Every expat or immigrant knows that there are dishes you crave when you go back home. Apparently in Japan, it is these egg salad sandwiches- with the softest bread and the simplest of dressings (kewpie mayo, salt and pepper), it is a taste of home for the Japanese. I wouldn’t know- I’ve never been to Japan but I do like egg salad and this was a snowy weekend project.
This recipe is in 2 parts- part one is the egg salad and part 2 is the bread. I have no idea if any of this tasted like the real thing but it was pretty tasty to us.
Mayo: All the recipes specifically call for Kewpie Mayo which I could have ordered off amazon or boutht at the Asian store. But instead- I improvised and landed up with something quite delicious (though likely not at all accurate). To 5 tbsp of regular mayonnaise, add 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1 heaped tsp of Dijon mustard, 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (in place of the dashi powder or MSG in most recipes), ½ tsp of granulated garlic and salt and pepper. Increase or decrease the quantities of the additives to your liking till the mayo becomes a delicious dip that you repeatedly “taste” and then find a cracker to “taste” some more.
Boiled eggs: I love reading about boiling eggs. The serious eats encyclopedia entry on this is one of my favorite food articles. For hard boiled eggs- this works for me- start eggs in cold water and set timer for 15 minutes– the yolks are firm and a beautiful yellow wihtout being rubbery.
Combine chopped eggs with special mayo and 2-3 finely chopped scallions (because Japanese dish).
This is a delicious egg salad- good with any kind of bread but let’s now make the special super soft Japanese bread. Our old friend America’s test kitchen’s bread illustrated book will help us.
Fair warning- this is not a beginner bread, you need to have a fair idea of dough hydration and proofing times. But it isn’t croissants (laminated doughs hate me) – you should try it. Bread flour is cheap- you can throw away your mistakes.
Start by bringing 3 tbsp of butter to room temperature (soft but not melted). The bread starts with a cooked flour and water paste (a Japanese roux) which leads to a very tender crumb. Whisk 3 tbsp of flour and 1/2 cup water will no lumps remain. Microwave covered, whisking every 20 seconds till the mixture forms a stiff pudding.
Add the flour paste, 1/2 cup of cold milk and 1 large egg to your stand mixer and use the whisk attachment to blend till smooth (note to self- use blender next time).
Add 1.5 tsp of instant yeast and 11 oz (2 cups) of bread flour. Switch to the dough attachment and knead on low speed for 2-3 minutes till a sticky dough forms. Cover with cling film and rest for 15 minutes.
Add 2 tbsp of sugar and 1.5 tsp kosher salt to dough. Knead for 5 minutes, then add butter 1 tbsp at a time. Knead on medium speed for another 5 minutes till the dough leaves the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom.
Transfer to a floured surface using a bench scraper and form a smooth round ball lightly coated with flour and tuck all the seams under the dough ball. Proof in a lightly greased container for 1-2 hours till doubled in size.
Shaping dough: take dough out onto a large floured area on your countertop ( I use a very large silpat on my countertop for this). Shape into a 24×4 inch rectangle. Now divide the dough using your benchscraper lenghtwise to get 2 rectanges 24×2 inches in size. Start rolling the 2 dough strips into tight spirals and place both side by side into a greased 8.5×4.5 inch loaf pan. Cover with cling film and proof for 1/2-1 hour till the bread rises to the lip of the pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes till the bread is a deep golden brown. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from pan and brush all over with butter. Let bread cool for 2-3 hours before serving.
Slice and pile with egg salad above. Delicious with tomato soup.