Book Bites is Cooking the Books‘ more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite.
Beth Cato’s Bready or Not blog (and the things that emerge from her kitchen) is drool-worthy and she’s reliable for making people hungry on Twitter. She’s also one of the nicest people I know, and a great advocate for the community. She’s visiting Book Bites today to talk about her latest book from Harper, Breath of Earth.
As I search for recipes to try out and feature on my food blog Bready or Not, I can’t help but look beyond lists of ingredients and directions to the deeper significance of the food. I’m a writer. I have to be nosy.
My new steampunk novel Breath of Earth takes place in an alternate history 1906 where America and Japan have formed an alliance called the Unified Pacific. The two cultures are beginning to meld, and that means many prevalent Japanese foods are available in the United States. With my characters on the move, I had to look at foods that they could take on the go, which meant I had to look at Japanese forms of bread.
I was fascinated to find out that wheat-based yeast bread didn’t become popular in Japan until the Meiji Era. The influx of western trade brought more foreigners and curiosity about foods from abroad, but bread needed a more Japanese twist to really take hold. By the start of the 20th century, people in Japan could buy an-pan, rolls stuffed with red bean paste, or various kinds of kashi-pan, fluffy rolls stuffed with cream or seasonal fruit.
It intrigues me that this innovation in bread happened along with Japan’s sudden technical evolution– a very real steampunk event– and therefore it makes it feel even more appropriate within my new series.
For a few years now, my go-to loaf bread recipe has been based on one from Japan. Shokupan uses milk as its primary liquid ingredient. It produces a lovely, fluffy loaf of white bread that is perfect for sandwiches or toast.
Shokupan – Japanese Milk Bread
- 1 1/2 cups milk (or substitute 1 cup half & half or cream, plus
- 1/2 cup water)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3 1/3 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons vital wheat gluten
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- Butter to brush on top, optional
- Measure out the milk and warm it in the microwave until it’s about 90-100 degrees.
- If you’re using a bread machine, add the ingredients in the recommended order and run on dough cycle or full bread mode. I prefer to do dough cycle in the bread machine and bake the loaf in the oven.
- If you’re using a stand mixer, blend milk and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine gluten, flour, salt, and yeast. Mix wet and dry ingredients together and knead with a dough hook.
- Either method: Keep an eye on the texture. If it’s wet or too tacky, add more flour. If it’s too dry, splash in more milk as needed.
- Let dough rise until it has doubled, 1-2 hours. Grease or non-stick spray a bread pan.
- Lightly flour a surface and dump your dough onto it. With your floured hands, form the dough into a loaf shape by gently folding. Set in the pan and firmly but gently press down to remove air bubbles and expand the dough to the corners. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or a shower cap.
- Let dough rise in a warm spot until it’s crested to desired height, 30-60 minutes. Monitor it to make sure it doesn’t overflow the pan.
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
- Bake bread for 20 minutes. Cover the top with foil to prevent heavy browning, then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. When it’s done, it’ll sound hollow when tapped.
- Remove bread from oven and hold it over a rack so it will gently drop out. Brush the top with butter to soften the crust and give it shine.
- Let the bread cool at least 45 minutes before slicing. Shokupan is also great to freeze: completely cool loaf and then wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap before placing it in the freezer. Keeps well in freezer up to one month.
Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.
She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN (an RT Reviewers’ Choice Finalist) from Harper Voyager. Her novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE was a 2016 Nebula nominee. BREATH OF EARTH begins a new steampunk series set in an alternate history 1906 San Francisco.