Taro Milk Tea Rolls (tangzhong method) + video!

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dIn New Zealand, we drove, a lot. On our first day, we drove to Mt Cook and marveled at the bushy terrain and zipped by packs of sheep (herds?), daydreaming about our upcoming adventures. We talked about what types of food we’d eat, if we were fit enough to make some of the hikes, if kiwis were as nice as we’ve heard they were. We also talked about our dreams – the future kids, the future house (and kitchen), our business, traipsing the world, living in the cottage by the sea- all the rosy things you talk about during your honeymoon. Of course, I inevitably had to talk about food, and I was hit with this longing to do videos. Stop motion videos, to be exact. They’re nothing new (heard of Coraline?) but for me, it was the perfect little marriage of photography and video. A stepping stone to when I attempt an actual video. As I was on the way to Mt Cook, I couldn’t exactly get to work until I returned to my computer. I think this happens to me a lot. Inspiration would hit me out of nowhere when I least expect it. I’m almost always focusing on something entirely unrelated or just not available to start on a new project. Sometimes I wonder if my subconscious is telling me to slow down, put on the brakes, and just take it in and think. Absorb. Process it before executing.Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dWhen I was studying architecture, I always kept a sketchbook with me. And a pen. I developed the habit of sketching constantly. I didn’t sketch buildings or landscapes but ideas, fleeting moments that must be immortalized on paper. All too often an idea would pop up and fly away, unable to be recalled the next day. A little concept sketch or even some words can (and should) be the seedling of something bigger.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dI feel like I’ve been talking about this post for a long time, giving little peeks of taro here and here, but it’s taken me awhile to process these, because I have my first little film up!!! I’m super excited to share it with you.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dSo, taro. I love taro and I cannot believe this flavor has not permeated the blogosphere yet, when I’ve been eating taro-flavored treats since I was a child!! It’s a classic, common flavor in China – swirled in bread, used as a filling, a flavor for milk tea, ice cream, froyo – the list is endless. It almost tastes like vanilla, but better. Yup, better than vanilla. Food52 has a great article on taro – this is where I learned that raw taro has oxalic acid, and that those with sensitive skin should wear gloves while handling raw taro. Who am I to question this? So I used gloves. I steamed them to mushiness then mixed it with coconut oil and sugar. Simply delightful.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dThe method for this milk bread is the same as these hot cross buns. I used coconut oil and coconut milk in lieu of milk for typical hokkaido milk bread. The hot cross buns post has step by step instructions, so refer to that if needed. I simply steeped the milk in tea and added ground up tea leaves for the fragrant, subtle taste of tea in the bread. These little rolls are soft. Have you seen that episode of Scrubs where JD imagines an old lady swimming in cottonballs? That’s what these rolls are. Cotton ball soft. The minute you fork away a chunk, it wisps away in this amazingly fluffy soft texture – It looks like cotton candy, but it’s bread. It’s amazing. Tangzhong method breads also have a longer shelf life. All you need to do is heat it up in the microwave for… 10 seconds? and it’ll be as soft as before. I’ve tried it – it works.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus d

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dI think the trickiest part about using tangzhong method is kneading. You add in oil separately into the dough, and that can be a bit confusing at first. Just press it into the dough and it will get incorporated, transforming the dough from a shaggy ball to something silky and soft.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dRepeat until you’ve used up 30g coconut oil

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dI always choose to do an overnight rise. It breaks up the work and gives me some breathing space. Especially since I was basically shooting over 700 images…. I needed this break. In the morning, I started out by making the taro paste, which is easy. Remember, be careful and use gloves – better to not risk the oxalic acid crystals irritation!

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dYou can boil or roast the taro as well. I think it behaves similarly to sweet potatoes or yam – it is a root, after all. I preferred to steam it.

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dI chose to keep my paste a bit chunky. If you want your paste super smooth and silky, you can add in coconut milk, a little bit at a time. At this point, I took out the dough, doubled in size:

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus d

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus d

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus d

Taro-Roll-Video - le jus dGlaze while rolls are warm and see if you can resist immediately eating one before letting it cool! My sister came to visit when I made these, and I think between the two of us we ate 3 immediately…

Taro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus dTaro-Milk-Tea-Roll - le jus d

RECIPE: Taro Milk Tea Rolls (tangzhong method with coconut milk)
Base from tangzhong coconut milk hot cross buns

 (makes enough for 2 batches)
50 g bread flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 cup coconut water

350g bread flour
2 tbsp tea leaves, ground up and separated ((I used jasmine green tea, but you can use any black tea as well)
½ cup coconut milk
65g sugar
1 egg, beaten
30g coconut oil
½ tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast
120 g tangzhong (half of what you made)

for brushing: 3 tbsp melted coconut oil, 1 tbsp honey

Taro paste:
2 lb taro
1/2 tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup coconut oil

Coconut glaze
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp milk coconut 

1| Tangzhong: Mix flour in coconut water and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, ensuring it doesn’t burn.
2| Continue to heat until mixture becomes thick. When you swirl the wooden spoon around the pan, you should be able to see very visibly the echoes of that swirl. Once those lines appear, remove from heat. Transfer to a clean bowl. Take a piece of plastic wrap and gently press it against the surface of the tangzhong. Let cool.
3| Heat coconut milk and ground tea leaves to to a simmer, then immediately turn off heat. When the milk mixture reaches lukewarm, stir in yeast and proof for 5-10 minutes. You should see a thick layer of foam, indicating the yeast is active.
4| Sift together bread flour, salt, sugar, in a large bowl. Set aside.
5| Whisk together tangzhong and beaten egg. Add in yeast mixture (foamy by now) to this. Mix well.
6| Make a well at the center of the dry ingredients and add in wet mixture. Stir with chopsticks (or wooden spoon, I just prefer chopsticks!) until it becomes a shaggy mess.
7| Knead in the bowl until dough forms a workable ball. Turn onto a floured surface. Add in 1 tbsp of coconut oil at a time and knead the oil into the dough. Knead for another 5 minutes, incorporating raisins in two batches, until it is soft, smooth, and elastic. It really should be super silky and smooth. You will be able to physically feel the change from sticky/rough to silky smooth and soft. This may take awhile, but persevere – you shouldn’t add more than 1 tbsp of flour to your hands. It will feel sticky at first, but once you knead it for awhile, it will become less sticky.
8| Place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit overnight in the fridge (up to 24 hours) – or, just at room temperature for 2 hours. It should be more than double its size.

You can make the taro paste at this point: Steam for 15-20 minutes until fork tender, and mash the rest of the ingredients with the taro. You can leave it chunky or smooth, according to preference.

9| Once dough has doubled, transfer to a lightly floured surface. Use a rolling pin and roll it into a large rectangle
10| Whisk together 3 tbsp melted coconut oil with 1 tbsp honey. Brush over dough. Spread taro paste across the surface in an even layer.
11| Roll into a log, pinching the edges. Cut roll with a sharp knife (or, a wire!) to 6  pieces or 8 pieces. I did 8 pieces. Place pieces cut-side down in a baking pan, edges not touching. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 45-60 minutes in a warm place.
12| Preheat oven to 350. After second rise, bake rolls for 20 minutes, until golden brown in color. You can use the toothpick test for this as well – stick it in the center of the bun and if it comes out clean, it is done. Cool on a wire rack. While buns are baking, make glaze.

Glaze: whisk sugar and coconut milk together. Adjust amount of milk for preferred thickness. Drizzle over rolls while warm.

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  • Yay!!!! First video and it looks great! Taro – I don’t remember ever having a bite but I’m pretty sure I’ve come across it in China. I’m pretty interested in trying it (this time consciously) after reading your description of it. I mean, better than vanilla? I’m in.ReplyCancel

  • kaleandcaramel

    BETTY. This video almost made me cry: It’s gorgeous. The music is perfect! You’re using taro, root of my childhood!!! And, of course, the rolls look incredible. So, so inspiring. Thank you for all the beautiful work that went into this! I’m so excited for more.ReplyCancel

  • Ahh Betty I loved this!! That video was everything. It turned out perfect, great music selection as well :) And I’m glad you told me about the oxalic acid, I just bought taro and had no idea. I’ve always had taro milk tea and love the flavor but have never had taro in anything else, unless the taro pies from McDonald’s in Hawaii count…

    P.S. Flock of sheep right?? Haha.ReplyCancel

  • I have so much love for this post, Betty! I grew up on taro too, with sweet rolls and those Taiwanese swirl mooncakes so this recipe is feeling right at home with me. And that video is so wonderful!!! It’ll help a lot when I try this out myself… because I will (I need to!)ReplyCancel

  • What a beautiful video and beautiful post. You really gave us a sketch with words about the wonderful things you talk about when your future together is new and bright. I love how you tie in bits of your past with the taro and then the skill involved in the baking and photography. What an awesome post! Bravo!ReplyCancel

  • This video! So perfect, Betty! And I’m in love with that song. So much talent in one short clip! ReplyCancel

  • Betty!! I love everything about this – the moody light, the music, the video, the recipe, your hands…. teach me your ways! <3ReplyCancel

  • Beautiful! I just came over here for the first time as I saw the lovely Bojon Gourmet linked to this post, and loved it! I am from New Zealand, and an Architect and I now live in San Francisco so there were a lot of coincidences in the first paragraphs! Love the video too! Now im gonna keep exploring the rest of your blog!ReplyCancel

  • This video is so stinkin’ cute! Did you just balance a large tripod on your kitchen counter for a few days?ReplyCancel

  • Hmmm, taro sounds interesting! I will have to try it sometime. Love your pictures, very elegant :)ReplyCancel

  • The video Is amaze balls!!!! I love stop motion anything so omgee i squealed! The music is so bright and cheery! I love everything about it! I def need to try this tang Zhong method. Sounds like ultimate fluffiness!ReplyCancel

  • OH. MY. GOD. My jaw is ON the floor. 1. This is a beautiful post even without the video. I’ve only ever eaten Taro in Taiwan in the form of taro balls (which I LOVED by the way), so I’m super excited to get my hands on one! 2. THIS VIDEO! Betty – it’s amazing. It’s drop dead gorgeous. I’m so so so in awe of your talents!ReplyCancel

  • That is such an awesome video! I can’t wait ti try these rolls. I just found taro root in the market the other day and I didn’t know what to make with it.ReplyCancel

  • This is such a fantastic post!!! I love the awesome video & wonderful recipe so much. I love anything taro, any milk tea and anything dessert, so this is a PERFECT recipe for me. <3 <3 <3ReplyCancel

  • This video is amazing!! I love it all – the music, the lighting, the simplicity of the shot, the emotions evoked by it – so beautiful. I haven’t eaten much taro but your post has inspired me to give it a go. And I hope you enjoyed your time in New Zealand – it is where I am from, so although I have moved to Australia for university, I always look forward to being home and it remains a very special place to me!ReplyCancel

  • thebrickkitchen

    This video is amazing!! I love it all – the music, the lighting, the simplicity of the shot, the emotions evoked by it – so beautiful. I haven’t eaten much taro but your post has inspired me to give it a go. And I hope you enjoyed your time in New Zealand – it is where I am from, so although I have moved to Australia for university, I always look forward to being home and it remains a very special place to me!ReplyCancel

  • Girrrlll I KNOW this took a lot of work, and it’s perfectly utterly beautiful!!! Can you seriouuuuslly teach me your video skills?? It’s so sharp even though it’s dark and moody, quite difficult to achieve if you ask me 😀 And that’s so cool you studied architecture. I had a short-lived dream to major in architecture during my high school years. I wanted to just build and build for people in 3rd world countries, and although it was a good dream for such a little fledgling at the time, it wasn’t the right one for me. Anyway, I love to hear about your story!ReplyCancel

  • […] Roll purple taro root (a classic milk tea flavor) into a sweet bun. (Le Jus d’Orange.) […]ReplyCancel

  • This is seriously so amazing. You’re incredible!ReplyCancel

  • You are phenomenally talented.ReplyCancel

  • Whaaa that video is EVERYTHING. Also, I love how we both mention gloves in our posts this week!!! Dangerous foods = the most fun to cook with. Lovely photos, as always :)ReplyCancel

  • conniechoi

    Oh my goodness, Betty!! This post is breathtaking, video et all! You are such a talent. I love taro and grew up eating it too. Why haven’t Americans embraced it like the Chinese?! :pReplyCancel

  • […] gloves (I have to thank Betty for this tip!) peel the taro and cube it into 1-2 inch cubes or thick […]ReplyCancel

  • LOVE how this video turned out! And SOO happy to have stumbled upon your blog :) You are amazingly talented. And nothing beats fresh taro in bread.ReplyCancel

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