Baking bread in general is a piece of work, y’all. If you’re planning on making just one recipe, be ready to devote at least 3 hours to kneading, proofing, and baking. Not to mention the subsequent clean-up process! On the flip side, I’ve found that it is pretty therapeutic, which is why I’ve been doing it a lot recently.
Most Asian breads utilize something called “Tangzhong,” a water/flour paste, which precooks some of the flour and allows the gluten to develop prior to kneading. It traps more water in the dough, which activates the yeast to a greater degree and also prevents it from drying out. This is what creates the elastic/stringy “pull” that you see in a lot of Asian breads. It’s a Japanese technique that results in the most incredibly moist, soft loaves.
I am OBSESSED with how they finally turned out: just look at those golden brown tops and light, fluffy interiors!!! This is yet another reason I want to move to Asia… imagine being able to find this kind of bread in literally every bakery. Heaven.
How to make milk bread:
- The tangzhong, as mentioned above, is the most important part of the recipe. It’s just a matter of cooking flour+water together for a little bit until thickened, but make sure not to overcook! The mixture can lose its elasticity, which is what gives the milk bread its unique texture. This video is great and does a better job of visualizing the process than I can!
- Starting with the actual dough, please note that using metric measurements as opposed to weighing the ingredients will result in differences in the amounts you use compared to this recipe. Be prepared to add additional flour or milk as needed, to achieve the desired consistency.
- I would highly recommend using a dough hook and an electric stand mixer, because it dramatically cuts down the time needed for kneading and mixing. Be careful if you are doing it by hand; you’re going to need to actively knead for at least 15 minutes. I would mix for at least 8-10 minutes if you are using an electric mixer.
- The dough should be slightly sticky, but still come together as a cohesive ball. Add additional milk if needed, but be careful… a little goes a long way!!)
- When proofing the dough, I recommend preheating your oven to 150 degrees and then turning off the heat, and allowing the dough to rise in the oven. The biggest mistake I’ve made when making bread in the past is not proofing the dough in a warm enough environment; the yeast won’t activate enough, which will result in a dry, dense loaf.
- The actual loaf formation is really easy! I’ve included a diagram below, because I’m horrible at explaining, lol. I had one regular-sized bread pan and two mini ones, so I actually divided the dough into 7 sections (3 regular + 4 small pieces) instead of the usual 6.
- Make sure to cover the dough that you aren’t currently working with using damp cloth or cling wrap, so they don’t dry out.
And that’s it! If it’s your first time making bread, don’t be intimidated. I think this recipe is easier than most bread recipes, honestly. Be prepared to devour an entire loaf.
- ⅓ cup all purpose flour
- 200 ml water (a little more than ¾ cup)
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2½ tsp yeast
- 1 egg, beaten, divided in half
- ¾ cup milk + 1 tsp
- 4 tbsp butter, softened
- For the Tangzhong: In a small saucepan, add flour and water, whisking until combined and no lumps remain. Turn on heat to medium, and cook, whisking the entire time. Turn off heat once the mixture reaches about 150 degrees, or until the mixture is the consistency of a thick paste. Cover with cling wrap and store in the fridge overnight. See blog post for more details!
- Microwave the ¾ cup milk for about 1 minute. Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add milk, and mix on low speed until roughly combined. Then, add half of the beaten egg and the Tangzhong mixture from the day before. Mix until no flour is left, then add the butter. Gradually increase the speed to high and mix for about 8-10 minutes, until a dough "knot" is formed. The dough should be slightly sticky, but still manageable.
- Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm environment for 45 minutes.
- Transfer dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into two equal sections. Cut each section into three sections; you should have 6 pieces of dough. Take a piece of dough and roll it out in the vertical direction to form a long rectangle. Fold into thirds, forming an even skinnier rectangle. Then, roll in the horizontal direction to "widen" the rectangle. Starting from the bottom, roll the dough into a roll, pinching the dough at the seam to seal. Repeat for the remaining 5 pieces. Make sure to keep the dough under a piece of cloth to prevent from drying out. Reference above diagram if you are confused!
- Arrange three dough rolls in each a bread pan and let rest for 15-30 minutes, until risen to the top of the pan.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add remaining 1 tbsp of milk to the remaining half beaten egg to create an egg wash. Brush the egg wash onto the tops of the dough, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool for a bit, and enjoy!! :)