recipe: hokkaido milk bread
Hokkaido Milk Bread
Recipe by Wendy Zheng
Photos by Angela Fung
Skip the CTA ride to Chinatown and take a lazy afternoon to make this Asian bakery classic instead. The enticing smells of freshly baked bread and the therapeutic kneading and rising process are sure to relieve any stress, and at the end of it all, you can indulge in the softest and fluffiest loaf you could ever imagine. While milk bread is delectable on its own, it’s easily adaptable to a variety of equally delicious recipes, like brick toast, red bean paste buns, and bread pudding. Milk bread is traditionally eaten for breakfast or as a snack; however, no matter what time of day, this bread is sure to satisfy any craving!
Serving Size: 1 loaf and 8 buns
Prep time: 30 minutes
Wait time: 2 hours
Cook time: 40 minutes
For the starter:
⅓ cup bread flour
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
For the dough:
5 cups bread flour
½ cup sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packets)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk, plus extra for brushing on the unbaked loaf
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature, plus extra for buttering bowls and pan
Make the tang zhou: Mix the flour, milk, and water in a small pot until smooth. Then, simmer while stirring often over a medium low heat for roughly 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to a point where the spoon leaves tracks on the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Make the dough: In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt until combined. Add the eggs, milk, and starter. Knead by hand or on low speed for 5 minutes. Add the softened butter and knead for another 10-12 minutes until the dough is smooth and springy.
Rise the dough: Shape the dough into a ball and place it into a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. In a warm place, let it rise for 40-60 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size*. Punch the dough down and cut the dough in quarters. Form each quarter into a ball and cover to rise for another 15 minutes.
Roll the dough: Flour a flat surface and gently roll out one dough ball into a 12 inch long and 6 inch wide oval. Fold the top 3 inches down and the bottom 3 inches up to make a square. Starting from the right edge of the square, roll the dough into a large cylinder and place it horizontally into a 9 by 5 inch buttered loaf pan seam side down near one end of the pan. Repeat with another dough ball, except placing it on the other end of the pan.
Roll the buns: Divide the remaining two dough balls into quarters, then take each of the dough balls and make it into whatever shape you desire. Place the buns onto a buttered sheet pan.
Bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover and let the buns and the loaf rest for 30 to 40 minutes or until the buns are doubled in size and the loaf is peeking over the edge of the pan and the two halves meet in the middle. Brush the tops with milk and bake on the bottom shelf for 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden grown.
Serve the bread: Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool for an hour to soften the crust and keep the air bubbles within the crumb. Serve plain or with honey or jam for an indulgent treat!
*To rise the bread in the shortest amount of time, put the covered dough in an oven or microwave with the light on for ideal yeast activation temperatures.