I decided on a whim at about 9:30 pm last night that I really wanted some green bread. I’d seen it at Asian grocery stores and bakeries all the time, but never knew anything about it except that it was green and probably sweet. My interest was always piqued, but I was dubious of the prospect of occupying valuable stomach real estate with an unfamiliar item when there were so many custard buns, mooncakes, and red bean mochi to be eaten. The factor that sparked the sudden urge to bake was my acquisition of some pandan leaves from my mother, who had used them in a few Thai dishes and had a bunch left over. Too lazy to research a quality recipe, I decided to just modify whatever baseline sweet bread recipe I already had. Keep in mind when viewing this recipe that I have never actually eaten pandan bread and just pulled this out of my ass yesterday. So results may vary.
Pandan Bread (makes 2 loaves)
500 grams AP flour
8 g salt
8 g active dry yeast
a bit more than 260 g milk (we will be simmering the milk, so some will evaporate)
100 g sugar
100 g pandan leaves OR 2 tsp pandan paste
100 g oil
1. If you’re using whole pandan leaves, simmer the leaves in the milk on low heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until you can taste the pandan flavor in the milk. [Note: Try mashing up the leaves in a blender first to get the color and flavor out of them more efficiently.] Take out the pandan leaves and set aside 260 grams of the milk until it has cooled enough to be warm to the touch but not too hot. If you’re using pandan paste, you can skip this step and just heat up the milk a little.
2. Let the yeast proof in the milk with a pinch of sugar for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy. Beat together with one of the eggs, sugar, oil, and the pandan paste if you’re using it.
3. Combine the flour and salt, then add to the wet ingredients and stir with a spoon until they’ve just mixed.
4. Ok yeah, fine, I cheated. I wanted my bread to be green, damn it! If you’re using pandan paste then food coloring should not be necessary, as it already contains some.
5. Dump into the bowl of your stand mixer and knead on a low speed for about 8 minutes. Add spoonfuls of flour as needed, but be conservative. You might want to stop every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
6. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
7. Punch down the dough and knead a few times. Shape into whatever type of loaves you’d like.
8. Let rise again for 20 minutes, then place in the refrigerator to retard for a few hours. I left mine in overnight (overnight meaning 4 hours) and continued the process in the morning. After you take it out of the fridge, let it come back to room temperature on the counter for no more than an hour. (Refrigeration is optional. You can also just let it rise for an hour and skip to the next step).
9. I went back to sleep after taking the dough out, so mine rose for too long. It should not be poofed up this much; rather, it should have gained about 85% of its original size, so not quite doubled.
10. Beat the second egg for the egg wash and brush over the loaves. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes (22 minutes was my magic number).
Considering I had no frame of reference, I rather liked this bread. It was suitably soft and fluffy, and had the right amount of sweetness. It pretty much tasted like what I would want from a generic sweet bread–which was sort of the problem. The pandan flavor was so incredibly subtle that I couldn’t taste it at all. Next time I think I will try using pandan paste, which is more concentrated and potent. Overall, however, I’m quite happy.