Kirbie's Cravings

Soft and Fluffy Milk Toast (with a secret ingredient to keep it soft)

I’ve always had a preference for asian style bread.  The breads usually have an incredibly soft texture and stay soft and fresh for days. I’ve looked up recipes a couple of times and it seemed that a lot of the recipes required a “bread improver” to keep the bread soft.  I don’t believe this ingredient is available here in the U.S., but apparently is more common in Asia.

Then I read about the “Tangzhong method.” It’s been popular for a few years now, but since I don’t read chinese, I didn’t learn about it until recently. One of the blogs I follow is Christine’s Recipes. I really enjoy her blog because she makes a lot of chinese recipes and her blog is in English and in Chinese, which has allowed me to try recipes of a lot of my favorite chinese desserts.

I first read about the Tangzhong method on her blog.  Basically, a few years ago, a woman named Yvonne Chen wrote a book entitled 65 degrees, which details her secret ingredient to keeping bread fresh and soft.  She uses a flour and water mixture, cooked to 65 degrees, to make a flour paste called “tang zhong” which is added to the bread. What I loved about this idea is that it is natural and doesn’t use chemicals.

As soon as I saw the beautiful, soft and fluffy breads that Christine had made, I knew I had to try making my own. I read up on the tangzhong method on a few other blogs and also a few different recipes. You can use this method to make a variety of breads that are sweet and savory. You can also use it to make soft milk bread rolls.

I decided to try making a simple milk toast, which is one of my favorite breads to get from chinese bakeries. It’s sweet and has no filling, so you can just enjoy the plain, soft bread.

You need to make the flour paste ahead of time and give it a few hours to cool, but it’s not too hard. I made mine in the morning, put it in the fridge and then used it that evening.

The bread portion was a little harder to make. It took several hours of proofing my bread and kneading it before it was ready. But it was totally worth it. When my bread came out, the crust was shiny and it looked and smelled like I was in a chinese bakery. After I let the bread cool, I peeled off a section of the bread and the texture was so fluffy. Even the next day, the bread remained as soft and fresh tasting as the day before.

I can’t wait to make this bread more often. Now I just need a bread maker for the kneading. The recipe allows you to knead by hand or use a bread maker. I highly recommend using a bread maker for the kneading because it takes quite a while.

Tangzhong

Ingredients
1/3 cup  bread flour
1 cup water

Directions
1. Mix flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.
2. Pour mixture into a small pot and turn on medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up. It will begin to thicken.  When the temperature of the mixture reaches 65 degrees Celsius, turn off the stove and take the mixture off the stove to let it cool. I used a thermometer but I’ve read from Christine’s website and several others that you can sort of eye it. If you are continually stirring, the mixture will start to have “lines ” and then it is done. I started to see lines around the same time the temperature reached 65C.


3. Once the mixture is cooled, pour it into a bowl and cover the top using plastic wrap. Place the wrap directly onto the mixture to keep it from drying out and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The paste does not keep well, so use within a few days.

Milk Bread (adapted from two of Christine’s recipes here and here,which she adapted from the 65 degrees book)
Yields 1 loaf

Update: Since my first attempt, I’ve got a better understanding of how the texture should turn out, how long the kneading should be, and I’ve taken better step by step photos. You can view the updated post here.

Ingredients:

2½ cups bread flour
3tbsp+2tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk
120g tangzhong (about half of the tangzhong made)
2 tsp instant yeast (instant!! not active dry yeast!)
3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
Directions
1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. If you own a breadmaker or a food processor powerful enough to knead dough, I HIGHLY recommend using it. The dough takes a long time to knead. About half an hour by hand. The dough will start out to be extremely sticky.  Keep kneading until the dough is no longer sticky and is elastic. You should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away.
2. Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil.  Place dough into  greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
3. Transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls.  Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape.  (Christine took great step by step photos. Mine are a bit rushed and in bad lighting) Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top.

5. Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin.

6. Flip dough over so the folds face up. Now roll the dough up. (I actually messed up here. I forgot to flip the dough before rolling up, so you see that the dough is broken into two half on top instead of a smooth, uniform top.) Place each of the rolls into the bread pan. Let them rise for another 40 minutes.

7. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

Here’s a printable recipe:

Soft and Fluffy Milk Toast

Many recipes for milk bread call for an ingredient called "bread improver" which is very difficult to find in the US. It's what makes this Asian-style bread so soft and fluffy, so I was so happy to discover Yvonne Chen's tangzhong method, which is basically a DIY bread improver. It's a simple bread and water mixture that is cooked to 150°F (65°C) and then cooled before adding it to the dough, so plan to make the tangzhong in advance because it needs several hours to chill. I like to make it in the morning and prepare the rest of the bread in the afternoon.
5 from 14 votes

Ingredients

For the Tangzhong

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup water

For the Milk Bread

  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 3 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp instant yeast see note
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 120 g tangzhong use only half- add this to notes
  • 3 tbsp cubed butter softened
  • Oil

Instructions

Make the Tangzhong

  • To make the tangzhong, whisk the flour and water until smooth.
  • Transfer the flour mixture to a small saucepan and warm it over medium heat. As the mixtures heats up, stir continuously. You want to cook the mixture until it thickens and creates "lines" (see the blog post for more details). These lines indicate it's reached approximately 150°F (65°C).  If you are unsure, use a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature.  Once it's at temperature, turn off the heat and set the pan aside to cool. Once the mixture is cooled transfer it to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap large enough to directly cover the surface of the mixture (to protect it from drying out) and to seal the bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill it for several hours. You will use half of the tangzhong for this recipe, so keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Make the Milk Bread

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In a separate bowl, whisk one egg, milk, and tangzhong. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ones into it. Using your hands, mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones until a loose dough forms and add the butter. Continue mixing until the butter is incorporated. At this point, the dough will be very sticky so remove it from the bowl and knead it on the countertop. Knead the dough until it's no longer sticky. It should be elastic, which means you should be able to stretch a piece of it quite thin without it breaking. This process will take approximately 30 minutes to do by hand. To shorten the kneading process, you can use the kneading function on a breadmaker or a high-powered food processor instead of doing it by hand.
  • Coat the inside of a large bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with a wet towel. Leave the dough to proof for 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
  • Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and divide it into four equals parts and shape each into a ball. Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and rest them for 15 minutes.
  • Using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into an oval shape. Fold one end of the dough to the center of the oval. Fold the other end so that it just overlaps the other in the middle. Turn the dough over with the folds facing down and flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Turn the dough over again - with the folds facing up - and, starting at one end, roll the dough up. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Place each rolled dough in a baking pan. Leave the dough to rise for 40 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and brush it on the top of the dough rolls in the pan. Bake the bread at 350°F (177°C) for approximately 30 minutes.

Notes

  • For this recipe, it's important to use instant yeast, which is mixed right into the dough and not dry active yeast, which needs to dissolve in water before using.

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

 

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175 comments on “Soft and Fluffy Milk Toast (with a secret ingredient to keep it soft)”

  1. My bread looked beautiful! I used a bread machine to knead the first gruesome step. However, it didn’t pass my taste test as the yeast smelled and tasted overtly strong. I noticed other recipes call for 1.25 tsp and yours 2 tsp. Could that be the reason? Help!

  2. Tried this for the first time a few weeks ago and it was ubelievable. Making it again today and had to quadruple the recipe this time because the one loaf was gone in no time, so yeah it’s good!

  3. i have tried twice for this recipe. first i knead it by hand and the second with bread machine but the dough is still sticky. maybe you can help me what’s wrong with my dough please 🙁 thank you before.

    • you didn’t use the entire tangzhong right? also my recipe method specifies using a stand mixer. it needs to knead for a long time at a high speed with a lot of power. i dont own a bread machine so i dont know if the bread machine will knead it enough. but if you need it in a stand mixer it will become elastic and not sticky

  4. i was using the entire tangzhong as written in the recipe. but i dont have any thermometer and i knead it with medium speed. maybe i still knead it longer or maybe my tangzhong’s temperature was not right.

    • A couple of things: the recipe does not say to use the entire tangzhong. it says to use 120g or approx half of the amount made. it’s actually slightly more than half and is best if you weigh it on a scale. second, if you don’t have a thermometer, your tangzhong might also not be right. the original author that came out with this recipe had a book entitled 65 degrees, so temperature is pretty key to having the right tangzhong.

  5. This is the best bread i ever made… I belong to a bread baking group on facebook and people have been asking for the recipe.. It’s wonderful… 

  6. Hi, does the Tangzhong and egg need to be at room temperature? Thanks!

    • I’ve done it at room temp and without and it worked fine =)

      • Hi there! I made the bread but it came out dense even though i obly used half the Tz and kneaded for a good half hour and the dough wasn’t dry. Are these US cups or UK cups? It’s a bit maddening to have half the recipe measurements in weights and the other half in volumes…

      • US cups

  7. Hi thanks for the recipe i made them into little rolls and they came out sooooo good ,i read further up someone asking if making balls would be ok and i say yesssssss they are so soft and fluffy so try them for yourself and see

  8. Thanks for this recepie. I had been looking for a long time for how to make a light fluffy textured bread without using an improver. This find is a relief!
    My first try was a huge success. I kneaded with hand in a bowl, not a surface. It took over an hour. Quite tedious..lol. but the result was a good compensation. Now I am going to try it with my kitchen aid… I am excited. The bread makers just lost a customer.????

  9. there are thousands of bread recipes that could be found anywhere but your recipe made me owe big time! thanks for sharing.

  10. 40 minutes for the final rize is too much… It ended up billowing 3 inches over and even more in the oven if I didn’t flatten it down with my hands..

    • Hmm that hasn’t been an issue for me. Perhaps because it is summer time? If it is really warm in your kitchen, the bread would rise much faster.

  11. Hi, just wondering if you have a whole meal version of this bread recipe. I tried this recipe like 4 times and I loooive it!!!!! So do the kids. I just bought a whole meal light flour with 85% of the nutrients still included, could I replace that flour? I did make it with half the whole meal light four and half Egyptian golf but it didn’t rise and was too dense. More liquid is needed, I understand that now, so maybe you might have the right quantities you could share, please. Thank you 

  12. I made this recipe twice. The recipe calls for 2.5 cups of flour, but when my bread machine finished kneading and proofing it, the dough is still very sticky and wet. I had to add an additional cup of flour to the dough. I don’t know where I went wrong…maybe the tangzhong. It calls for 120 g of tangzhong, but I don’t know how much that is so I converted it to cups and its roughly 1 cup (are my calculations correct?). And the only other wet ingredient I put in there is the .5 cup of milk.

    But once I add the extra flour it is a great recipe!

    • 1 cup of tz is too much so that is likely why you needed so much flour. As stated in my recipe, 120g is about 1/2 of the tangzhong recipe.

  13. I was so excited to try this recipe! I did all the kneading by hand, but it was so worth it! It came out absolutely beautiful and so delicious!!! The directions were really easy to follow. I’m so pleased!

  14. If the dough is sticky you have to knee more!!! Took about 45 minutes by hand to get a soft elastic ball of dough. I filled it with a cinnamon sugar and syrup filling. It came out perfectly with a cinnamon swirl. Thank you for this amazing recipe! God Bless

  15. Hi I’m a newbie um Thais tangzhing technique and I would like to know why does it need to rest severeal hours, and why couldn’t it rest until ir gets completely at freezer temperature… Love your work!

  16. *in the tangzhong

  17. If I use a Bread maker to do this, Do I remove the dough and shape after the first rising or can I just let it bake in the Breadmaker?

  18. Hi Kirbie,
    I was just tastings this wonderful and super soft bread, love this recipe from you.
    It was hard to handle this wet dough in hand, but its well worth it.

    Thank you

  19. Hi Kirbie,
    For the first time using Tangzhong method for a bread and I used a standmixer (my wrist is injured so I tried with mixer) instead of hand kneading and the Milk bread turn out great !!!
    Thanks 🙂

    P.S. I mixed at medium speed for 20mins with the standmixer, in case anyone prefer to use mixer.

  20. Tried it with this recipe but then during the process of making the dough even after adding 2 and 1/4 cups of bread flour the mixture is still too watery to knead. Is there any way to solve this problem?

  21. Excellent!! ????Never made bread so good! It came really fluffy and moist. Thank you so much for this easy to follow recipe.Its my new to go bread recipe.

  22. Can you use a breadmaker for the entire process – except of course, the tangzhou cooking part.

    Thank you.
    Dee

  23. Hi ! Just have two questions

    1) I only have active dry yeast. Would you happen to have a substitute for the amount I would use for active dry instead?

    2) I don’t own a mixer sadly. Could I still knead by hand on the countertop?

    Many thanks!

    • You can replace with equal amount of active dry yeast but you will need to activate it first. You can do so by adding it with warm milk first and then adding the other ingredients. While it can be kneaded by hand, it is going to take a lot of effort. It already takes quite a bit of work with the machine, so it’ll be double to triple the amount of kneading time by hand. I have had readers tell me they’ve done it but I always use my stand mixer.

    • See my comment! You do need to add some extra yeast.

  24. I didn’t want to wait several hours for my bread, so I made a few changes. I began by following your recipe exactly, but I only made half the amount of Tangzong. You were right about the lines in it as it got to temperature!

    Here’s where the major change came. I took the Tangzong off the heat as you said, but instead of letting it cool for several hours, I added the half cup of milk to it right away and whisked it in. That dropped the temperature to upper 90 degrees Fahrenheit, good enough for the yeast. I then stirred in dry active yeast instead of the instant yeast. I let the yeast bloom while I melted the butter, beat the egg, and put the flour and salt in my bread machine. (Thank you for the bread machine tip!). Because the yeast was blooming really well, I did not add the sugar. I poured all the Tangzong mixture, beaten egg, and melted butter into the bread machine and let the machine do all the hard work. After that, I followed your instructions as written. I got a wonderful, soft loaf of bread in under 3 hours.

  25. I have been baking bread for years and could never get it to be fluffy and stay soft for more than 2 days. It would always dry out. I decided to try this method. I had read other recipes but the measurements were in grams. I was so happy when I came across yours that have measurements Im used to. Your recipe was easy to follow and my bread came out great!! This one is a keeper for me. Thanks

  26. Can you leave this overnight to rest?

  27. Perfect recipe. I moved the Tangzong into Refrigerators and saved a few hours also used dry Yeast instead. I made it last night was gone this morning before I could get to it. have to make it again for myself now.

  28. Hello!

    At what temperature does the milk has to be?

    Thank you.

    • it shouldn’t make much of a difference since you’re using instant yeast. straight from the fridge should be fine

  29. I just made this recipe! It was extremely successful. I wish I could post a picture because it was so aesthetically pleasing.
    One note:
    I used active dry yeast! You can successfully use active dry yeast. Before combining dry ingredients, warm the milk to about 105F (I just microwaved it for 15-20 seconds until it was warm to touch). Measure out the quantity of yeast multiplied by 1.25. In this case, I used 2.5 teaspoons instead of 1.25 (The processing of active dry yeast decreases the volume by ~1/4) Add the active dry yeast to the milk and let it sit and bloom (should take five minutes or less). Mix the dry ingredients and then add the milk and yeast mixture when you add in the wet ingredients. It will still give you the desired delicious results!!!!!

    • I’m so glad it worked out well for you! I wish there was a way for you to share a picture via comments so I could see it. You can always send me a picture through email or Instagram.

  30. Hello,

    This looks wonderful and I can’t wait to try it out.
    Has anyone use soy milk instead of the regular milk?

    Thank you.

  31. Perfect recipe! The bread was the softest and best tasting I’ve ever had. Thank you.

  32. Made it today, it was so soft and fluffy, Loved it. Though i would love mine to be a bit sweeter, so maybe I will add more sugar the next time, I doubled the recipe and used the whole tangzhong (about 200 gms), I was hoping it would be enough and it was. Will definitely make be making it again and again. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe

  33. Very good recipe. My bread turned out perfect. I mixed 1 cup of whole wheat flour and had to add a little extra milk. Totally satisfied with it. Thank you very much for this recipe.

  34. Can i use all purpose flour instead of bread flour? we currently don’t have it where i live.

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