It’s no surprise just how powerful a good food photo can be. I mean, scroll through your Instagram feed and you’ll find dozens of food pics or foodie shots as I call them- each more tantalizing than the last. When you follow enough baking accounts like I do, these become far more frequent. One such shot was from Little Epicurean, a food blogger, who posted a picture of her Ube Milk Bread which was super stunning. Maryanne Cabrera is a Filipina pastry chef who makes all sorts of desserts and traditional Filipino dishes, as well as some that she puts her own spin on. The one that caught my eye was her ube milk bread which is a riff on Japanese milk bread or shokupan, which gets marbled together with an ube version of the dough to create the stunning look. Ube is such a beloved flavor here on Guam, and is becoming widespread in the States, that I wanted to give this one a try. Now Maryanne’s recipe calls for “ube powder” which is basically dried ube- and try as I might, I could not find it anywhere. I even ventured to a few Filipino markets, only to come up short. I do, however, happen to have this ube drink mix which I figure could be a reasonable substitute- I yam a semi-professional after all. (ba dum tss)
Maryanne’s recipe calls for making two separate doughs, so I broke out each of my mixers and got to working on both simultaneously. If you happen to not have two mixers, which I really can’t see why you wouldn’t, simply work on the plain dough before the ube dough. The whole process starts by making up a tanzhong, or water roux, which is what gives milk bread it’s soft texture. It’s made by cooking bread flour, milk and water together until thickened to a paste which is then cooled down before using. The plain milk bread dough comes together by adding all of the ingredients (sans butter) into the bowl and mixing. More bread flour, sugar, yeast, half an egg (don’t throw out the rest), milk, salt and milk powder get kneaded until combined before the butter is added in. I ended up halving the whole recipe as I wanted to test whether the ube drink mix would work, and didn’t want to get stuck with two loaves in case it didn’t. Once the butter is added, knead again for another 5-7 minutes or until the dough barely cleans the sides of the bowl. Transfer that to a greased bowl, cover it, and let rise until doubled in size. The ube dough follows the same exact process. The ube drink mix I had is actually a combination of dried ube, milk powder and sugar, so i essentially used it for the amounts of ube and milk powder that’s in the recipe. I also added some ube flavoring which I managed to find at one of those Filipino stores. Knead and then rise just the same as the first, but ensure that the two doughs are a similar texture as they’ll be worked in together later.
Once the doughs are risen, release the air and divide each into four pieces. Then, starting with the plain dough, roll it out to about an 8×5” rectangle. Really you don’t have to be precise, just get the general size. Do the same with the ube dough and stack it on top of the plain. Roll it up from the short side to create a spiral of the two doughs. Set that under a towel to keep from drying out (geez these are needy) and repeat with the rest of the dough. You can stop there, but Maryanne does this cool trick to get that distinct look. It’s achieved by rolling each log into a 7×5” rectangle and rolling that back up into a log to get that marbled effect. Each of those dough logs are placed into a greased and parchment-lined Pullman loaf pan and let proof for about an hour. Once the dough comes up about a half inch to the sides, slide in the greased lid and bake for about 18 minutes. Then, remove the lid and finish it off for another 20. Once done, let the loaf cool for about five minutes before removing it from the pan and letting it cool completely.
I can’t tell you the anticipation I felt as I was cutting into this to see what it looked like on the inside. The result was amazing- with both of the doughs creating a cool pattern with every slice I took. The ube wasn’t quite as dark as Maryanne’s, but really a drop or two of food coloring could have fixed that. The bread was just as soft as the other shokupans I make, with that amazing crust you get on the first day when it’s made. My substitution worked amazingly, though I did have to add a bit more flour so it matched the consistency of the plain dough. The measurements for the doughs weren’t the same, so not sure if that’s the reason or maybe it’s the drink mix. Still, I’d happily do it again as I have a ton of this stuff. The flavor of the bread is great too- with a milky flavor and a slight hint of ube. Maryanne admitted that it wasn’t bursting with ube, but I could still distinguish it. It’s pretty difficult to impart flavor into bread doughs, so it’s kinda just the nature of the beast. Overall, this one was a hit and I can definitely see myself making this again. As was said to me when I posted a picture of it, “ube onto something.”
Full Recipe | Method by Little Epicurean: