When I was younger, afternoon tea was pretty much a daily routine. Mummy would drive out (practically every place in Kuala Terengganu was only a 5 minutes’ drive away) and buy cakes or snacks for our afternoon tea, such as banana fritters, traditional Malay kuih, and occasionally, freshly baked roti paung. A favorite place for us to buy roti paung was a stall at a specific Shell station on the road towards Chendering from Batu Burok. I can’t remember the exact address now.
Nowadays I very rarely return to my hometown, and sadly, I never see roti paung anywhere here. So, I decided to try making my own. I’ve experimented with several recipes, and finally came up with my own version here. Soft and fluffy, I finally get to savor a taste of home. Enjoy!
Update: Although this may not be in keeping with tradition, you can make variations of this roti paung by using different fillings other than butter. I’ve used Kiri cream cheese squares (each cut into 4 equal sized cubes) which turned out lovely, and my best combination so far was Kiri cream cheese plus an equal amount of Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread, which is my nod to Llaollao’s delicious frozen yoghurt and their amazing caramelized biscuit sauce. Keep experimenting with your own favorite fillings!
In the course of my experiments, I’ve learned quite a lot about bread making. One thing is for sure though: bread making is a freakin’ science. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned:
- Activate the yeast first. When I use a starter dough or mixture, I observed that my bread comes out softer and fluffier. It doesn’t take much to activate yeast, just some liquid to rehydrate it, and some food to feed its growth. So far I’ve used water, milk, cream, and eggs for the liquid, and sugar as food. I made the dumb mistake of mixing in oils such as butter or ghee into the starter mixture, and this resulted in a poor rising. So no oils! Salt also stops the rising process, so don’t put anything that contains salt into the starter mixture.
- There is a specific flour-to-liquids ratio. When trying to make our own bread, we’re often faced with the problem of dough turning out too dry or too sticky. Apparently there is one specific rule to solve this problem once and for all. When experimenting with ingredients, simply ensure the weight ratio of your flour (flour, milk powder, non-dairy creamer) to your liquid ingredients (water, milk, cream, oils) is 5:3. Another general rule is you only need 1 teaspoon of yeast for every pound (454 grams) of flour used, and the amount of salt needed should be 2% of your flour’s weight. Science, I tell you!
- Your breadmaker is your friend. Here’s a confession: I used to be a breadmaking snob. For some reason, I used to believe that the best bread dough must be kneaded by hand. Using the electric mixer was acceptable and saves me a lot of time, but somehow I still held the belief that my hand-kneaded dough had better texture. Today I used the dough program on my breadmaker and got perfect, beautiful bread dough with zero fuss and a lot less cleanup required. Some might say duh to me for stating what appears to be obvious, but hey, sometimes one needs to see something for oneself in order to be convinced. I’m definitely going to trust my Kenwood BM250 for any bread dough-making activity from now on.
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 200 ml full cream milk
- 1 (11-gram) package instant yeast
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 50 grams unsalted butter, melted, plus more for dotting, brushing and greasing
- 50 grams ghee, melted
- A few drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
- 550 grams bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer/bread maker, add the egg, milk, yeast and sugar, and whisk to combine.
Cover the bowl and let stand until mixture is foamy on top, 20 minutes.
Add the melted butter, melted ghee, and yellow food coloring if using. Update: I now add this after the flour.
Add the bread flour and salt, and mix using the dough hook attachment of your electric mixer for 5 minutes, or by hand for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with cling wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place, until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I used my Kenwood BM250 breadmaker, and the Dough cycle took 1 1/2 hours.
After the dough has risen, punch down to let out the air. Grease a 12-inch round baking tin with olive oil or butter.
Divide the dough into 19 equal sized pieces. If you prefer bigger rolls, divide the dough into 15 pieces instead. Update: Nowadays I make my roti paung smaller, so I’d divide the dough into 4, then divide each quarter into 8 equal pieces to make 32.
Working with one piece at a time, knead the dough a little until smooth. I found that taking the time to knead the dough pieces (for about 30 to 40 seconds each piece) results in a smoother, fluffier bun with a nice round shape. You can tell from the final picture which ones were kneaded properly and which ones weren’t. Flatten the dough on the palm of your hand, and dot with a small piece of butter. Wrap the dough around the butter and seal, rolling the dough into the shape of a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Arrange the rolls in the baking tin, starting with 1 in the middle, 6 around the center, and 12 around the outside, making sure to space them out to allow for further rising. Cover the baking tin tightly with cling wrap or kitchen towels, and let rest in a warm place, another 1 hour 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees fan). Place the rack on the bottom rung of the oven.
When the oven is ready, glaze the rolls with melted butter.
Bake in the oven until rolls are lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
When the rolls are ready, glaze them one more time with melted butter. Serve warm.