Japanese Milk Bread Loaf

5 from 14 reviews

This Japanese Milk Bread Loaf is the softest and most delicious white bread you have ever tasted! Try this Milk Bread recipe with step-by-step photos.


For the Tangzhong

For the Japanese Milk Bread Dough


For the Tangzhong

  1. Whisk the ingredients together in a small saucepan.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat.
  3. Keep whisking until the ingredients form a thick paste. The consistency should be thick enough so that as you whisk the mixture, the whisk leaves lines in the mixture which remains.
  4. Remove the paste to a small bowl, and set it aside to cool down completely.

To Make the Dough

  1. Measure the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together using a dough hook.
  3. Add the egg and the cooled Tangzhong.
  4. Slowly add the milk until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough. 
  5. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Wait for each tablespoon of butter to be fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next.
  6. Continue kneading the dough on medium speed for about 10-15 minutes, or until the dough passes the windowpane test. (See Kitchen Notes below). By this stage, the dough should also be coming away from the sides of the bowl.
  7. Lightly oil a large, clean mixing bowl.
  8. Roll the dough into a smooth ball and place it into the mixing bowl.
  9. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel or bowl cover, and place it somewhere warm for about 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Portion the Dough

  1. Punch back the dough to release the air.
  2. Gently knead the dough a few times until it is smooth again.
  3. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Use a digital scale for even-sized buns.

Shaping the Dough

  1. Lightly grease a Pullman loaf pan and its lid with butter or non-stick baking spray. Even if your loaf pan is non-stick, I still recommend greasing it. For this recipe, I use a Pullman loaf pan which measures 23 x 13 cm/9 x 5 inches
  2. Roll a piece of dough into a smooth ball. 
  3. Then roll the dough into an oval shape, about 20 x 13 cm/8 x 5 inches.
  4. Roll up the piece of dough from the short end so that you have a log which is about 5 inches long.
  5. Repeat the above steps with the remaining pieces of dough.
  6. Place the shaped pieces of dough into the loaf pan with the seam facing down.

Proving the Shaped Dough

  1. Place the pan somewhere warm, covered with some plastic wrap, for about 30 – 60 minutes, or until the dough has risen until about 1 cm/0.5 inch below the rim of the loaf pan.
  2. If you are using a Pullman loaf pan with a lid, be careful that the dough does not rise too high, otherwise you will not be able to slide the lid on.

Baking the Milk Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F.
  2. Place a metal baking tray on the middle shelf.
  3. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is nicely golden all over. You can check the colour of the bread by sliding the lid off the pan. 
  4. The bread is cooked if an internal thermometer reads 85°C/185°F.
  5. Leave the bread in the pan for about 5 minutes, before carefully inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Kitchen Notes

Pinch off a small piece of dough, roll it into a ball and use your hands to gently stretch the dough. If the dough can stretch to form a thin sheet and be almost translucent so that you can see the light through it, your dough has passed the “windowpane test”. This means that you have kneaded the dough sufficiently and that the dough is ready to be proofed.

The Pullman loaf pan I have used for this recipe measures 23 x 13 cm/9 x 5 inches.

If you don’t own a Pullman loaf pan, simply use an ordinary loaf pan, cover it with a sheet of baking paper, followed by a metal sheet pan, and top with an oven-proof weight such as a brick, cast-iron skillet or cast-iron lid.

To start the Milk Bread the night before, make the dough as per the recipe, until the dough has finished the first proofing period. Without touching or deflating the dough, cover the bowl with a tea towel, plastic wrap or reusable bowl cover. Place the bowl in the fridge to continue proofing overnight. The dough will rise slightly more overnight in the fridge. The next day, proceed with the rest of the recipe. As the dough will be cold, it may require a bit more time for the second proofing period. 

For Swiss readers: I use Zopfmehl (or farine pour tresse) when making bread and enriched dough.

* Please note that there is a difference between instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) and dried yeast (also called active dry yeast). If you are not sure what type of yeast you have, please check the packaging for instructions on how to use the yeast.
* With instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first.
* With dried yeast, you will need to activate it first (usually in some warm liquid).

Dough needs a warm environment for the yeast to activate and cause the dough to rise. If you don’t have a warm place in your home, try one of the following ideas:
* In the oven with the oven light switched on (works only for some ovens).
* In the oven with a tray of boiling water on the bottom shelf.
* In the oven at a low temperature of about 25-30°C (77-86°F).

All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.