Do you know about Japanese Milk Bread (sometimes called Shokupan, or Hokkaido Japanese Milk Bread)? Well, if you haven’t, you need to. For some reason it is now the rage – we’ve seen it on about a dozen restaurant menus recently, where they’re charging an outrageous amount for a bread that is so easy to make at home. So Serious Foodie show you how it’s done.
Japanese milk bread reminds us a lot of brioche – lots of eggs and butter go into the dough. There are a few technique differences that are different than a normal white bread, and certainly a lot less fussy than our weekly sourdough loaf. And it’s much easier, and actually a lot tastier, than brioche – and certainly better than most any brioche that you’ll buy in the store.
Our home version will give you 2 beautiful looking, rounded top loaves (commercial versions are often perfectly square). We used our loaves recently at a party, making a very simple Texas Toast from fresh slices. None was left over. But if you do have any left over, it will keep at room temperature in an airtight container or plastic bag for several days. We put ours in the refrigerator, which will keep for slightly longer. It’s best rewarmed or toasted – and, if well wrapped, it freezes nicely.
We were interested in the history of Japanese Milk Bread, and found some contradictory information. We saw an episode of Milk Street which featured Sonoko Sakai who gave her recipe – and claimed that the recipe was a post-World War II creation to use milk, milk powder, eggs, and flour that was being delivered to help the Japan rebuilding process. According to from Bon Appetite, the recipe has its origins recipe to British baker Robert Clarke, who opened Yokohama Bakery in Japan back in 1862 (read Ms. Inamine’s excellent article HERE).
Japapense Milk Bread
For the Tangzhong Starter
- 1/2 cup Bread flour We like to use King Arthur, but any high grade bread flour will do. Do not use cake or all purpose flour for this recipe.
- 1/2 cup whole milk You can also use half & half
- 1/2 cup water
For the Dough:
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 640 grams Bread flour (4 2/3 cups)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup nonfat or low-fat dry milk powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp Yeast We use standard baker's yeast. Instant or fast acting yeast also work.
- 8 tbsp butter Room temperature, cut into at least 8 pieces
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- To make Tangzhong (white roux), whisk bread flour, milk, and water together in a medium saucepan until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture thickens into the consistency of mashed potatoes, about 2 minutes. Place plastic wrap over the top of the roux, and allow to cool to room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
- Place all the dry ingredients into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk together, then set the bowl on the mixer with a dough hook.
- Whisk the milk and eggs together, then slowly add it to the cooled roux while whisking until smooth.
- With the mixer on the second to lowest setting, slowly add the egg/roux/milk mixture to the dry ingredients.
- With the mixer still running, start adding the softened butter one tablespoon at a time (8 tablespoons in total) until all the butter has been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is very strong and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that this is a high hydration dough, so it will seem sticky.
- Brush a large bowl with butter, then transfer the dough to the buttered bowl. Cover, and let rise for at least 1.5 hours or until it has doubled. In the meantime, coast 2 loaf pans (8½-by-4½-inch ) with melted butter (we like to use glass loaf pans).
- Lightly flour a large board, or your counter. Gently punch down the dough, then turn it out onto the prepared counter. Using a chef ’s knife or bench scraper, divide the dough into 4 equal portions, about 12 ounces each. Form each into a ball. Take one ball, and gently pat it down, then stretch it into a square(about 6x6 inches). Fold by thirds, like a letter; pinch the ends, turn the dough seam side down, and place into one end of one of the prepared loaf pans. Do this with the remaining pieces - see the picture above. Cover the pans, and let rest for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to the top of the pans.