Very Soft Coconut Milk Bread


Oct 07

You’re going to learn a few baking terms here and why they are used. How they are used will have to wait, as I’ve yet to fully understand them myself, and I’ve used just a few of them. So, later on as I gain more experience, I will write a bit more on these techniques.

So far, everyone just loved the baguettes that we finally learned to perfect. They were soft and chewy on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside. And most of all, you want to serve them after 10 to 15 minutes in the oven at 350.

But then I had major dental surgery, and I’m told my mouth won’t be fully healed for a few months, and so it was time to learn to make a very soft bread.

And if you hate reading the introductions in recipes online (or you’ve read this already) you’ll want to jump right to the recipe. So here: Jump to the recipe.

If you’ve not jumped to the recipe, you should note:

  1. Your author is not a frustrated writer who has to prove to you his great prose.
  2. Your author is a retired educator, and this will teach you beginners (we’re all beginners at one time) all about preparing the best tasting breads you’ve ever had.

Proving & Proofing

I’ve just learned what these two mean, and so it’s time to pass that on.

Proving yeast is a nearly obsolete term. You see, if your yeast is old or you use an old fashioned yeast, you’ll want to “prove” that it is still good. Normally, you take a quarter cup of warm water (110° – 115°), one teaspoon of sugar (no sugar substitutes), and your yeast. Normally yeast comes in packets that are about two teaspoons. Put them all together, and wait ten minutes. There should be lots of bubbles on top at the end of the ten minutes. And if not, wait just 10 more minutes. The bubbles will tell you that the yeast is still good.

The thing is, that was when yeast was coarse and chunky. Today, most yeast is processed so well, it’s fine and works every time.

Though you should know that yeast will grow old and inactive. Why, well, because it’s alive.

Yeast is an active fungus and it is active because it’s alive. And if you keep it two long, it dies. Just like everything that is alive. If you put it in your freezer, it will live six months, and then throw it out. But it has to be at room temp when you’re ready to use it, so the night before, take out as much as you’ll need, put it in a sealed container, and set it out on your counter.

I joined King Arthur Baking community to learn this stuff, so you might want to check them out.

King Arthur Baking

Proving Active Dry Yeast

So, once more. Yeasts are much better in the modern world of today, and proving your yeast is out of date. Except I did it to learn something important.

Most of you know many of our recipes are for people with blood sugar problems. We make a lot of things (muffins, vinaigrettes, etc) that don’t raise blood sugar. So we wanted to know if our favorite sugar alternative, BochaSweet could be used to prove the yeast.

Long story short, nope.

Our opening photo shows the loaves for which the yeast was proved using real sugar. But here is the original photo with the loaves containing the Bochasweet.

You will note that they are lighter, because real sugar makes bread brown better, and they were a bit harder. In fact, the day previous we made these breads with only Bochasweet and to get them to brown as much as they had in the photos from the original recipe we’d found, they had to stay in the over a long time and the crusts were nearly a quarter inch thick and hard.

And here are the two pictured after they rose.

And yes, you can see one rose twice as large as the other.

Two Things to Note

Though the Bochasweet did not rise as well as the real sugar, you can still use Bochasweet in your recipes, because you do not need to “prove” your yeast in this day and age, and there are enough carbohydrates in the flour for the yeast to feed on and ferment.

And get this: in the middle of the initial rising (allowing them their final rise before shaping) I had to make a COVID run. I got a call, two were very sick, and I took off bringing them things to help and some ice, milk, orange juice, etc. Their first rising is supposed to be just 30 minutes, but I was gone over an hour, and the one on the left was not over-proofed. It was perfect.

Bulk Fermentation vs. Proofing

The first rise is called the Bulk Fermentation. Proofing refers to the final rise after shaping. However over-proofing and under-proofing refer to any rise/fermentation. Yes, it can get confusing.

There are no terms for the rising that takes place in a recipe calling for two, or three stages before proofing, but many bakers simply refer to them as the first, second, third, fourth (this might have never been done), and/or final proofing.

And since you can over-proof or under-proof, in this recipe, we definitely over-proofed because the recipe called for just a half hour of rising. And I was gone nearly ninety minutes.

But how do you know if you’ve over-proofed?

Here’s how: The air bubbles have popped. You poke the dough and it doesn’t spring back. If it’s under-proofed, the dough will spring back immediately after poking it.

Retarding (and Folding)

There are a few things you can do to bring out the flavor in your breads, and I am going to let you in on them before finally posting this new recipe. Each one of the things we’ll discuss will appear in one of our recipes, sooner, we hope, than later. For instance, increasing the proofing time, especially in a cold kitchen, can help bring out more flavor in your recipe. See the first sentence in the paragraph below.

First there’s allowing it to rise up to four times. The thing is, you don’t want to do damage by beating it up in between rises. Like most people, I was raised with a mother who liked to beat up her bread like a red-headed step-child (do people still use this cliché?). You want to handle the dough lightly and that’s where “folding” comes in. You place it on your wet or slightly oiled surface, take the outsides, and fold them in to the center. Then you turn it over and put it back in the lightly oiled bowl for another rise.

What do you do if you’re called away and your dough is over-proofed (remember? it won’t spring back when poked)? Simple, roll it out, then fold it in, and proof it one more time, usually till it’s twice the size of the dough you put into your bowl and covered.


Many recipes tell you that you can put the dough in the fridge, and make your bread, or rolls, pastries the very next day. It’s such a treat to wake up to coffee and freshly baked goods.

But did you know that this adds flavor to your bread?

Putting your dough in the fridge overnight, then allowing it to return to room temp while the oven heats up, is called retarding, and this too just adds to the flavor of your bread. Retarding is usually done after the final proofing.

And if you can, keep the dough in your vegetable compartment (which is usually just a bit warmer than the rest of the fridge. Let it come to room temp before baking.


Look at the word this way: pre-ferment. It is a fermentation you make prior to adding it to your bread recipe.

There are three types of preferments:

  1. Poolish
  2. Biga
  3. Pâte Fermentée 


We’ve used the Poolish in our baguettes. The term comes from the Polish bakers who developed this technique, and was later adopted by French bakers. At least this is traditionally how it all started, but, in fact, nobody knows. What we do know is this is the most common preferment used by baking enthusiasts as well as professional bakers. It’s a simple formula: 1:1 ratio of flour and water, with just a small amount of yeast, either active or instant dry.

  • 200g Flour (1 1/4 cups)
  • 200g Water (1 1/4 cups)
  • pinch of yeast (1/16 teaspoon)

You cover this and allow it to sit 12 to 18 hours, and when you lift the lid, your preferment will have doubled in size and contains all sorts of bubbles. You simply put it in your blender (or by hand), and add the rest of the ingredients and kneed it till all the flour is mixed in and off the sides of your bowl. Most blenders come with bread dough mixers, and the speed is usually at the lowest, sometimes a number 2 on the blender. You don’t want to beat up the dough.


This one, you might guess, was invented by Italian bakers, and contains much less water than flour. Because of this it takes a bit longer to ferment due to the low hydration. Let it sit 14 to 18 hours to double in size. To use it, however, it’s best to break it up into tiny parts and then incorporating it into the rest of the flour and dough, to make sure the yeast is spread throughout the recipe. It is because of this longer fermentation period that more complex flavors are created in the bread from acetic and lactic acid production. These are the same acids responsible for the complex flavors and aroma in sourdough bread.

Pâte Fermentée (Old Dough)

The famous French baker, Raymond Cavell is credited with this method, and is used by bakers who make the same breads over and over and over.

After the initial rise (bulk fermentation), you simply take one third of your dough and store it. You’ll use it the next day, or the next week, depending on how long you store it. We’re told that this dough can be stored at room temp for 8 to 12 hours, or “retarded” in the fridge for up to 3 days. In the freezer it will last 6 months. If you store it in the fridge or freezer, you’ll have to allow it to sit at room temperature for about 16 hours before using it.


Salt can help delay fermentation (rising) because it absorbs water. Too much salt can stop the fermentation. This is why we used Celtic Sea Salt. Celtic Sea Salt, if stored properly, contains moisture. If a recipe calls for salt, we often add just a bit more. For example, in a recipe calling for 2 teaspoons of salt, we put three of the Celtic Sea Salt. It just adds to the flavor without affecting the rise.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen. What you’ve all been waiting for:

The Recipe

  • 1 cup coconut milk (230 grams)
  • 2 3/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons bread flour (370 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (we used 1 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt (finely ground)
  • oil for your bowl

If you are making your coconut milk from coconut milk powder, you should know that nobody on earth seems to agree on the ratio of water to powder. We’ve searched high and low and always found different numbers. One site told us 3 tablespoons to a cup of water, while another told us half a cup to a cup of water. We have been making coconut cream for most of our recipes at a ratio of 1:1.

For this recipe, we used half a cup of powder to one cup of water, which will make more than a cup.

First you will heat your coconut milk to 110 degrees to 115 degrees. Measure a cup and put it in your mixing bowl.

Proving the Yeast

This recipe calls for “proving” your yeast. With yeast today, if you’ve kept it fresh, in the fridge or freezer, and allowed it to return to room temperature before mixing it in, odds are, it’s good.

As stated above, this is obsolete, but at least try it once to see how it works. After that, just mix everything together, and since the yeast has lots of dough to work on while rising, you can add your BochaSweet if you want.

However, since you’ll want to try this proving your yeast once, use real sugar.

Pour the warmed coconut milk into your mixing bowl, and add a quarter cup of sugar, and the two teaspoons of instant dry yeast. Let it sit for five to ten minutes and you should see bubbles rise to the top.

Ok, let’s finish this up.

Next add the melted butter and salt, and then add the flour slowly while mixing.

The recipe we found told us to add two cups and mix, and then slowly add a quarter cup at a time, mix, and another quarter till finished and kneed. The doughs stickiness should decrease, but it should not be dry.

Keep mixing/kneading till the dough is smooth and elastic. It should clear the sides of the bowl, and if using a blender, it should climb up the dough hooks. You might need to knead it by hand for a bit.

I didn’t like the times used or methods for rising, so we modified the directions in this recipe.

Place your dough into a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 45 minutes covered. It should double in size.

Note: the original recipe called for a bulk fermentation of 30 minutes. I don’t know where the author lived, but I’ll bet it was closer to the equator than we are. I put a pot of boiling water in the oven, and closed the door and it still took 45 minutes to double in size. Additionally, I decided to do a second proofing and again, it took 45 minutes. Now see below, after the rolling and shaping.

Remove from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface and roll it out, wide enough to fit into the largest bread pan. Then roll it up into log and place inside that greased bread pan. Cover with a lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes.

At about 15 minutes into this final proofing, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Note: I’ve not received good results following the above instructions. Thirty minutes was not long enough for the final proofing and on my next batch, I am not going to roll it out flat. I cannot even explain to you the chemistry behind dough rising although you can find it all on the web, but for some reason, rolling this out produces a final product that must be proofed for up to 90 minutes before it doubles inside the bread pan. And to keep this bread soft, it must double. The next time I try this, I will not roll it out, but rather shape it and place it into the bread pan.

When ready for the oven, you can brush the top of the dough with a bit of coconut milk.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. The browning happens quickly so keep an eye on the oven starting at the 25 minute mark.

Roll the baked bread onto a rack and let cool.

You will find this bread to be very, very soft. And remember, if you don’t eat it right away, place in the oven for five or ten minutes at 350 to warm before serving.

Non-Proving Method

Everyone should try proving your yeast at least once. Here you will learn how to simply assume your yeast is good and get right to slapping this one together. And you’ll learn a few trix & tips.

Put a quarter cup of butter into a small pan and turn the burner on low.

Measure out your flour. We do this in a specific way to make sure the measuring is correct and the flour is not compacted.

Scoop more than enough flour into the proper measuring cup, and then with a flat surface. We use the multipurpose scraper pictured below. No bread maker goes without a couple of these.

Even when adding the extra tablespoons, scrape off the excess.

Add your sugar, salt, and yeast, and then gently stir them all up using a whisk.

Your butter will be melted by now, so pour in the coconut milk and allow to warm up to 110 degrees.

Pour the milk/butter concoction into your mixing bowl. Start your mixer (using the dough hooks), and slowly add the flour, while spinning the bowl around and around.

I use a spatula to scrape the excess off the sides while spinning the bowl. After about three to four minutes, when the sides are clear, I stop, and place the dough on my work surface. I keep my bread board oiled with coconut oil, and that way the dough doesn’t stick.

I like to knead the dough by hand, just to feel the texture and make sure everything is as good as it gets, but remember to moisten your hands. It’s that simple. People always complain about the dough sticking to their hands, but 1. their hands are not moist, and 2. there’s probably too much moisture in your dough. However, if you’ve done everything above properly, no problem. Simple press, and fold, and press and fold and then shape into a ball when the dough feels “smooth and elastic.”

Place it in a lightly oiled bowl (we use fractionated cocoanut oil) and put a top on it. This is where I must tell you that no kitchen is complete without Tupperware.

The rising time mentioned above is for the average kitchen’s room temp. But here is a little secret: the warmer the better, the faster the rise (bulk fermentation).

Tip: boil a pot of water, place it on the bottom of your oven, and place your dough in the oven and close the door. This should make your dough double in about half an hour, so set an alarm and check it.

However, this one doesn’t seem to rise as quickly as most bread doughs, so check it at 45 minutes. You can let it rise up to 90 minutes, but keep checking. This particular dough just wants to be different.

Once doubled, gently fold your dough. Place it on your bread board, and gently stretch it out, folding the outside inwards. Do this a few times, form a ball, and place it back in the oiled bowl and proof it one more time, 30 to 45 minutes. One more proof will just bring out the flavor.

And take note of my notes above. I won’t be rolling this out in the future, but shaping it for a final proofing in the bread pan and tossing it in the oven only after it’s doubled in size and expanding out over the top of the pan.

Future Experiments

I’m going to first make a biga and add it to this recipe. I will post the instructions for this, if the recipe works out.