I brought you the best recipe for Japanese Milk Bread, with a fluffy texture and slightly sweet. This bread is also known as Shokupan, Hokkaido milk bread, Chinese milk bread, and Korean milk bread.
You will have a professional baker result with my simple milk bread recipe. Although I have used all-purpose flour instead of traditionally used bread flour, the result is impressive!
Japanese milk bread is famous in Japan, China, and Korea; it is an everyday bread. Most Koreans use it for their breakfast and sandwiches. This milk bread makes delicious French toast, and when made as a bun, your burger’s flavor will reach the next level.
- WHAT IS JAPANESE MILK BREAD?
- TANGZHONG BREAD ENHANCER
- INGREDIENTS YOU'LL NEED
- BREAD FLOUR vs ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
- HOW TO MAKE JAPANESE MILK BREAD (SHOKUPAN)
- MAKING TANGZHONG
- MAKING THE DOUGH STEP BY STEP
- SHAPING AND FORMING THE DOUGH
- TIPS TO MAKE THE BEST JAPANESE MILK BREAD
- MORE BREAD RECIPES TO TRY
- 💬 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- HOW TO STORE MILK BREAD
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
WHAT IS JAPANESE MILK BREAD?
Japanese milk bread is a fluffy, slightly sweet bread loaf originating in Japan. It has flour, milk, eggs, and yeast. You can use it as everyday bread to make sandwiches or French toast, have it with jam, or enjoy it alone.
They call it ‘Shokupan’ in Japan, which means ‘eating bread.’ Japanese also call it Hokkaido milk bread when the baker uses the high-quality milk produced in the Hokkaido area in Japan.
There are two popular shapes for this milk bread. One shape is the regular round top loaf which you can see in this blog post. The other shape is a rectangle with a flat top because the bakers bake the bread using a Pullman loaf pan with a lid for an even sandwich bread look.
TANGZHONG BREAD ENHANCER
We will use a dough enhancer in this recipe, and it’s not a big deal; it hardly takes three to four minutes to make it with flour, milk, or water. TANGZHONG is a Chinese word that means dough improver or dough enhancer. In Japan, it is called YUDANE. It is a type of roux.
Most bakers use dough enhancers to give the bread a better rise, a fluffy and cotton-like texture, and prevent the bread from going stale fast.
There is another type of bread enhancer used mainly by bakers, and you can buy it from the market, and it has ingredients like vitamin C powder, lecithin, gelatin, etc.
INGREDIENTS YOU'LL NEED
Flour – Most recipes for Japanese milk bread call for Bread Flour, but my audience is primarily homemakers and career-oriented women. Hence, I went for what was easily available to them: all-purpose flour. The result was mind-blowing; you can read more about this in the section below.
Yeast – I sometimes use active or instant yeast, but you can go with what you have in your kitchen. The yeast will release carbon dioxide and prove the dough if it is good.
Milk – Whole milk is the best choice for this recipe, but I know some who used low-fat milk, and the bread came out beautiful. You can also go for liquid coconut milk, not powder form.
Dough enhancer – Do not skip making the dough enhancer, it is the secret behind the fluffy and light texture of the milk bread, and it will help keep the bread fresh for a longer time.
Butter – Go for unsalted butter; for a buttery flavor, I recommend European butter like Lurpak, but regular unsalted butter will do.
BREAD FLOUR vs ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
The difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour is the amount of protein. Bread flour has more protein.
Let me tell you the difference between the two when baking bread without going into scientific details.
The dough made using bread flour rises higher while baking; it has a chewer texture and a crispier crust.
As I have done in this recipe, the dough comes out softer when you use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. Having said that, you can use the exact measurements of bread and all-purpose flour for this recipe.
HOW TO MAKE JAPANESE MILK BREAD (SHOKUPAN)
This will be an easy and fun project if you have baked bread before. But if this is your first time, no worries, it will be easy for you too, I promise! Watch the video tutorial and follow the step-by-step images for guidance. Let’s begin.
Off the heat and in a saucepan, add the flour and half a cup of milk. Whisk until you see no lumps.
Turn on the heat to medium and keep stirring until you get a pudding-like consistency. Now you have Tangzhong ready.
Turn off the heat, pour another half cup of milk into the mixture, and whisk.
Add the sugar, yeast, and whisk well, then add the egg and whisk until combined. Make sure the mixture is not hot but warm before adding the yeast.
MAKING THE DOUGH STEP BY STEP
Add the flour and salt to a stand mixer bowl. Mix well.
pour the Tangzhong mixture into the flour and knead for 2 minutes.
Gradually add the melted butter and continue kneading. Knead for 10 minutes.
Stretch a small piece from the dough. When you stretch it thin enough to see the light or your fingers through it, and without tearing, stop the kneading. This is called the Windowpane test.
Spray some oil into a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the dough for one and a half to two hours.
SHAPING AND FORMING THE DOUGH
Make four equal balls. Roll out the dough to 8 to 9 inches. You can use your hand instead of a rolling pin.
Fold the top to the center, then the bottom over the top fold. Rotate the folded dough to 90°and roll it up. Pinch to seal the seam.
Place the rolled dough into the loaf seam side down. Cover the loaf pan and let the dough rise again for 30 to 40 minutes.
Make an egg wash by beating an egg with two tablespoons of water. Lightly brush the dough and then place the loaf pan in the oven.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then cool on a wire rack.
TIPS TO MAKE THE BEST JAPANESE MILK BREAD
- Do not add the yeast to the dough enhancer while it’s hot. Make sure the enhancer is warm.
- Use the spoon and level when measuring the all-purpose or bread flour.
- You can knead the dough with your hands, but it will take longer (around 12 to 14 minutes) to pass the Windowpane test and develop gluten. It’s best to use a stand mixer. Windowpane is when you stretch the dough, and it stretches thin. You can see the light through it without it tearing. The more you knead the dough, the stretchier it gets. I showed this in the video tutorial.
- Be gentle when handling the dough while shaping it. Avoid tearing the dough.
- If you are using bread flour, you might need a rolling pin to roll the dough, but with all-purpose flour, you can spread and shape the dough with your hand, as shown in the video.
MORE BREAD RECIPES TO TRY
💬 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Milk bread and brioche look the same, but brioche has more butter and eggs; it's richer and denser than milk bread. You can taste more butter and a custard-like flavor in brioche.
Japanese use high-quality whole milk instead of water to make the dough. Instead of an egg, some recipes go for powdered milk plus regular liquid milk.
You can enjoy this Japanese milk bread in many ways. Making French toast with milk bread is a great idea. You can make sandwiches and bread puddings using it. I sometimes use the dough to make burger buns, which taste amazing.
- If your kitchen is cold, the dough will take longer to rise.
- Check the expiry date of the yeast.
- It would be best to use a warm liquid to activate the yeast.
- Maybe your dough is dry and needs more liquid.
Of course! After kneading the dough, place it in a large container since it will triple in size, cover it, and refrigerate it overnight to bake it in the morning. Remember, you can do this on the first rise, not after shaping the dough and placing it in the pan.
You can, but I will recommend using a stand mixer instead. The dough is wet and will take you longer to knead.
You can tell if the bread is done by removing it from the oven and tapping the top. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done. You can also use a toothpick. Insert the toothpick in the middle of the bread; it should come out clean. One last way to know if your bread is done is when the bread pulls away from the pan.
HOW TO STORE MILK BREAD
When the bread is cool completely, place it in a Ziplock bag, remove as much air as possible, and leave it on the counter for up to 2 days. You can also slice it and put it in a freezer bag for up to three months.
Easiest Fluffy Japanese Milk Bread Recipe
For the Tangzhong (starter)
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons flour all-purpose or bread flour
For the Dough
- ½ cup whole milk at room temperature
- 3 tablespoon sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups flour all-purpose or bread flour
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
To make the Tangzhong (Dough Enhancer)
- Off the heat and in a small saucepan, add the flour and half a cup of milk. Whisk until you see no lumps.
- Turn on the heat to medium and keep stirring or whisking until you get a pudding-like consistency.
- Turn off the heat, pour another half cup of milk into the flour and milk mixture, and keep on whisking to prevent creating lumps.
- Make sure the mixture is warm and not hot. Add the sugar, yeast, and whisk well, then add the egg and whisk until combined.
To make the dough
- Attach the dough hook attachment to a stand mixer, add the flour and salt to the stand mixer's bowl, mix them well, and then pour the Tangzhong.
- Run the stand mixer and knead. When the dough is almost formed, pour in the melted butter.
- Knead for 10 minutes, then take a piece from the dough and stretch it between your fingers. Stop kneading if you pull the dough enough to see your fingers under it without tearing.
- Knead the dough gently for a few seconds.
- Spray some oil into a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover the dough and keep it in a warm place for one and a half to two hours.
- Press the dough to remove the extra air and knead gently for a few seconds.
Shaping the dough
- Make four equal balls. I used the fourth ball to form small buns, but you can use a bigger loaf pan to use all four balls.
- If you want to bake the four balls in one loaf pan, grease an 8 x 12-inch loaf pan. If you want to keep the fourth ball to form small buns, go for a 4.5 x 8.5-inch loaf pan.
- Roll out the dough to 8 to 9 inches. As shown in the video, you can use a rolling pin or, better, use your hand.
- Fold the top to the center, then the bottom over the top fold.
- Rotate the folded dough to 90°and roll it up.
- Pinch to seal the seam. Place the rolled dough into the loaf seam side down. Do the same with the rest of the balls you formed earlier.
- Cover the loaf pan and let the dough rise again for 30 to 40 minutes.
Baking the Japanese milk bread
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Make an egg wash by beating an egg with two tablespoons of water. Lightly brush the dough and then place the loaf pan in the oven.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until it's golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
- Remove the bread from the pan and cool it on a wire rack.
- For more flavor, I sometimes brush the top of the bread with butter after taking it out of the oven, but that’s an optional step.
- As I mentioned in the post, I used all-purpose flour to make this milk bread, but if you want to follow the original recipe, use bread flour without changing the measurements of the ingredients.
- When you make the Tangzhong, ensure the mixture is warm and not hot before adding the yeast, or the dough won’t rise.
- It is best to use whole milk, but you can go for coconut milk.
- If the dough is still wet, lightly dust the working surface with flour when rolling out the dough.
- Do the Windowpane test. I wrote more about it under Tips. It will be a guide to fluffy milk bread.
- Proofing the dough: If the kitchen is cold, wrap the bowl with thick towels.
- This recipe makes one large loaf of milk bread, one medium size, and three buns.
- If you want to make buns out of the dough, it usually takes 12 to 14 minutes in the oven using the same temperature I have mentioned in the recipe.
- Use half the amount of salt if you are using salted butter.