Are you on a quest for pillowy soft and fluffy dinner rolls? Look no further, friends than these Japanese milk bread rolls made with tangzhong--that secret ingredient everyone raves about.
If you enjoy homemade bread and rolls, check out these Waterford blaas and Hawaiian sweet rolls!
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Wondering if you already have the ingredients for these Japanese milk bread rolls? Chances are, you probably do! Let's talk about the key ingredients in this bread recipe.
- Bread Flour: This high-protein flour creates more gluten in the Japanese milk rolls dough, giving it a higher rise and chewy, fluffy texture.
- Heavy cream: This ingredient amps up the milk flavor in the bread.
- Tangzhong: This is a simple paste made from all-purpose flour and water gently heated to 149°F on the stove. This keeps the Japanese milk bread rolls moist and fresh longer.
- Butter: This fat makes the bread extra soft and flavorful.
- Cream: This adds extra richness to the dough and helps bring it together.
How to Make
Measure out all the ingredients for the tangzhong and the Japanese milk bread rolls dough.
- Whisk 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon flour and ½ cup water in a small saucepan over low heat. Keep stirring until the whisk leaves trails in the tangzhong, as in the photo below.
- Pour the tangzhong into a small bowl and immediately cover it with plastic wrap so its surface doesn't dry out. Let it cool to room temperature before using.
3. Add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast, and salt) to a mixing bowl, keeping the salt and yeast far apart from each other. Salt can kill the yeast if it touches it!
4. Add a large egg and the cooled tangzhong to the mixture.
5. Add half of the warm cream and melted butter and stir to start forming a sticky dough. Gradually add more of the liquid as needed, and keep mixing until all the flour is picked up from the bowl.
6. Turn the dough for the Japanese milk rolls onto a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and has a glossy sheen on its surface. It should also pass the windowpane test. (See the recipe card below for an explanation of this technique.)
7. Shape the dough for the Japanese milk rolls into a ball, place it in a buttered bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it's at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
8. Punch down the dough and divide it into 7 equal pieces. Roll each one into a tight ball and place it in a buttered 8-inch cake pan. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise until the sides are touching and the rolls are almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
9. Bake the Japanese milk rolls at 350 F for 35-40 minutes, until they're nicely browned and have an internal temperature of 190 F. Let them cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
10. Ready for some fluffy yumminess? I could totally dig in right now. Enjoy your Japanese milk rolls!
It's a very soft and fluffy bread first made in Japan during the twentieth century. It is popular in Asia and is perfect for French toast, sandwiches, or just eating by itself. The secret ingredient in this popular loaf is a Chinese technique called tangzhong, which is a simple flour and water paste cooked over low heat until thick.
Tangzhong (pronounced tang-CHUNG) is a Chinese flour and water paste that has a pudding-like consistency. It's cooked over low heat until it reaches 149 F (65 C). At this temperature, the starches in the flour gelatinize, sealing in the moisture and creating a softer bread that will keep moist for days on the counter. It's used in recipes such as Japanese milk rolls.
The main ingredients in Japanese milk bread buns are bread flour, yeast, butter, heavy whipping cream, salt sugar, eggs, and tangzhong which is made from cooking flour and water.
Milk is used in place of water for the liquid in making Japanese milk bread rolls. The dairy gives them a richer flavor and they cook up light and fluffy thanks to the combination of all the other ingredients.
- The tangzhong for the Japanese milk bread rolls should be cooked until the whisk leaves trails in the mixture, which happens when it reaches 149 F (65 C).
- You can make the tangzhong up to several days ahead--just store it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before using. (If the tangzhong turns gray, that means it's gone bad.)
- Knead the dough for Japanese milk bread rolls until it passes the windowpane test (see recipe card below for explanation).
- In a hurry? Make the dough the day before and let it do its first rise in the fridge overnight.
- If your Japanese milk bread dough is proving slowly, put it in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water on the shelf below it. The steam will gently warm the dough, encouraging the yeast to work.
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Japanese Milk Bread Rolls
For the Tangzhong
- ½ cup water
- 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon bread flour
For the Dough
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 ⅔ cups bread flour
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, reserve 1 for glazing
Making the Tangzhong (10 minutes + cooling)
- Pour the water and flour into a small saucepan. Set over low heat, whisking constantly, until no lumps remain, the tangzhong has thickened, and the whisk leaves trails in the mixture.
- Pour the tangzhong into a small bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap to prevent its surface from drying out. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then use immediately or refrigerate for later use.
Making the Dough (25 minutes + 1 hour rising)
- Put the cream and butter in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir occasionally until the butter has fully melted and the mixture begins to steam. Remove from the heat and check its temperature; it should be no higher than 115 F.
- Pour the flour into a medium mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl, stirring each one into the flour with your finger. Be sure the salt doesn't touch the yeast directly, as it can kill the yeast or stunt its growth.
- Add the sugar, cooled tangzhong, and one egg to the mixture, then pour in half of the cream and butter mixture. Mix with your hand to form a somewhat sticky dough, gradually adding more of the cream and butter mixture as needed. Make sure to pick up all the flour from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth, stretchy, and very glossy. See if it passes the windowpane test by breaking off a lump of dough and stretching it between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. If it can stretch until translucent without breaking, it's kneaded enough; if not, knead for a minute longer and check again.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly buttered bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise at warm room temperature (78 F) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Shaping the Japanese Milk Bread (15 minutes + 45 minutes rising)
- Lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan and a piece of plastic wrap to cover the bread later.
- Turn out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and punch it down all over to knock out the large pockets of gas inside.
- Divide the dough into seven equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.
- Roll each piece into a tight ball and space them equally apart inside the prepared pan. Cover with the buttered plastic wrap and set aside to rise until their sides are touching and the dough is springy, about 45 minutes.
- About 10 minutes before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Baking the Japanese Milk Bread (35 minutes + cooling)
- Brush the Japanese milk rolls with a beaten egg and bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes. Check the rolls at 30 minutes and cover with aluminum foil if they're getting too dark. The rolls are done when they have a rich golden brown top and an internal temperature of 190 F on a meat thermometer.
- Let the Japanese milk rolls cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Cook the tangzhong for the Japanese milk rolls until the whisk leaves trails and it has a temperature of 149 F (65 C).
- The tangzhong can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed. If it turns gray, that means it's gone bad.
- The Japanese milk rolls dough must pass the windowpane test, or it is not sufficiently kneaded.
- Prove the dough in the fridge overnight if you're in a hurry.
- Slow rise? Put the dough in a cold oven and place a pan of boiling water on the shelf below. The steam will warm the dough, encouraging it to rise.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
Our Japanese milk bread roll recipe was originally published on October 5, 2018.
My tangzhong came out really thick. Should I add more water?
That may mean it was cooked longer than needed. I wouldn't recommend adding extra water; you can make a new tangzhong or just add more water to the dough when mixing it up.
You talk about using milk powder in this recipe but then I don't see it listed with the ingredients. Am I missing something? Does it replace the cream?
I didn't use any milk powder in my recipe; I only mention it in the post. There's no need to use milk powder in the rolls, but if you'd like to, add about 2 tablespoons in addition to the cream. If you omit the liquid in the recipe, the bread won't turn out.
Recipe is missing the steps for sugar and applying the egg before cooking.
Thanks for pointing that out, Mike! Not sure why that wasn't in the instructions, but I'll fix it!
Very great recipe! 👌👌👌
Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it!
These are AMAZING!!! They are so fluffy and light and delicious! Everyone should make these. These soft bits of heaven are the best rolls ever!
The secret is all in the tangzhong--it really makes these Hokkaido rolls so fluffy and moist.
I already tried your hokkaido bread recipe. I had a good result, but I still feel that the bread became slightly dry after it gets cool or on the day after.
I have several questions:
1. When making tangzhong, does substituting water with milk make any difference? Which is preferable?
2. If I want to make the bread even fluffier or richer, does increasing the butter or egg help? Any suggestion on the amount?
Thank you for your great questions, Ivan! I'm so glad to hear that you've tried the recipe and had good results. Here's some thoughts about keeping the bread moist.
- Increase the tangzhong in the bread. The bread takes 345g of flour. Use 5-12% by weight of that flour to make the tangzhong, then multiply your tangzhong flour by 5 to get the grams of liquid needed for the tangzhong. (For example, 12% of 345g = 41g flour. 41g x 5 = 207g water.)
- If you're finding that the bread is slightly dry, just make sure that you're not overbaking it. (Check the rolls' internal temperature with a meat thermometer when they come out of the oven. It should read a minimum of 190 F or 87 C.)
- Also, as soon as the rolls are fully cooled, seal them in plastic wrap and place inside a zip-top plastic bag.
- Tear the rolls apart just before you eat them to help keep the moisture inside.
I'll answer your questions as best as I can.
- You can choose either water or milk (or a combination of the two) for making tangzhong; the exact proportions don't matter. I chose to use a blend of the two liquids in my recipe. Using 100% milk tangzhong would probably yield a slightly softer bread.
- Yes, adding additional butter and egg would make the bread richer. I actually find that using half butter and half lard in bread recipes makes for a beautifully fluffy loaf. Here's what I would do to enrich this bread further: add 1 extra tablespoon of sugar (12g), use 3 tbsp butter (43g) and 3 tbsp lard (42g), and add 2 extra egg yolks. If you really wanted to take it over the top, you could use heavy whipping cream as the liquid in the dough instead of milk.
Hope this helps, Ivan! Happy baking!