Japanese Milk Bread

Japanese milk bread is a super fluffy, soft, buttery bread that can be made as loaves or rolls. I use this Japanese milk bread recipe often for sandwiches, or make the rolls to eat with soup. It is an enriched dough, which means it has added fats and eggs, which give a richer feel to the end product. One of my favorite meals that uses this bread is coming in my post tomorrow!

Today I will show you how to make this wonderful bread. It is fairly straight forward and follows all the same steps I went over in my bread tutorial. The only difference is that enriched doughs take a bit longer to come together when you are kneading them, so it can be easy to think your dough is too wet, but you want to resist adding extra flour and be patient. Too much flour added to the dough makes dry bread.

This bread uses the tangzhong starter method. Tangzhong is a term for taking a small portion of your flour and liquid, and cooking it on the stove until it thickens up (it looks similar to a roux). Adding heat and water pre- gelatinizes some of the starch in the flour and locks in the water, which remains as the bread bakes. As a result, you get a softer and more shelf stable end result.

Tangzhong starter

Japanese Milk Bread:


  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp bread flour


  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tbsp dried milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp instant yeast (3/4 tbsp in the winter)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (warmed so it is room temp)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 stick melted and cooled unsalted butter
Make the starter:

To make the starter, mix the flour, water and milk in a small sauce pan, whisking constantly over medium heat until it thickens up and is sticky. Remove from heat and put into your mixing bowl and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of your ingredients to the mixing bowl. Important note: do not add yeast directly to hot liquids. Anything over about 130 degrees is too hot and will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise. It is important to allow hot items to cool down somewhat before adding yeast.

Mix the dough:

Mix the dough on low speed (or by hand) until it starts to come together and clear the sides of the bowl. As I noted above, enriched doughs take longer to form gluten and they can be slower to reach this point. Do not add more flour unless you have been mixing for more than 5-6 minutes and the dough hasn’t started to come together at all. Too much flour added to these doughs makes them tough and you lose the wonderful light texture. If you think you need to add more flour, only add 1 tbsp at a time and mix for a while to see if it is starting to develop some gluten. Your dough should still be soft and a little sticky even at the end, but should pass a window pane test.

Rise Shape, and Bake:

Put the dough into a greased bowl or dough rising bucket (see my favorite rising bucket and other bread baking tools here). Allow to rise for 60-90 minutes, depending on the temp, until it nearly doubled. This recipe makes 1 9×5 loaf or 8 rolls. If you are baking a loaf, shape the loaf as I detailed in my bread tutorial, and place into a greased loaf pan. If making rolls, divide into 8 equal pieces and shape as I show in my hamburger bun post, and place into a greased 9 inch round cake pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise 45-1 hour, until doubled. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until the center is 200 degrees. You can brush these with milk before baking for a lovely shine if you like.

Today I was making this bread specifically for a recipe I’m making tomorrow and I wanted 2 smaller loaves, so I doubled the recipe and then made two 8×4 loaves plus a few rolls.

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