January 20, 2015

Making Japanese milk bread at home

Japanese milk bread

It was late, I was putting kids to bed, almost half asleep myself when a picture popped into my facebook feed. It was the softest bread I had seen and all I remember was the name - Japanese milk bread. Somehow, I could never find that picture again. But it had served its purpose. Next day, I woke up determined to learn more about this.

There were many, many recipes and versions to follow. You can add condensed milk, heavy cream to the ingredients in some of them.

I decided to give a try to New York Times recipe. But I made some modifications. I used whole wheat white flour. Plus, I don't have a mixer, you see. So I did it all by hand.

But the taste, what can I tell you. With hints of sweetness, and buttery taste with flaky crumb, this bread was my companion till we finished it. You can butter it, add some jam or even condensed milk, and it will still taste amazing.

The secret to the bread is tanzhong - a roux of flour, milk and water that is cooked on stove top. I have detailed pictures of the steps, so I hope it's easy to explain.


For Tanzhong:
1/3 cup whole wheat white flour (the recipe calls for bread flour)
120 ml milk
1/2 cup water

For the Dough:
21/2 cups whole wheat white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tspoon salt
2 tspoon active dry yeast (it's 1 packet)
1 egg
120 ml milk
4 tbspoon butter (unsalted and softened)

Make the starter: In a small heavy pot mix the flour, milk and water together till there are no lumps. Cook it on medium low heat, stirry constantly till it has thickened about 7-8 minutes. It will thicken more as it cools.
Once it's done, pour it in a cup. We will use half for this bread and you can make one more with the leftover.

Japanese milk bread
Make the dough: Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt together. Mix egg and milk together.
Japanese milk bread
Now slowly add this to the flour and combine. Then add about half of tanzhong and mix it together. It will be sticky and feel weird, but it's okay. It will come together. Knead for good 4-5 minutes.

Cut the softened butter into cubes and then incorporate it in the dough. The dough will start coming together at this point. Knead it well for another 8-10 minutes till a soft dough forms.

Lightly butter the inside of a bowl and let the dough sit in it for about an hour. It should almost double in size. Since it's winter, I left mine inside the oven with light on.

Japanese milk bread
Punch the dough down and then divide the dough into 4 pieces.

Cover and let it rise for another 15-20 minutes and it will double in size again.

In the meantime, set the oven to 350 degF and butter and flour a loaf pan.

By now, the dough is nice and springy.

Japanese milk bread
Take one ball out and roll it out to an oval. Roll the top and bottom of the oval and then roll the other two side together and put it seam down in the loaf pan. Repeat with the other three dough balls.

Japanese milk bread
Cover and let it rest for another 45 minutes and then brush it lightly with butter. 

Japanese milk bread
Then bake it for 30 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for atleast an hour and then it's ready.

Japanese milk bread

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