If you’ve ever been in an Asian bakery, you’ll have seen loaves of soft, pillow-y breads sitting in bags on the shelves. Now, if you’ve ever had the chance to try these magically soft breads, you’ll know how amazing they taste. They aren’t at all dry or bland like the usual store-bought. Amazingly, these great breads aren’t difficult to make at all.
Japanese (or Hokkaido) Milk Bread is the softest, lightest, and best tasting bread you’ll ever try. This bread isn’t like your normal rustic Italian bread. It’s more akin to the French Brioche in its soft and chewy insides. The secret for this making cotton-like bread is in an old Asian bread baking technique called Tang Zhong.
Tang Zhong involves cooking a roux from water and flour and using this in the final dough. This roux promotes moisture in the bread and lowers gluten content which leads to that soft texture. While it sounds complicated, it’s actually just simply heating the flour with water to stop the gluten in flour from forming when kneaded and retain the water that it was cooked in.
The making of this bread is similar to most yeast breads. It does require longer prep time since the roux must be cooked and cooled to room temperature before it can be used. Aside from this, it requires the usual dissolved yeast and addition of ingredients, one at a time, like usual. The addition of the heavy whipping cream and egg also sets this bread apart from the usually loaf breads I make.
After finally attempting this recipe for the first time many months ago, I fell in love with its easy process and superior results. Don’t feel daunted by the Tang Zhong process because it’s actually very simple. Once it’s finished baking, you’ll be tempted to slice into it as soon as its piping hot out of the oven, but just wait! Let the gluten of the bread set or you’ll be punished with a gummy and less than pleasant raw texture.
I think my favorite part of this bread was that feeling of tearing open the loaf and seeing those beautiful strands sticking together, showing their amazing moist texture. Since I prefer nicely browned crusts, I didn’t cover my tops until the last 7-8 minutes in baking. You can also bring out that lovely milky flavor with powdered milk, which really does bring a creamy taste to the bread. Once you’re comfortable with the process, consider making a swirl variety or knead in some nuts or dried berries (I know I will!).
Note*** This version of the recipe is soley mine. When reposting, please cite me and my website.
Copyright december 2015 ©
Hokkaido Milk Bread
Light and fluffy bread, a classic in all Chinese bakeries made in your own home!
>>> Yields 1 9×5 loaf
-Prep: 45 min
-Bake: 30 min
– 6 tbsp water
– 2 tbsp AP flour
-1/4 C milk, warm
– 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
– 2 3/4 C AP flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 tbsp sugar
– 1/4 C heavy whipping cream, room temperature
– 1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk or powdered milk (optional)
– 1 egg, room temperature
– 2 tbsp butter, room temperature and softened
– egg wash: 1 egg, beaten + 1 tsp milk
1a) For the Tang Zhong: In a small saucepan or pot under medium-low heat, dissolve flour in water and whisk until smooth.
1b) Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge for up to 2 days in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before use.
2) Dissolve yeast in warm milk and set aside for 5 minutes until bubbles form.
3) Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl together and set aside.
4) Mix together Tang Zhong, cream, milk powder, and egg together.
5) Add the yeast mixture into the Tang Zhong mixture and stir to combine.
6) Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and mix until a shaggy dough forms. Let sit for 15 minutes.
7) Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes until dough becomes smooth.
8) Add in butter to the dough, one tbsp at a time, and knead the dough for another 5 minutes.
9) Once the dough has smoothed, wrap the bowl tightly and let proof for 1-2 hours or preferably overnight in the fridge. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before continuing.
10) Punch the dough down and divide into 3-4 pieces.
11) Roll out each piece flat into an oval shape. Roll up and flatten. Roll the piece of dough out again and roll back up. Repeat for all pieces of dough.
12) Put the dough pieces, swirl facing the sides so that the smooth top is visible, into a well greased or lined 9×5 inch loaf pan.
13) Proof in a warm area for 1 hour until the dough leaves an imprint when touched.
14) Preheat the oven to 350 F.
15) Brush the tops of the loaf with an egg wash and let rise for another 20 minutes. Brush the loaf again with the egg wash.
16) Bake for 35-45 minutes in the oven. If the tops are browning too quickly, cover the pan with a piece of foil.
17) Once finished cooking, remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and let cool completely on a cooling rack for an hour.
18) Slice and serve! Stored in an well-sealed bag, it can last up to one week at room temperature. It also can be frozen for up to 2 months in the freezer.