Most of us in Asia are already familiar with soft fluffy milk breads. They are are wildly popular as a staple here. I started baking bread as I prefered to feed my son fresh chemical-free breads. I have been doing it for sometime now. All these while, I experimented with different recipes for soft bread but the Japanese milk bread reigns. It is soft, moist and fluffy, just the exact fit for my son. Best of all the softness lasts for days. Therefore, this has become my best bread recipe, my go to recipe. I use this even when I wanted to whip up a dinner or sausage bun. Once you have mastered the basics the first few times, the sky is the limit to the many variations that you could develop. Nothing tastes and smells better than freshly-baked soft fluffy homemade bread from the oven.
The method for making this bread differs slightly as it uses water roux or more popularly known as tangzhong (湯種) in Chinese. Tangzhong has a similar texture to creme pattisiere, only thicker and opaque in colour. It helps the bread trap and retain moisture, making it soft and moist for a longer period of time. The Chinese traditionally uses this method to make buns with soft, cottony texture. However, milk bread is developed by the Japanese and hence, sometimes it is also known as Hokkaido bread. And when milk and tangzhong technique combines, it gives you a that soft fluffy texture with wonderful flavour. The milk also helps to further soften the bread.. Definitely my best bread recipe me! And I am confident you would like it as much.
Best Bread Recipe: Japanese Milk Bread 牛奶麵包
25 g plain flour
120 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
2 tsp instant yeast
120 ml (1/2 cup) warm whole milk
350 gm bread flour
60 gm sugar
1 1/2 tbsp milk powder
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
40 gm butter
Mix all ingredients together and stir until there is no lumps left. Put it in medium heat. Stir until the mixture thickens. Continue to fully cook the roux. Remove from fire, cover and set aside to cool .
1. Meanwhile, mix yeast into warm milk and sugar. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Mix bread flour, milk powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir to mix. Make a hole in the middle. Add egg, tangzhong and yeast mixture into flour. If you have a bread machine/mixer, now is a good time to use it. Combine everything. Dough should be very sticky at this point. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is elastic and less sticky. Add in butter and continue to knead until butter is well incorporated. Dough should be able to form a thin layer before breaking when pulled apart. Form dough into a ball, brush with oil and cover loosely with clingwrap or cloth. Set aside for dough to proof. Dough should at least double the size before the next step. Depending on external conditions (temperature), it will take about 1 to 2 hours.
3. Punch dough to deflate. Shape into desired shape and put onto tray. Cover and set aside to proof for another hour or until the dough doubles in size.
4. Preheat oven to 170C. Meanwhile, brush top of dough with some eggwash.
5. Put into oven for 15 to 20 mins (depending on what shape and size). Remove to cool.
Making Red Beans Swirl BunThere are many ways and variations to making your ideal bread with this dough. You can make it plain or you could add filling, be it sweet or savoury. Today, I am going with plain and a no-brainer red beans swirl. It is so easy you don't even need to weigh or measure.
2/3 portion of proofed dough
4 tbsp red beans filling or any other fillings that you desire
a little oil for oiling worktop and rolling pin
1 loaf pan
1. Grease your pan. Oil or dust your worktop and rolling pin. I prefer oil than dust as it is less messy and my dough remains soft as there is no additional flour. Make sure you do not put too much oil if you don't want your bread to come out too greasy.
2. Take out 2/3 of the rested dough and roll it into a rectangle. I just do it freely without measurements (yes, this is as lazy as I could get). But if you are adamant about precision, try 1.5:1 ratio, width to length.
|red beans filling added on dough|
3. Simply butter up the top of the dough with red beans filling. It is ok to be messy as it is all going to be covered up later.
|roll dough into a log|
|cut into 8 pieces|
|arrange in two rows|
4. Roll the dough into a log like you would roll a swiss roll. Shape it a little to get an even looking shape. Using a scraper or an oiled knife, cut log into 8 even pieces. Space evenly all the pieces into your loaf pan, swirl side up in 2 rows of 4 pieces each. Is ok if your dough doesn't really fill up the loaf pan as it would proof and expand later.
I used the other 1/3 of bread to make plain milk bread. Just form it into balls and put in into moulds or little cups like I did. I like to put it into moulds in order for the bread to rise in height similar to the red beans buns so that they will cook equally.
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