bread / Savory / Tools

Ham and Cheese Swirl Bread

IMG_2837Starting life over is never easy… whether it’s a new relationship, moving to a new country, or adjusting to a new job, change always brings about a sense of expectancy and a sense of loss. Which was exactly how I felt a year ago when I had to pack up my bags yet again and leave Vancouver to return to Singapore. I was just starting to feel like I had sunk roots into a place that had treated me well, a city that I have come to love and call home. And I was starting to build deep friendships with the locals, after having gone to grad school, pastry school and working at the best patisserie in the city with them. But change is inevitable and the grief it brings unavoidable. In order to cope during times of major transitions, we embrace the unknown while trying to preserve the life we’ve become all too familiar with. Well at least that was what I tried to do.

When I first got back from Canada, I literally had to rebuild home again. What that meant was we had to find a place to live, and then furnish it pretty much from scratch. Now guess what was the most important item on my list of things to get? I’ll give you a clue… it belongs in the kitchen. Yup, an oven. I mentioned in my previous post that ovens are a luxury in most Asian households, but in my home it is the single most-used piece of equipment. Plus, baking was the one thing that marked my life in Vancouver that I could carry on doing in Singapore, giving my life in transition a semblance of continuity and comfort. So I went in search for an oven and finally bought a $6K oven that allowed me to inject steam into the oven when I was baking breads. (Yes I know what you’re thinking, the cost of my oven is still the talk of the town amongst friends and relatives.) What’s the big deal with steam you ask? Professional bakers add steam in the first few minutes of bread baking in order to moisten the surface of the bread when it is placed in a hot oven. This prevents a crust from forming immediately, enabling the bread to rise quickly–a process we call “oven spring”. The initial burst of steam also helps the bread achieve that nice crispy crust that gourmet breads possess.

So being quite the oven snob I am, imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered that the Panasonic NN-DS592B combi-microwave oven is not only a microwave, but also a steamer and convection oven which (yup, you guessed it!) can combine those functions and inject steam while baking bread!!! What’s more, it has a fermenting function that cuts down the time you would otherwise require for proofing bread. But what takes the cake for me is that while it has so many functions rolled into one sleek package, it only costs a fraction of what I paid for mine! Hmmm…..

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This is the water tank that produces the steam needed in the Panasonic combi-oven!

Now this I had to see for myself, so I decided to make this ham and cheese swirl loaf using the 汤种 “tang zhong” method. It might seem a little complicated, but you are going to find the results so worth it. This Asian style milk bread is soft, fluffy, mildly sweet and so fragrant it can be eaten on its own. Roll in some ham and cheese and it can be a meal in itself!

汤种 “tang zhong” starter

25gm bread flour
125ml water (could be replaced by milk, or 50/50 water and milk)

1. Place flour and water in a saucepan. Over medium-low heat, stir the mixture continuously with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula until the mixture becomes thick and gooey.

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When you see the thickened mixture making lines as you stir, it is ready

2. Turn off heat and transfer dough mixture into a clean bowl. Cling wrap directly on the surface of the dough to prevent it from drying. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

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To cool the starter down quickly, you can place it in another bowl filled with ice-water

Ham and Cheese Milk Bread
Adapted from Christine’s Recipes
Yields: One 9″ loaf

350gm bread flour
55gm  sugar
1tsp salt
1 large egg
7g (4 tsp) milk powder
125ml (½cup) milk
120gm tangzhong (from above)
6gm (2 tsp) instant yeast
30gm (2 tbsp) butter (room temperature)

4 slices of thinly sliced ham
a handful of cheddar/mozzarella cheese

1. Combine all ingredients except ham and cheese into the bowl of a mixer. Knead with a dough hook on low speed for 10 minutes. Then knead on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.


The dough should look fairly smooth compared to the early stages of kneading

2. Transfer the dough to a floured counter and shape the dough into a ball. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling wrap. Set aside in a warm place to ferment until the dough is double in size, about 90 minutes. Or use the ferment function in Panasonic combi-oven to shorten fermenting time to 60 minutes.

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Before fermentation… the process where bread develops its flavour!

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After fermentation… the dough is double its original volume

3. After fermenting, knock back the dough by punching the air bubbles out on a clean floured counter. Flatten and shape the dough into a rectangle slightly narrower than the length of your loaf pan. Lay ham on surface of the dough, sprinkle cheese on top, and then roll the dough gently toward you into a log. Place in loaf pan with the seam side down.

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Place the bread seam-side down so that the smooth clean side faces up

4. Proof the dough in the pan for another 45 minutes until 1 1/2 times the original size. Or use the ferment function in the Panasonic combi-oven to shorten ferment time to 30 minutes.

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When the indentation your finger gently makes on the bread does not pop back out, the bread is proofed and ready to bake

5. Egg wash the top by gently brushing some beaten egg on the surface. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F/180C.


Brush on a little beaten egg or milk on the top to give it a nice golden sheen

6. Bake in a pre-heated 350F/180C oven, inject steam (if your oven can) in 3 bursts of 1 min each within the first 5 minutes. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is golden brown.

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Holding this button released 1 min of steam while baking! I was so impressed to hear the ‘ssssss’ sound of steam being released… ahh so gratifying to know my bread is having a good sauna session in there

7. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Take the loaf out of the tin and transfer onto a wire rack to let it cool completely.


Curiosity gets the best of us… Resist the urge to cut it open  before it cools down completely!

8. When completely cooled, slice to serve or store in an airtight plastic bag or container.

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p.s. This post is an entry for the Singapore Blog Awards 2013 Panasonic ‘Best Cooking Blog’ Competition.  fait maison is one of the finalists in the ‘Best Cooking Blog’ category so pls pls pls support by casting your vote for me here daily. 🙂



4 thoughts on “Ham and Cheese Swirl Bread

  1. Hi Mag:   Hope you and Wei En are doing well – both boys have graduated – Matt from UBC in civil  engineering and Josh from high school.   Want to vote for you but I don’t have a Singapore ID #:(   Love   J


  2. Hi, I chanced upon your blog while trying to find out if this Panasonic microwave oven can be used for baking (moved to a new place) and am so excited that a pro like you approves of it! Gonna try the 汤种 method for sure 🙂 Thank you!

  3. Hi Mag,
    I have the same oven Panasonic NN-DS592…
    I try to press the steam as per your guide, but it didn’t work…
    (I press for 20sec…), can advice?

    • Hi Anne, sorry you’re having trouble getting it to work. Did you fill the tank up with water? If you followed all the instructions from the oven and the recipe, then it might be that there’s something faulty with your oven?

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