Japanese Milk Bread | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Sonoko Sakai shows us how easy it is to make this tender, pillowy bread

Japanese Milk Bread

Appears in May-June 2021

4 hours 50 minutes active, plus cooling

Japanese Milk Bread

Japanese milk bread is a fluffy, slightly sweet, fine-textured loaf. It stays moister and softer longer than standard sandwich bread thanks to the Asian technique of mixing tangzhong into the dough. Tangzhong is a mixture of flour and liquid cooked to a gel; it’s often referred to as a roux, though it does not contain any butter or oil and serves a different purpose than a classic roux. The gelatinized starch in tangzhong can hold onto more water than uncooked flour, thereby offering several benefits. The dough is easy to handle despite the high hydration level; the loaf attains a high rise and a light, airy crumb; and the baked bread keeps well. Sonoko Sakai, author of “Japanese Home Cooking,” makes her milk bread with a small amount of non-wheat flour combined with bread flour. When adapting her formula, we opted to use rye flour for its nutty flavor. This recipe makes two loaves, so you will need two 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pans; metal works better than glass for heat conduction and browning. The baked and cooled bread keeps well at room temperature in an airtight container or plastic bag for several days (it can be stored in the refrigerator for slightly longer but would then be best rewarmed or toasted). Or the bread can be frozen, unsliced and wrapped in plastic then foil, for up to one month.


1½-pound loaves


Don’t be tempted to add more flour to the dough as it is kneaded. The dough will be sticky and gluey, but after rising, it will be workable. When shaping the dough, use minimal flour so the dough remains as moist as possible. Lastly, when inverting the loaves out of the pan and turning them upright to cool, handle them gently as they are delicate and easily separate at the seam.

4 hours

50 minutes active, plus cooling

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