One thing that I made all the time in Japan for which I haven’t really written recipes is rice-cooker cakes and breads. Steamed breads have a lovely texture, and using the rice cooker is a great alternative for baking in your tiny moven.
Be warned, though–not all rice-cooker cookbooks are created equal. One of the books I used to own called for 3/4 of a egg once, which…yeah. That was also the cookbook that insisted that melon pan could be easily made in a rice cooker, which was a lie. But this chai-spiced steamed bread? This is a classic.
Adapted from Make Delicious Sweets and Fluffy Bread in Your Rice Cooker by Ebata Kumiko. Gakken Mook. July 2007. p. 43, 48. (“Basic Bread Recipe,” “Chai Bread.”)
「炊飯器で美味しいお菓子＆ふっくらパン」江端 久美子. Gakken Mook. July 2007. 基本の食パン。チャイパン。４３、４８ページ。
Japanese ingredient list at bottom.
For this bread, you’ll need 130 mL (1/2 cup + 2.5 tsp) of warm chai tea, which you can make with the recipe below or brew your favorite chai blend. I wouldn’t recommend using a powdered “just add water” blend because they usually have sugar, which will affect the flavor of the bread.
This bread is vegan if the milk and butter are non-dairy. I usually use unsweetened soy milk and unsalted butter, but Earth Balance works well here, too.
Rice-Cooker Chai Bread
Time notes: you’ll need room-temperature butter and time to brew the tea, then let it cool.
Prep time (tea): 20 minutes
Prep time (dough):
Active: 15 minutes (kneading)
Inactive: 45 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total: 2 hours 20 minutes
for the tea
for the bread
cutting board or clean surface for bench time
rice cooker (I use a 5-cup Zojirushi)
100 mL (1/3 cup + 2.5 TBSP) water
100 mL (1/3 cup + 2.5 TBSP) milk
2 tsp black tea leaves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cardamom pod (or scant ¼ tsp ground cardamom)
Make the chai: in a small pot, combine all the tea ingredients and bring to a low boil. Turn off the heat and let the tea steep. Strain and cool to 35º C (95º F). The tea should have reduced to 130 mL (1/2 cup + 2.5 tsp), but if you don’t have enough, you can add a little milk.
200 g (7 oz, 1 + 2/3 cup) bread flour
1 tsp dry yeast
2 TBSP sugar
130 mL (1/2 cup + 2 tsp) chai (from tea recipe)
½ tsp salt
20 g (0.7 oz, 1.4 TBSP*) room-temperature butter
- In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast and sugar; add the salt to the edge of the flour.
- When the chai is cooled to 35º C (95º F), add ⅓ of it to the well with the yeast and sugar. Let the sugar and yeast dissolve, stirring gently if necessary, then add the rest of the liquid.
- With a spoon, stir until the flour is mostly incorporated and a dry dough forms.
- Knead in the butter with your hands until incorporated, and until the surface of the dough becomes smooth, about 10-15 minutes.
- Pull the dough around, gathering it at the bottom, to form a smooth ball. Place the dough into the rice cooker with the gathered part down and the smooth part up.
- Close the lid and set to “keep warm” for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the rice cooker. Leaving the lid closed, let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
- Open the lid and test the dough by sticking a finger in it. If the dough does not spring back and close the hole, it’s ready for the next phase.
- Reform the dough into a ball to fix the hole, then set on a clean surface and cover the top with cling wrap. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Punch the dough down, then reform it into a ball.
- Place the dough back into the rice cooker and set to “keep warm” for 10 minutes, then turn off the rice cooker and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Without opening the rice cooker, bake on the “cake” function for 60 minutes.*
- After 60 minutes, the bottom of the dough should be lightly browned and a tester should come out clean. As this is a steamed bread, the top of the loaf will be soft and springy.
*My new rice cooker has a cake (ケーキ) function that can be set up to 60 minutes. My first rice cooker in Japan only had rice and okayu (porridge) function, so I would set the rice function, usually two times. If your rice cooker is different, you may have to play with the functions.
Japanese Ingredient Translation
milk: gyûnyû, 牛乳; low-fat milk: teishibônyû, 低脂肪乳; soy milk:tônyû, 豆乳
black tea leaves: kôcha 紅茶
cinnamon: shinamon シナモン
cardamom: karudamon, カルダモン
bread flour: kyôrikiko, 強力粉
dry yeast: dorai îsuto ドライ・イースト, or insutanto kôbo, インスタント酵母
sugar: satô, 砂糖
salt: shio, 塩
butter: muen batâ, 無塩バター