Japanese milk bread is Japan’s most widely eaten bread and it is a deliciously soft, pillowy white bread loaf that is perfect for breakfast, and great for sandwiches or just for a snack throughout the day.
Known as hokkaido milk bread, or shokupan in Japan, it is very different to the heartier, rustic loaves that are more desired in the west, such as sourdough or rye bread. The reason it is so popular in Japan is the same reason white rice is so popular in Japanese cuisine, because it provides a neutral backdrop to other, more complex flavours.
How do you Make Japanese Milk Bread?
Making Japanese milk bread at home is not difficult if you follow these easy steps for baking bread. The main thing to note about shokupan bread-making is that you use a technique known as the Tangzhong method. The milk bread recipe involves making a type of roux of flour and water before adding the rest of the ingredients.
What are the Ingredients for Japanese Milk Bread?
For the starter
⅓ cup/45 grams bread flour
½ cup/120 ml whole milk
For the dough
2 ½ cups/325 g bread or all purpose flour
¼ cup/60 g sugar
2 teaspoons/7 g active dry yeast (1 sachet)
1 teaspoon/4 g kosher salt
½ cup/120 ml warm whole milk
4 tablespoons/60 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
Japanese Milk Bread Recipe
First, place a small amount of water in a pan and gently heat (you can use milk if you prefer). Add flour and mix until you have a smooth paste and it is free of lumps. Set aside and cool to room temperature. When cool, add the rest of the ingredients using a measuring cup: bread flour, active dry yeast, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt and egg, and mix until a dough is formed. You can make your milk bread in a bread machine by using the dough hook and mixing all the ingredients together for 20 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, and knead by hand for about ten minutes. Take the dough, cover and allow to rise until doubled in size. For the typical three-loaf shape of the Japanese Milk Bread, divide the dough into three, fold over and then roll. Place the three mini-loaves in a greased loaf pan and brush with an egg wash.
Bake on medium-high heat in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the loaf pan onto a wire rack and leave the bread to cool. Don’t be tempted to cut the bread before it has cooled completely as the milk bread is so soft and fluffy that it will lose its shape.
Japanese Milk Bread Tips
You don’t have to bake Japanese Milk Bread as a single loaf, but you can make smaller fluffy rolls in a muffin tray to serve at breakfast, or as a side to soups and ramen.