Japanese Milk Bread

This recipe is our take on Japan's Hokkaido milk bread, a loaf so light it's often described as feathery. The technique to make it involves pre-cooking some of the flour and milk into a soft paste called tangzhong. (See "tips," below to learn more about its origins.) This simple step yields a loaf that’s tender, moist, and stays fresh longer than loaves prepared the standard way. Bread made with tangzhong is far and away superior to the pre-sliced, plastic-wrapped loaves that you'll find on grocery store shelves. Trust us: Once you bake and familiarize yourself with this loaf, you’ll never want to buy sandwich bread again! 

30 mins
30 to 35 mins
3 hrs 25 mins
1 sandwich loaf
Pillowy White Bread - select to zoom
Pillowy White Bread - select to zoom
Pillowy White Bread - select to zoom
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  1. To make the tangzhong: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.

  2. Place the saucepan over low heat and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.

    Baker whisking a mixture of flour and milk together over a burner to make a roux.
  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to lukewarm.

  4. To make the dough: Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by mixer or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms; this could take almost 15 minutes in a stand mixer.

    A top-down shot into a mixing bowl showing that the dough should be smooth and elastic when fully kneaded.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased bowl, covered, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

  6. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into four equal pieces; if you have a scale each piece will weigh between 170g and 175g.

  7. Flatten each piece of dough into a 5" x 8" rectangle, then fold the short ends in towards one another like a letter. Flatten the folded pieces into rectangles again (this time about 3" x 6") and, starting with a short end, roll them each into a 4" log.

  8. Place the logs in a row of four — seam side down and side by side — in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.

  9. Cover the loaf and allow it to rest/rise for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy.

  10. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

  11. To bake the bread: Brush the loaf with milk and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, until it's golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center reads at least 190°F.

  12. Remove the loaf from the oven and cool it in the pan until you can transfer it safely to a rack to cool completely.

  13. Store leftover bread, well wrapped, at cool room temperature for 5 to 7 days; freeze for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • With origins in Japan's yukone (or yudane), tangzhong is a yeast bread technique popularized across Asia by Taiwanese cookbook author Yvonne Chen. Tangzhong involves cooking some of a bread recipe’s flour in liquid prior to adding it to the remaining dough ingredients. Bringing the temperature of the flour and liquid to 65°C (149°F) pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which makes them more able to retain liquid — thus enhancing the resulting bread's softness and shelf life.

  • Would you like a dark-gold, shiny crust on your loaf? Make an egg wash by whisking together 1 large egg + 1 tablespoon cold water. Just before putting the bread into the oven, instead of brushing the top crust with milk, brush it with some of the egg wash (you won't use all of it). Bake as directed.

  • Looking for more ways to use your Baker's Special Dry Milk? Try it in other flavorful recipes like Pani Popo Samoan Coconut Buns, Soft Garlic Knots, Swedish Limpa, and Brioche.