Ever since my first trip to Japan years ago, I have been obsessed with fluffy white bread that is drastically tastier than the US version. I could only find this at good Asian bakeries like Tous Le Jour. Due to the pandemic, milk bread was hard to come by. I scoured Youtube and blogs to find the perfect recipe and after a few trials and errors, I finally modified one that works for me.
This recipe is based on Aimee’s Cooking’s dinner rolls, where I adjusted the sugar and honey ratio and used a different bread formation. The differences make the honey flavor more pronounced and the bread less sugary tasting. The loaf method compared to the dinner roll method also gives the bread more structure while retaining the fluffiness. I hope you like this as much as my family.
This recipe is for one bread using an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2” loaf pan. It’s medium in difficulty and takes around 2.5 hours including a lot of waiting time.
3/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of instant yeast (active yeast works too)
1 tablespoon of sugar
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter to brush the bread at the end
1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt
2 eggs (1 for the dough and 1 for the egg wash)
2 and 3/4 cup / 400 gram of bread flour (12.7% protein is recommended)
3 tablespoons of honey
Heat 3/4 cup of milk in the microwave for 30 seconds until it becomes lukewarm.
Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add 1 tablespoon of instant yeast, mix quickly and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside. (Note: instant yeast doesn’t need to be activated; however, I get the best result when I let it bloom for around 5 minutes before adding to the flour.)
In a separate bowl, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and mix with 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 3 tablespoons of honey, and 1 large egg.
Using a stand mixer like Kitchen Aid with a dough hook, add 2 and 3/4 cup of bread flour to the mixing bowl.
With the setting on stir (low or #1-2 for Kitchenaid mixer), slowly add the milk and yeast mixture. Next, slowly add the butter and honey mixture to the dough. This will take around a minute.
Set the mixer to medium or #4 for the Kitchenaid mixer and let the dough kneads for 10 minutes. By the end of 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth and stretchy when you pull on it.
- At 5 minutes, the dough is coming together, but is still very sticky and not smooth.
- At 10 minutes, the dough should be smooth even when you stretch it out.
Grease another mixing bowl with cooking spray.
Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a ball. You can do this by pulling the sides under and pinching the edges together. Rotate the dough and do the same method. You should be able to form a smooth ball within 4-5 times.
- Stretch the side and fold under to form a ball.
- Pinch the sides that you just pulled under, which should help to create a ball. Turn the dough 180 degrees on your hand and repeat this process until a smooth ball is formed at the top.
Add the dough ball to the greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel. Place in a warm spot to proof for 1 hour. (Proofing is when you rest the dough and allow for the yeast to activate and for the dough to rise.) I like to proof mine in an oven with the light on. The light adds just enough heat. Your dough should double in size by the end of the hour. If it’s not, proof the dough a little longer.
After 1 hour:
Spray your loaf pan with cooking spray.
Spray the surface that you will use to knead the dough. (Since the dough is sticky, I prefer to use cooking spray rather than add more flour to maneuver it.) I also sprayed my hand before I touch the dough, so it doesn’t stick.
Pour the dough out of the bowl whereby the smooth side (top part) of the dough is touching the counter.
Knead for up to 1 minute to remove excess air. Do not over-knead this.
Divide into 3 equal parts.
Using a rolling pin, roll 1 part into a rectangle with approximately 1/8th inch thickness. Keep a mental note of how wide your loaf pan is so that you can roll and match the width of your dough to the pan.
Fold each side in to create a 3-way fold.
Flatten the dough again into a rectangle with 1/8th inch thickness.
Starting from one end, roll the dough toward you and at each turn, pinch the dough to seal the edge. This helps create layers and makes the bread fluffy.
Continue to do that until you are close to the end. Roll the end portion as flat as possible so it will stick to the dough. Roll the dough all the way and pinch the edges to seal.
Place into the loaf pan with the smooth side facing up (one part on each end and one part in the middle of the pan).
Cover with a kitchen towel and let the bread proof for the second time for 35-40 minutes. The goal is to have the dough rise just to the top of the loaf pan. If the dough proof for too long, the bread may collapse after baking and become dense because there is not enough support in the bread structure.
Brush a light layer of egg wash onto the top of the dough. If the egg wash is brushed on too thick, you may not get a consistent color after it bakes.
Preheat the oven at 350F and bake for 30 minutes. Test the bread with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, then the bread is done. Carefully remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a rack.
Brush melted butter onto the bread for more flavor and for that glistening shine.