Milk bread is one of those special baked goods that you fall in love with as soon as you take a bite. As you tear it apart, it separates into wispy layers with a slightly milky flavor. Extraordinarily soft with a slight chew, milk bread is perfect for toast, sandwich bread, and so much more. It’s like eating a cloud, and it’s so simple to make! You just let the stand mixer do all the hard work.
What is milk bread?
Milk bread is a Japanese bread that is light and soft with a slightly sweet/milky flavor. Recipes have varying techniques, but one technique that is often used (and is used in this recipe) is the tangzhong method. Tangzhong is a flour/water paste that is formed while cooked on the stovetop. Adding tangzhong leads to the iconic soft and springy texture of milk bread and also leads to a longer shelf-life. Seriously though, this bread magically stays soft even after a couple days.
Bread making can definitely seem intimidating, but milk bread is a great introduction to it. The stand mixer does all the kneading for you, so the most work-intensive part is simply shaping the dough. You’re going to divide the dough into three portions, roll them out into small ovals, brush them with brown butter, and then roll them up to make a swirled log. You place these ‘logs’ next to each other in the pan, and then it’s ready for its final proof!
Trust me, you’re going to love this recipe.
tips for success
- Weigh the ingredients! – Using weight instead of volume leads to more accurate measurements and is something I do for all recipes. However, weighing your ingredients is even more important for this recipe because bread is more complicated than, for example, a batch of cookies. Basically, if you want to ensure your loaf of milk bread will turn out right, then measure using weight!
- Just let the mixer knead the dough! – Before the first proof, you must let the stand mixer knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The dough will be a bit sticky at first, but it will eventually come together during the kneading process. To test whether the dough has been kneaded long enough, use the windowpane test. The windowpane test is where you pinch off a small part of the dough and stretch it into a very thin ‘windowpane’. You should be able to see light through it, but if the dough breaks when you try to stretch it, then you still need to knead the dough for longer.
soft and pillowy milk bread
makes one loaf
- for the tangzhong:
- 3 tbsp (23 grams) bread flour
- 5 tbsp (74 grams) water
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) heavy cream
- for the dough:
- 2 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (315 grams) bread flour
- 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp (90 grams) whole milk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) heavy cream, room temperature
- 3 tbsp (40 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1 tbsp (6 grams) nonfat dry milk powder
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tbsp (28 grams) unsalted butter, (very) softened, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- to finish:
- 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter, for brown butter
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- for the tangzhong: in a small saucepan, whisk the flour, water, and heavy cream together until smooth over medium-low heat. Keep whisking until it forms a sort of paste, almost resembling mashed potatoes, about 5 minutes. It is done once the whisk is forming streaks within the paste. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool, covered with plastic wrap directly touching the paste, to prevent a film forming.
- for the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add the tangzhong and all of the dough ingredients, except for the butter. Mix on medium-low speed until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. The dough will be sticking to the sides a bit. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter, and mix on medium-high speed for about 10 minutes. The dough should be ‘slapping’ the sides of the bowl and should pass the windowpane test (described in the ‘tips for success’ section above). Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let proof in a warm space for 1 hour, or until doubled in size (refer to pictures above).
- Lightly butter a 9 by 5 loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, brown the butter. If you’ve never made brown butter before, here’s how: melt the butter over medium-high heat. Continuously stir the butter with a silicone spatula (this is key – just keep stirring so it doesn’t burn!). The butter will ‘sizzle’ and eventually foam. Keep stirring until you see several brown specks form in the butter (this takes a couple minutes). When the sizzling dies down, the butter is done. Pour the brown butter into a separate small bowl and let cool.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide it into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a long oval, fold the sides into the center, and roll it up lengthwise. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each portion out again into a long oval. Brush the tops with the brown butter, fold the sides into the center, and roll it up lengthwise once again. Place the dough spirals next to each other in the prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof in a warm space for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, beat the egg until smooth to make an egg wash. Uncover the dough, and brush the top with the egg wash. Bake for 35 minutes, until deep brown in color (the bread should rise quite a bit in the oven!). Take out of the loaf pan, and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut a slice, slather with butter, and enjoy a warm slice of milk bread!