Fluffy Hokkaido Milk Bread Recipe: How to Make Asian Bread at Home by Chef Gigi

Fluffy Hokkaido Milk Bread Recipe: How to Make Asian Bread at Home

You know those comforting, mouth-watering, snow white, billowy little bread loaves and bread rolls that are the foundation of respectable Asian bakeries? Soft, squeezable buns that pull apart in feather-like layers. Ahhhh, the bread that just melts in your mouth just like cotton candy? 

Yes, that's the Hokkaido milk bread I'm talking about. And this fluffy Hokkaido milk bread recipe is how to make that mouth-watering Asian bread at home. Making Hokkaido milk bread at home takes some work, but it's worth it. 

You must begin by starting with a tangzhong, also known as a water roux or yu-dane, which is a flour paste used to improve the bread's texture and lengthen its freshness. Serve this delicious bread recipe all by itself for breakfast or as a snack, or use it as sandwich bread for lunch, or as the best side dish ever for dinner.

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Cuisine: Asian
Prep Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours and 10 minutes
Servings: Makes 1 loaf

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For the tangzhong, you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature

Here’s how to make it:

  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the flour, milk and water until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, until it thickens but remains pourable, about 8 to 10 minutes. (As it cools, it will continue to thicken.)
  2. Remove from heat and pour into a small bowl and lightly cover the surface with plastic wrap. Set aside to cool to room temperature. This is enough for two batches. Keep half in the fridge covered, but allowed to breathe. Feed it a bit of flour every few days, mixing it in well with any liquid that has accumulated at the top. This will keep it alive and growing.

For the bread dough, you’ll need: 

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh active dry yeast or 1 packet
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk, plus extra for brushing on the unbaked loaf (about 105 degrees F, no hotter)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened at room temperature, plus extra for greasing proofing bowls and baking loaf pan.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Toss together for a few seconds, just until evenly combined. Add the milk, eggs and 1/2 cup of the tangzhong. Turn the mixer on low speed and knead 5 minutes.
  2. Add the softened butter and knead another 10 to 12 minutes (it will take a few minutes for butter to be incorporated), or until the dough is smooth and springy and just a bit tacky.
  3. Lightly butter the inside of a medium-sized bowl. Use your hands to lift dough out of mixer bowl onto a clean, dry surface dusted with a bit of flour. Quickly shape into a ball and place in the prepared bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.
  4. Lightly oil your hands. Punch the dough down with your closed fist and then scoop it up in your open hand onto a clean, dry slightly floured surface. 
  5. Using large knife, cut dough in quarters. Very gently form each quarter into a small ball and leave on the clean, dry surface covered with a towel and allow to rise an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Preheat heat the oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven is coming up to temperature, generously butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  7. Using a lightly flour dusted rolling pin, gently roll the dough balls one at a time into 8x4-inch thick ovals. Be careful not to completely remove all the fluffy Co2 gas created by the yeast. 
  8. Fold the top third of the oval down, then fold the bottom third of the oval up, making a rough-looking square-shaped piece of dough. Starting from the right edge of the rough-looking square, roll up from right to left, creating a spiral-looking cylinder or log. Place the logs in the buttered pan, seam side down and crosswise, nestling into one another. 
  9. Cover again for the last rise. Allow the formed dough to rest 30 to 40 additional minutes or until the dough has risen and is peeking over the edge of the loaf pan, making sure the dough logs are meeting and connected. 
  10. Brush the tops with milk and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven on a sheet pan until golden brown and puffed, about 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool, remove from pan and … pull apart! Mmmmmmm. Enjoy!

Recipe cooking times and servings are approximate. To ensure image quality, we may occasionally use stock photography. Need to convert cooking and baking measurements? Here are some kitchen conversion charts. Here's how to submit your recipes to 30Seconds.

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Mei Marcie
Hokkaido bread, cheese cake etc is so popular here!
Karen Vega
Thank you for the recipe, I can't wait to make this bread.
Hi. It looks very good and tasty but what is the use of the starter? I don't c any use of it here.
It’s not really a “starter” in terms of a true “yeast” starter when referencing bread. This is a COMPLETE misnomer, and the author should have never called it a “starter.” It is actually something called a “tangzhong,” and it is added/used to make the bread super soft and soft for a longer period of time. Asian bread recipes have been incorporating this for centuries. But, it has only recently caught the attention of Westerners. Hokkaido milk bread is absolutely delicious. BUT, there is nothing “live” about tangzhong, and it doesn’t need to be fed like a true natural yeast starter that is used to make sourdough. I’m really baffled that the author called this a starter and not a tangzhong. Is she REALLY a chef?
Chef Gigi
wolfem02 Hey, great feedback! Thanks for all this. Appreciate you calling it out. :-0 Maybe we can collaborate on this- and you can guide me. I love this bread, my next-door neighbors from when I was about 6 years old taught me. Fortunate to live in such diversity here in The SF Bay Area. She’s long past but funny how those warming food memories can linger on. Anyway, Shoot me an email! Help a chef out! 🙏🏻 Chefgigi@me.com Thanks again! I'm Sure the 30-second community would appreciate a better lesson too! Don't hide. Let's make it happen! Gigigaggero.com
The author refers to the roux or “tangzhong” used to make this bread as a “starter.” This is NOT a “starter” as real bread makers would reference, and there is nothing “to keep alive!” It is cooked and therefore there is no live yeast or bacteria in it. Likewise, it is not used to leaven the bread. It is used to pre-gelatinize the gluten and to make the bread super soft, and to preserve the softness and texture of the bread for a longer period of time. I question this author’s credentials. ???
I just looked at the beginning of the recipe. The author states that you first must make a “fermentation.” Again, this is NOT a fermentation. It is simple a roux (as the French would call it), or a tangzhong (as the Chinese would call it.) Fermentation cannot take place in a cooked roux as the heat kills all of the natural yeast and bacteria. This author has NO clue as to what she is talking about!
Jenn Goncalves
wolfem02 sheesh! Not sure why you feel the need to write so many posts attacking Chef Gigi. Then to be so rude in each one. You made your point and “shared your knowledge.”
Chef Gigi
Aweee, Thank you.
Elisa Schmitz
Note that this post has been updated to reflect the use of a tangzhong, also known as a water roux or yu-dane, the flour paste used to improve the bread's texture and lengthen its freshness.
Julio Caro
Thanks For Sharing....

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