Milk bread is pretty much just like it sounds — bread that’s made with milk, though it’s not that simple. It’s a yeast dough enriched with butter, sugar, and egg. But what really sets it apart is an ancient Japanese technique, called tangzhong, which makes for extremely tender, fluffy, lighter-than-air bread. Once you make the dough and let it rise, all you need to do is decide how you want to shape it — into a standard loaf, dinner rolls or clover leaf rolls.
See the article How to Make Japanese Milk Bread for more detail and shaping instructions.
FOR THE (TANGZHONG) PASTE,
FOR THE DOUGH, WHISK:
For the paste, combine milk, water, and flour in a saucepan; whisk until smooth. Heat over low, whisking constantly, until thick but still pourable, 3–5 minutes; transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
For the dough, whisk paste and cold milk until smooth and mixture is lukewarm. Add egg; whisk until combined. Fit mixer with dough hook.
Add flour, dry milk, and yeast to mixer and mix on low speed until there are no dry bits of flour, 1–2 minutes; let dough stand 15 minutes.
Add sugar and salt; knead dough on medium-low 5 minutes. Continue kneading dough 5 minutes more, adding softened butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time, adding more after each is fully incorporated (scraping down sides of bowl and adjusting dough onto hook as needed). Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface.
Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 30–60 seconds; shape into a ball. Transfer dough, seam side down, to a lightly oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
See the article How to Make Japanese Milk Bread for step-by-step shaping instruction and photos.
For a milk bread loaf:
Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Turn out dough onto counter, gently deflate, and shape into a 9-inch-wide rectangle, then roll into a 9-inch log. Place log, seam side down, in pan. Cover pan and let loaf rest until puffy and rises above top of pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake loaf until deep golden brown on top and a thermometer inserted into center registers at least 190°, 30–40 minutes.
Cool loaf in pan 3 minutes; turn out onto a rack, then brush top and sides with 1 Tbsp. melted butter. Let loaf cool completely.
For milk bread dinner rolls:
Coat a 9-inch-round cake pan with nonstick spray.
Turn out dough onto counter, gently deflate, divide into 8 pieces, and shape pieces into balls. Arrange balls, seam sides down, in prepared pan, with one ball in center and others around edge. Cover pan and let rolls rest until they’re puffy and fill out the pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake rolls until deep golden brown on top and a thermometer inserted into center roll registers at least 190°, 25–30 minutes.
Cool rolls in pan 3 minutes; turn out onto a rack, then brush tops and sides with 1 Tbsp. melted butter. Let rolls cool completely.
For milk bread clover leaf rolls:
Coat a 6-well jumbo muffin pan with nonstick spray.
Turn out dough onto counter, gently deflate, divide into 24 pieces, and shape pieces into balls. Arrange four balls, seam sides down, in each well of pan. Cover pan and let rolls rest until puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake rolls until deep golden brown on top and a thermometer inserted into centers of rolls registers at least 190°, 20–25 minutes.
Cool rolls in pan 3 minutes; turn out onto a rack, then brush tops and sides with melted butter. Let rolls cool completely.
Mixing cold milk with the hot paste (tangzhong) quickly cools the mixture so you can add an egg without it scrambling.
After mixing in the flour, dry milk, and yeast, allow the dough to rest 15 minutes. This helps with gluten development.
Since fat (butter) makes the gluten strands slippery, wait to add it until the last five minutes of kneading in the mixer.
To develop adequate structure, knead the dough in a mixer 10 minutes before kneading on a surface 30–60 seconds.
You know the dough is kneaded enough when its smooth and elastic (and slowly springs back when pressed).
Since this dough yields a small-crumb bread, you want to gently, but firmly expel the air from the dough prior to shaping into a loaf or rolls.
Per slice (1/12th)
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 4g 20%
Cholesterol 30mg 10%
Sodium 213mg 8%
Carbs 24g 8%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.