These Japanese milk bread rolls are pillowy soft and fluffy and stay that way for days without any preservatives by using a technique known as the tangzhong method. The bread rolls are one of my go-to recipes for the holidays since they can be made ahead of time and will still taste like they’ve been freshly baked.
Japanese Milk Bread
Japanese milk bread is also known as Hokkaido milk bread. Hokkaido is a prefecture in Japan famous for their rich and creamy milk.
The bread is incredibly soft, tender and fluffy and stays so for days without the use of preservatives by using a tangzhong roux starter. Even if you don’t have access to Hokkaido milk, you can still make this bread.
The tangzhong method is originally a Japanese technique for making bread that was popularized in Asia by a Chinese woman, Yvonne Chen, who wrote a book entitled The 65° Bread Doctor filled with recipes using this method.
I have been using this method for years to make my Asian-style breads and you can read more about it here in my original tangzhong bread post.
Before you start making your bread, you create a simple roux with water and flour. I have also seen recipes that use milk in place of water. The mixture becomes a roux and is heated to 65 degrees. This roux is then added to the bread and it preserves the moisture in the bread, keeping it fresh longer.
How to Make Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
Much like traditional yeast bread recipes, these rolls do take a while to make. However, most of the time is spent waiting for the bread to rise.
- After making the tangzhong, you add the bread ingredients to a stand mixer. Use the dough hook attachment to knead your bread. You can do this by hand but it will take longer and require quite a bit of kneading.
- The dough needs to be kneaded until it can pass the windowpane test. The windowpane test is a way to check if the gluten has been developed by testing the dough’s elasticity. You should be able to stretch the dough out without it breaking until it becomes thin and sheer enough that light can pass through if held up to a light or window. If the dough tears immediately when you try to stretch it, then it is not ready.
- The dough then proofs until doubled in size.
- The dough is divided into the individual rolls and then proofs for a second time. This one is a very short proof, about 15 minutes.
- The dough balls are then rolled out, folded into thirds and rolled back up and shaped back into balls.
- The dough then proofs for a final time. Once finished, the rolls are brushed with egg wash and baked.
How to Store Milk Bread?
The bread can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for about 3-4 days.
More of My Tangzhong Bread Recipes
Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
- 2½ cups bread flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp+2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup fat free milk or low fat milk
- 120 g tangzhong (see note)
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter cut into small pieces, softened to room temperature
- 1 large egg whisked, for shiny egg wash finish
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients: egg, milk and tangzhong. Add into the well of the dry ingredients.
- Use the dough hook attachment and mix on low speed until your dough comes together. Add in the butter and continue mixing on medium to high speed. Mix/knead for about 18-20 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and is elastic. To test the elasticity, use the windowpane test. Take a piece of dough and stretch it out. You should be able to stretch it until the dough becomes a very thin membrane that is almost sheer and lets in light. In addition, when you poke a hole in the thin membrane, it should form a close to perfect circle. If the dough breaks before you can stretch the dough this far, it is not ready.
- Gather the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
- Deflate and divide the dough into nine equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with plastic wrap and it let rest for 15 minutes.
- Take one portion and roll with a rolling pin into an oval shape. 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. Turn the dough over, so that the folds face down and roll and flatten dough with rolling pin. Flip dough again, so folded side faces up. Roll the dough up from top to bottom. Take both ends and fold down until they meet at the bottom. Stretch and move the top portion of the dough around until you end up with a ball shape at the top and the ends are tucked into the bottom. (See photos in post for reference). Repeat this step of rolling for the rest of your dough.
- With seals of the dough balls facing down, place the nine balls into an 8 x 8 baking pan that is lined with parchment paper. Then cover with plastic wrap. Leave it for the second round of proofing, about 45 to 60 minutes, until double in size.
- Brush egg wash on surface of buns (this will create the shiny finish). Bake in a pre-heated 330°F oven for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Make sure you have tangzhong already made from the night before or a few hours before you are going to make the bread as it needs to cool before use. Use this recipe here for the tangzhong, but make sure you weigh out 120g as this tangzhong recipe makes close to double the amount needed)
- Bread base adapted from Christine's Recipes
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.