightly greased round bun pan. Cover the pan, and let the rolls rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy. To use another pan, see "tips," below.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for 28 to 32 minutes, until golden brown on top; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll should read at least 190°F.
  9. Remove the rolls from the oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Whole Wheat Rolls
A week later I also made a whole wheat version of the Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. The recipe calls for 2-1/2 cups of flour, and I substituted 1 cup of white whole wheat flour. Next time I make them, I will try 50%. Neither one of us noticed an appreciable difference. They were still quite soft and very tasty.

The rolls are, of course, good as big dinner rolls. But they’re also good for breakfast with some unsalted butter or peanut butter & jam. Or cream cheese & jam. Or as vehicles for all kinds of sliders.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Pepper with Chorizo  & Ro-Tel
My husband loves stuffed peppers, and they make such an easy meal, especially if there’s leftover rice available. The color doesn’t matter — green, red, yellow, or orange. They all taste great!

We’ve got a rice cooker, so we often make several cups of brown rice at a time. Usually with salt-free chicken broth to add more flavor. I often freeze 1-2 cup portions for later. But no matter what my original plan may be, I always make stuffed peppers with leftovers. I combine the cooked rice with seasoned ground meat, chopped onion, minced garlic, a bit of chicken broth, and often a canned tomato product of some sort (tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, etc). Most of the time, I favor a Mexican style seasoning (chili powder & cumin), but Italian (basil & oregano) or Greek (dill, oregano, & lemon) spice blends are delicious too.

Last week I made chorizo and rice stuffed peppers. I used 8 oz of chorizo from a local sausage maker. The store prides itself on producing pastured pork products of high quality (no snouts or entrails) and using a lot less salt than the name brands sold at grocery stores. I’ve also made my own homemade salt-free chorizo. Homemade Italian sausage is also quite good. For best results, I combine whatever spices I’m using with the ground meat at least a couple of hours before cooking. Letting the mixture chill overnight is even better.

Along with the rice & chorizo, I mixed in a generous amount of salt-free frozen corn. Added about ½ cup of salt-free chicken broth and about ¼ cup of a new favorite product — Salt Free Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies. I stuffed the par-cooked peppers and poured the remainder of the Ro-Tel on top and around them. Into the oven for about 30 minutes until everything was heated through. Sometimes I’ll add a light sprinkling of cheese: Cheddar for Mexican; mozzarella or Parmesan for Italian; Feta for Greek. But the cheese is not necessary at all. The peppers are flavorful all on their own.
I don’t really follow an official recipe. The stuffed peppers can be adjusted to your particular tastes or what’s in your pantry or fridge. Use more rice if desired. Or less meat. Add whatever vegetables you think fit the flavor profile you’re targeting.

Stuffed Peppers

4 large bell peppers, any color
1½ - 2 cups rice, cooked with salt-free broth or water
½ - 1 lb ground meat
Chopped onion
Minced garlic
Seasoning spices of choice (no salt added)
Vegetable of choice (salt free)
¼ - ½ cup low sodium broth of choice
¼ cup low sodium/salt free canned tomatoes for filling (optional)
Additional low sodium broth or canned tomatoes for pouring over peppers before baking

Combine seasoning spices with ground meat at least 1 hour before cooking. Letting the mixture chill longer improves the overall flavor.

Brown ground meat along with chopped onions & minced garlic. Drain excess fat if needed. Add vegetable, if using. Add broth & canned tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes until everything is hot.

In the meantime, wash the peppers and cut off the tops. (reserve tops for another use) Discard seeds and membranes. (I use a melon baller & serrated grapefruit spoon) Place peppers, cut sides down, in a baking dish; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at high 2 mins. Turn over with the hollowed sides facing upward; cover, and microwave again for 2 mins. Cool.
Ready for Baking
Stuff peppers with filling. Either save extra filling for another meal (burritos, tacos, omelets, etc.) or spoon extra around peppers. Pour ½ - 1 cup of low sodium broth or canned tomato product over the stuffed peppers.  

Cover and bake 30 minutes at 350° in a preheated oven until heated through and the peppers are tender.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hamburger Gravy

Hamburger Gravy on Homemade Low Sodium Bread
Rummaging through the freezer a couple of days ago, I came across a languishing package of ground beef. All kinds of possibilities, but I was feeling lazy. So I made one of my husband's favorites Hamburger Gravy.

When we were first married, he introduced me to the combination of ground beef and cream of mushroom soup a "delicacy" that I'd never had before. As the years went by, I added fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Little by little, the cream of mushroom soup faded into the background and eventually disappeared.

He still loves the stuff, so I make it every once in a while. It's quick, simple, and pretty tasty even though it’s now low sodium. Not bad ladled over slices of bread, baked or mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, and even popovers.

There’s no official recipe. And it can be adjusted to your particular tastes or what’s in your pantry or fridge. I usually add fresh sliced mushrooms but sometimes resort to the unsalted canned mushrooms from Healthy Heart Market. I use Kitchen Basics or Swanson unsalted beef broth. To intensify the beefy flavor, I’ll also add a packet of Herb-Ox salt-free dry beef granules. You could use some cream or milk along with broth to give the gravy a creamy consistency. Or even add some sour cream at the end. If you want, you can even make a chicken/turkey version. Just change the broth and seasonings.

Hamburger Gravy Meal on My New "Dinnerware"

1 lb fairly lean ground meat
Approximately 1 cup chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Fresh or canned mushrooms
1-2 tbsp flour (quantity depends on how thick you want your final gravy to be)
2 cups no-salt-added broth
1-2 tsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce

Add salt-free beef broth dry granules
Substitute ½ cup - 1 cup milk or cream for some of broth
Add ½ cup sour cream just before serving

Brown ground beef along with chopped onion . Add oil if needed. Add garlic and mushrooms. Once all vegetables are softened, add flour and cook for at least two minutes. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Simmer over low heat until thickened. Add additional broth if needed.

Ladle over slices of bread, baked or mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.