Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Also referred to as Hokkaido milk bread, these rolls are incredibly soft and airy thanks to a simple technique involving a roux "starter," known as tangzhong. The roux is mixed into the final dough, producing wonderfully tender bread each and every time.

Prep
30 mins
Bake
25 to 30 mins
Total
3 hrs 57 mins
Yield
8 rolls
Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Instructions

  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.

  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to room temperature.

  4. To make the dough: Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms.

  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

  6. Gently deflate the dough, divide it into 8 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.

  7. Place the rolls into a lightly greased 8" or 9" round cake pan. Cover the pan, and let the rolls rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy.  

  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll should read at least 190°F.

  9. Remove the rolls from the oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Tips from our Bakers

  • With origins in Japan's yukone (or yudane), tangzhong is a yeast bread technique popularized across Asia by Chinese 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 loaf’s softness and shelf life.

  • To make a loaf: After the dough's initial rise, divide it into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle, then fold the short ends in towards one another like a letter. Flatten the folded pieces into rectangles again and, starting with a short end, roll them each into a log. Place the logs in a row of four — seam side down and side by side — in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan. Cover the loaf and allow it to rest/rise for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy. Brush the loaf with milk or egg wash and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190°F. Remove the loaf from the oven, and cool it on a rack.

  • This soft dough lends itself beautifully to fried doughnuts. After the dough has risen once, hop on over to our Yeast-Raised Doughnuts recipe and start at step #3 to see how it's done.

    Join pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado as she demonstrates how to make Yeast-Raised Doughnuts out of this dough from start to finish. Watch Episode 7 of the Isolation Baking Show now.

    Japanese Milk Bread Rolls – Tip: Doughnuts