Japanese Milk Bread (Shokupan)

Japanese Milk Bread is soft, fluffy and pillowy, making it the perfect loaf of sliced white bread! Make Japanese Milk Bread at home with this easy and delicious recipe with step-by-step photos.

Japanese Milk Bread on wire rack

Japanese Milk Bread

If you are a fan of Japanese bakery treats, you might already be familiar with Japanese Milk Bread, also called Hokkaido Milk Bread or Shokupan. This fluffy and pillowy-soft white loaf is a bread-lover’s dream, perfect for slicing to use in sandwiches, or lightly toasted to serve at breakfast.

Japanese Milk Bread loaf on wire rack

What is Japanese Milk Bread?

  • Japanese Milk Bread contains milk to add a bit of sweetness and richness to the dough.
  • The taste and texture is quite similar to a French brioche, but with less butter.
  • Making a Japanese Milk Bread is like making an enriched dough, but with the addition of a paste or starter called a Yudane or Tangzhong.
Japanese Milk Bread loaf split open on wire rack

Yudane or Tangzhong

When making a Milk Bread, you either need to make a Yudane or Tangzhong. Both names refer to a paste or roux made from flour and a hot liquid (either water and/or milk).

The cooled paste is mixed into an otherwise common enriched bread dough, but because the paste has a high liquid content, it adds moisture to the dough, which creates more air pockets in the dough, which in turn results in a soft and fluffy bread.

Japanese Milk Bread on wire rack with glass of milk and butter

How to Make Milk Bread

Making a Japanese Milk Bread is very similar to making any other loaf of bread, except that you also add a floury paste to the dough. This paste, called a Yudane or Tangzhong, takes only a few minutes to make, but it makes all the difference to the finished loaf of bread.

Once you get started, you will quickly see that this milk bread recipe is quite similar to a brioche recipe, both in terms of ingredients, as well as texture of the dough.

Step 1

Make the Tangzhong by whisking together the ingredients in a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over low heat, and continue whisking until the mixture forms a thick paste. You want a thick enough consistency so that, as you whisk the mixture, the whisk leaves lines which do not move.

Scrape the Tangzhong into a small bowl and set it aside to cool. Once cooled, cover the bowl with clingfilm and place it in the fridge overnight.

If you are in a hurry, you can use the Tangzhong as soon as it has cooled to room temperature. But leaving the Tangzhong overnight allows it to develop more flavour.

making tangzhong in small saucepan

Step 2

Measure the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Lightly mix the ingredients together.

dry ingredients for Japanese Milk Bread in white mixing bowl

Step 3

Add the butter and Tangzhong. Use the dough hook to start to incorporate everything together. Slowly add the milk until a sticky dough starts to form. You may not need all of the milk, or you might need to add a splash more.

wet ingredients for Japanese milk bread

Step 4

Knead the dough on medium speed for 10-15 minutes until you have a dough which passes the windowpane test.

To perform the “windowpane test”, 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.

windowpane test

At this stage, the dough will be somewhat sticky and tacky, mostly because of the butter and high liquid content. However, once the dough has had its first proofing, it will be less sticky to the touch and easier to handle.

dough for Japanese milk bread in white mixing bowl

Step 5

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Roll the dough into a smooth-ish ball and place it inside the bowl.

Cover with a clean tea towel, and set it aside somewhere warm for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

dough proving for Japanese milk bread in white mixing bowl

Step 6

Punch the dough back to release the air. Knead the dough gently a few times until it is soft and smooth again.

risen dough for Japanese milk bread in white mixing bowl

Step 7

Divide the dough into two even portions (I recommend using a digital kitchen scale). Roll each portion into a smooth ball.

Place the balls of dough aside on the kitchen bench, covered in a clean tea towel, for about 20 minutes on until they are slightly puffy.

portioned dough for Japanese milk bread

Step 8

Use a rolling pin to roll out a ball of dough to about 15 cm x 20 cm. Make an envelope fold by folding over the right edge into the centre, and then fold the left edge into the centre.

shaping dough for Japanese milk bread

Step 9

With the short side of the envelope facing you, roll the dough tightly and away from you.

rolling dough for Japanese milk bread

Step 10

Place the dough into the end of a loaf pan with the seam facing inwards.

Repeat the above steps with the second piece of dough.

proving dough for Japanese milk bread in loaf pan

Step 11

Place the loaf pan somewhere warm, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30-45 minutes or until the dough has risen to the about the same height as the pan.

risen dough for Japanese milk bread in loaf pan

Step 12

Lightly brush the dough with some egg wash. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. An internal thermometer should read about 85°C/185°F.

baked Japanese milk bread in loaf pan

More Japanese Recipes

If you are looking for more Japanese recipes, you might also enjoy:

Chicken Katsu Curry

Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs

Yakisoba (Japanese Stir-Fried Noodles)

milk bread loaf on wire rack with glass of milk
Print

Japanese Milk Bread (Shokupan)

Japanese Milk Bread is soft, fluffy and pillowy, making it the perfect loaf of sliced white bread! Make your own delicious Japanese Milk Bread with this easy recipe with step-by-step photos.

  • Resting Time: 2 hours
  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 1 loaf
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Ingredients

For the Tangzhong

  • 2 tablespoons strong white bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons milk

For the Japanese Milk Bread Dough

  • 300 g (2 cups) strong white bread flour
  • 3 g (1 teaspoon) instant dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 25 g (2 tablespoonscaster sugar
  • 50 g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml to 125 ml (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon to 1/2 cup) milk, slightly warmed

For the Eggwash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Instructions

Ideally, start this recipe the night before.

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.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled, cover with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  6. Otherwise, if you are impatient, you can use the Tangzhong as soon as it has cooled to room temperature.

To Make the Dough

  1. Into a large mixing bowl, measure the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  3. Add the butter, egg and the cooled Tangzhong.
  4. Use a dough hook to mix the ingredients together.
  5. Slowly add the milk until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough. You may not need all of the milk, or you may need to add a splash more.
  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).
  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, and place it somewhere warm for about 1 hour, 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 two equal portions.
  4. Roll each portion of dough into smooth balls, and set them aside on the kitchen bench for about 20 minutes to puff up slightly. Cover them with a clean tea towel during this time. 

Shaping the Dough

  1. Take one of the balls of dough and roll it out until it is about 15 cm x 20 cm.
  2. Make an envelope fold, i.e. fold the right end towards the centre, then the left end towards the centre.
  3. With the short side of the dough facing you, roll the dough tightly and away from you.
  4. Place the rolled-up dough into the end a loaf pan with the seam facing the centre.
  5. Repeat the above steps with the second piece of dough.

Proving the Shaped Dough

  1. Place the loaf pan somewhere warm, covered with a clean tea towel, for about 30-45 minutes, or until the dough has risen to about the same height as the loaf pan.

Baking the Japanese Milk Bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F.
  2. Place a metal baking tray on the lower to middle shelf.
  3. Lightly brush the bread dough with some egg wash.
  4. Bake the bread for about 25-30 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. 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 removing the bread to a wire rack to cool completely.

Kitchen Notes

WINDOWPANE TEST
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.

LOAF PAN DIMENSIONS
The loaf pan I have used for this recipe measures 20 cm x 10 cm x 9 cm. If you are using a longer loaf pan, I recommend cutting the dough into 3 or 4 portions.

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

DIFFERENT TYPES OF YEAST
* 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).

PROOFING THE DOUGH
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).
* On the open oven door, with the oven turned on at 100°C (212°F).

OVEN TEMPERATURES
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.

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

Did you make this recipe?

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