Japanese Milk Buns

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5 from 20 reviews

Try these incredibly soft and fluffy bread rolls which are delicious served with a sweet or savoury filling. Recipe for Milk Buns with step-by-step photos.


For the Tangzhong

For the Japanese Milk Bread Dough

For the Eggwash


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.

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. Gently remove the dough from the bowl. The dough will deflate as you handle it.
  2. Divide the dough into 9 equal portions. Use a digital scale for even-sized buns.

Shaping the Dough

  1. Line a square baking pan with baking paper.
  2. Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball. I do this by pulling the edges of the dough into the centre, and then pinching those edges together while shaping the dough into a smooth ball as you do so. The pinched edges form the bottom of the buns.
  3. Repeat the above steps with the remaining pieces of dough.
  4. Place the shaped buns into the lined baking pan.

Proving the Shaped Dough

  1. Place the pan somewhere warm, covered with a clean tea towel, for about 30 minutes, or until the buns have almost doubled in size and are touching each other in the pan.

Baking the Japanese Milk Buns

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F.
  2. Place a metal baking tray on the middle shelf.
  3. Lightly brush the buns with some egg wash.
  4. Bake the buns for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are lightly golden. Check the buns at about 10-15 minutes and, if they are browning too quickly, cover the buns with a loose sheet of foil for the remaining baking time.
  5. The buns are cooked if an internal thermometer reads 85°C/185°F.
  6. Leave the buns in the pan for about 5 minutes, before carefully removing the buns to 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.

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.