Who doesn’t love soft, light and fluffy bread? Milk breads (a.k.a. Japanese milk breads a.k.a. Hokkaido milk breads) are the softest breads with a slightly sweet flavor that can be enjoyed on it’s own, with jam, as french toast or as supporting stars of a great sandwich!
I pack lunch for my husband several times a week. Sometimes it’s leftovers but often it’ll be fried rice or a sandwich made from a random concoction of ingredients we have at home. Well, sandwiches with boring bread get even more boring and so we’ve been “splurging” on different types of soft milk breads at a Korean Bakery called “Paris Baguette”. They upgrade any sandwich with its fluffiness but I’m tired of paying $5 for just 8 slices of bread. Here comes to the rescue, bake your own fancy bread!
I made this a couple years ago with great success but the kneading was exhausting. Guess what though, I now have a stand mixer at home! Fairly certain I used Curious Nut’s recipe last time but this time I went with King Arthur’s version. I may try a few other recipes out but King Arthur was a success!
Both recipes use the tangzhong method where flour and liquid is cooked on the stove until it reaches a pudding like roux. This roux is added to the rest of the dough batter which helps to lift and add softness to the bread texture.
The first time dough batter I made, I felt like it was too dry and that I had overcooked the first step of “tangzhong” method. I read that you can make the batter go to 149 F degrees but it was only getting to 140-ish so I kept it on the stove which I think was detrimental made the roux to dry. During the kneading, I added about 2 Tbsp of milk but it still looked dry so I panicked and just let it proof but made a second batch. This time, I eyeballed it and stirred the tangzhong mixture until the mixture was like thick pudding: example video here from a YouTuber.
I will say, surprisingly, both batches of bread turned out well! The first batch (dry dough) is slightly more chewy whereas the second batch was much more soft but my husband couldn’t tell the difference (so he says) which shows that the bread is very flexible. Before the doughs were proofed, they looked really different from each other but the end result, not as much!
All of these yeast breads take a little bit of practice and experimenting before you find what works best for your kitchen (yeast, humidity, temperature all impact your dough batter!). Below is how I went about it with King Arthur’s recipe. Probably more tests to come, just because, but this one was delicious!
- 43g (3 Tbsp) water
- 43g (3 Tbsp) whole milk
- 14g (2 Tbsp) unbleached bread flour
- 300 g (2 1/2 cups) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour or Organic Bread Flour
- 11 g (2 tablespoons) nonfat dry milk*
- 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 120 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter**
* Dry milk is used in a lot of Korean baking recipes as well. It helps to soften the bread.
* The sugar was a bit too much for me and when I tried 2 Tbsp, it felt right. Note though that sugar helps to soften the bread so reducing it may not result in the softest achievable bread.
** Most recipes use room temperature butter instead of melted. I tried both and didn’t notice a difference.
1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk away until all the clumps are gone.
2. Place the saucepan on medium-low heat, continue to whisk or stir with a spatula until the consistency becomes like a thick pudding. If using a spatula, when you stir the roux, it will leave lines on the bottom of the pan. It should take about 3-5 minutes depending on the heat level.
3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small bowl to cool. You don’t want the mixture to continue to heat up in the pan.
4. If using a stand mixer, whisk the flour, dry milk and sugar into the stand mixing bowl. (If not using, add into a regular large mixing bowl). Make two small holes in the flour, and add salt to one and yeast to the over. *
5. In a medium sized bowl, mix the whole milk, egg and butter. Add to the flour mixture. Add the tangzhong to the flour mixture as well.
6. If using a stand mixer, put on the dough hook and knead on low to medium low speed for about 8-10 minutes. (You can also hand knead but timing will vary based on your strength). The dough is ready when it’s elastic. You can test by poking it with your finger and seeing if the dough springs back.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with saran wrap and let it sit in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes until the dough has nearly doubled.
8. Gently deflate the dough (I punch it lightly). Divide it into 3 equal pieces and shape them into a ball. Take each ball and roll it out using a roll ping until it becomes a long oval. Fold one long side into the middle and then the other side into the middle as well (into thirds). Use a rolling pin to flatten it. Once it is flat, start with the short end and roll them into a ball.
9.Pinch seams and place it seam down into a greased 8×5 or 9×4 loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining two balls.Cover and let is rise again for about 60 minutes until it is double the size.
10. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C). Brushed the rolls with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk). Bake the loaf for 28-32 minutes. Check the dough around 20 minutes to see if the tops are browning too much. Place an aluminum on top and loosely “tent” the pan if it too browned but the bread still needs more baking. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll should read at least 190°F.
11. Remove the rolls from the oven and allow them to the cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove and let the bread cool on a wire rack. Enjoy the fluffiest breads ever!
*Salt can kill yeast but not immediately so you don’t really need to make the holes in the flour to keep them separated unless you keep the salt on top of the yeast for a long time. I separate them anyways just in case and by habit of seeing all the YouTube videos do the same!