Bread/ Recipes

Japanese Milk Bread

Japanese milk bread is fluffy, moist and it stays soft for days. You’ll never want to go back to regular bread ever again.

Close up view of milk bread roll.

The holidays are here in full swing, which means you’ve probably eaten your fair share homemade cookies and candy and all of those delicious holiday treats. Seriously, who can pass up that mouthwatering divinity?

By this time each December, I always feel a bit sugared out. If you can relate, then you’ll love today’s recipe. I’ve decided it’s time to take a break from all of the holiday treats with a recipe inspired by our trip to Japan in 2017: milk bread.

Milk bread rolls piled up in a bowl with a plaid towel.

These rolls are incredibly soft and fluffy. And the secret to the softness? Tangzhong – a Japanese technique where you cook a portion of flour and water and then mix it in with the rest of the bread dough.

The paste creates a bread that stays surprisingly moist and fluffy for several days (click here to check out the science behind how it works and adapt the method for any of your favorite yeast bread recipes).

Milk bread rolls in a glass pan prior to baking.

Once you try milk bread and learn the tangzhong method (which is mindblowingly easy!), you’ll never go back to making bread the same way ever again.

Milk bread rolls in a glass pan.

Seriously though, how come it took me so long to figure out how to make super soft, basically melt-in-your-mouth bread? 

Close up side view of milk bread rolls.

If you’re looking for a good dish to take to a holiday dinner, you can’t go wrong with Japanese milk bread. I can guarantee that everyone will be asking you for the recipe. Or if you need an easy neighbor gift to take around, you could try your hand at some milk bread cinnamon rolls.

I can just imagine that now. Soft, fluffy layers of dough rolled up between layers of sweet cinnamon and sugar…Amazing.

Someone's hand grabbing a milk bread roll out of the pan.

Have you used the tangzhong method before? What are your favorite recipes to use it in?

Japanese Milk Bread

Japanese Milk bread is pillowy soft and fluffy due to a simple technique called tangzhong. The dough is versatile enough for rolls, sandwich bread and more.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 8 rolls
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Bread Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk warmed
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream warmed
  • 1 egg room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  1. Add the ingredients for the tangzhong to a small saucepan. Over medium heat, stir the mixture for 4-5 minutes or until it thickens into a paste. Transfer to a bowl, cover and let sit until it reaches room temperature.

  2. Using a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add in the warmed milk, heavy whipping cream, tangzhong starter, and egg. Using a dough hook mix the dough on low for 5 minutes. Add the butter and mix an additional 5 minutes. Add additional flour if dough feels too sticky. Turn the speed to medium and continue mixing for another 5 minutes. Cover the bowl and let sit until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

  3. Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Place balls into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter if desired.


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