Tuesday, August 9, 2011

hokkaido milk bread.

It took me awhile to gather the courage to attempt this bread by myself. Really, you have no idea how nervous I was to make this bread, and how excited I was to see the outcome. I swear someone just gave me a shot of adrenaline before I started mixing ingredients together, and it didn't wear off until I cut a slice of bread to try out for myself.

Making the tangzhong itself was a little intimidating in itself. Tangzhong, if you didn't know, is a starter mixture that's made simply with flour and water. Its purpose is to make the bread stay fluffier for longer, and also creates that slightly chewy and "elastic" texture that is commonly found in Asian pastry buns!

Anyway, I had measured it out and carefully stirred, looking carefully to see if I could spot the "lines" that show up when it hits around 65 Celsius. I didn't have a thermometer, so I just had to eye it! I actually messed up the first time, because I had to answer the phone - the flour and water got way too hot, so I had to start over, but it looked just like it should have, the second time around. "Yesss, success!" But this was only the beginning!

Was it a success? Was it a failure? I was extremely nervous about it when I took it out of the oven. Seriously, this (to me) was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as far as bread is concerned. Since I don't have a standing mixer or a bread machine, making the hokkaido milk bread with the tangzhong method was really hard because it required at least 30 minutes of kneading.

I'm normally a fan of kneading bread. There's something about kneading bread that just feels so comfortable, so fun to work with, and ultimately, it's relaxing. But when I had to stand here and knead non-stop for 30 minutes, it was definitely a little too much of a good thing. But that was the hardest part about this bread. Just the kneading. Looking back, it wasn't as formidable of an opponent as I thought it would be. I thought it'd be much more complicated, for some reason, but once the kneading was through, everything else was easy breezy!

If you guys want to try on your own, I suggest heading over to Kirbie's Cravings to see more detailed instructions and pictures! I followed her blog step by step, and managed to get this (somewhat) beautiful loaf!

...Okay, so it's a little lumpy, and not as pretty as hers, but not bad for a first try, right? Anyways, for reference, here's the recipe! I strongly suggest you guys head over to Kirbie's Cravings or Christine's Recipes to get more detailed information and pictures about it though! It'll make the process that much less intimidating and easy! (Not that it is extremely intimidating or anything... I'm just inexperienced!)

Milk Bread (adapted from two of Christine’s recipes here and here,which she adapted from the 65 degrees book)
Yields 1 loaf

  • 2½ cups bread flour
  • 3tbsp+2tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 120g tangzhong (click here for making tangzhong)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center. Add in all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong. Fit the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer and begin mixing on medium speed and knead until your dough comes together and then add in the butter and continue kneading. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic. I kneaded the dough for about 18-20 minutes. Each mixer may vary.
  2. When the dough is ready, you should be able to take a chunk of dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before it breaks. When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
    NOTE: If you guys are doing it by hand like I did, follow the instructions up till the dough hook attachment..and knead, knead, knead away! Since the directions were taken from Kirbie's Cravings, I thought I might add for reference, that it took me approximately 35 minutes to knead by hand. I guess it varies from person to person, but one way you can tell for sure is by checking with the windowpane test!
  3. Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil. Place dough into greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold to meet on top.
  6. Flip dough over with the folds facing down,and flatten dough with rolling pin.
  7. Flip dough over so the folds face up. Now roll the dough up. Place each of the rolls into the bread pan and put a piece of plastic wrap over the rolls. Let them rise until double the size, approximately another 40 minutes.
  8. Beat an egg and brush egg mixture on top to create shiny eggwash finish.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes.

It turned out soft - extremely soft, like I was eating a cloud! I haven't had bread this soft since I was in Hong Kong. It was like an instant nostalgia trip back to places like Panash, and Yamazaki's! The bread had just the right amount of sweetness, so that it worked extremely well with a small bit of butter - perfect for a small little breakfast, served with a cup of milk tea on the side.

So! The tangzhong method is definitely welcome in my house! I'm glad I discovered it, but I just hope that next time I try variations of this bread, I'll be able to use a standing mixer. Since I had carpal tunnel once back in sophomore year of high school, my wrist has been much more fragile than it used to be, and kneading by hand for as long as 30 minutes sure took its toll on me! A few hours after I finished making the bread, my wrist felt incredibly uncomfortable and it hurt to move my wrist too much.. So I'm hoping for a standing mixer to make things a little easier for me in the future!


  1. oh! i'm so glad i found this post! i've been looking for somebody who's managed to make this bread via hand kneading and posted about it for a while bc the vast majority of posters were people who used stand mixers or bread makers. this gives me so much more confidence! :D

    1. Haha, that was the same problem I encountered when I made this bread the first time! I'm glad this post could be of help though; best of luck to you! :]