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Are you on a quest for pillowy soft and fluffy dinner rolls? Look no further, friends. This is it! Fluffy Hokkaido milk bread rolls made with tangzhong–that secret ingredient everyone raves about.
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What is milk bread?
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.
What is tangzhong?
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.
Tangzhong can also be made with flour and milk. For more info about this fascinating technique, check out this recipe post by Jenni from Pastry Chef Online.
Do I need to use milk powder in this recipe?
It’s not absolutely necessary to use milk powder. According to Christine’s Recipes, milk powder increases the milky fragrance, while others think it adds flavor and makes the dough rise higher. If you’d like to use milk powder, I’d recommend using a milk powder specifically designed for baking, such as King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Special Dry Milk (not an affiliate link).
How to Make
Measure out all the ingredients for the tangzhong and the dough.
Whisk 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon flour and 1/2 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.
Place the butter and cream in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the butter is fully melted and the cream begins to steam.
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!
Add a large egg and the cooled tangzhong to the mixture.
Add half of the cream and butter mixture 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.
Turn the dough 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.)
Shape the dough into a ball, place in a buttered bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it’s at least doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 7 equal pieces. Roll each one into a tight ball and place 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.
Bake the 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.
Ready for some fluffy yumminess? I could totally dig in right now.
- The tangzhong 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 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 you’re 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.
- Bread Flour: the King Arthur brand is my favorite, and always produces good results.
- Whisks: these will help you get a perfectly smooth tangzhong.
- Digital Thermometer: you’ll know for sure if your bread is cooked with this tool!
- 8-Inch Cake Pan: this useful pan is a great size for these rolls.
- Cooling Racks: these will keep your baked goods from getting soggy as they cool.
Other Dinner Rolls
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Fluffy Hokkaido milk bread rolls are surprisingly easy to make—no mixer required. The secret to their fluffiness is found in the tangzhong, a flour and water paste. Your family will love these rolls at Thanksgiving dinner or at breakfast!
For the Tangzhong
- 1/2 cup water (125 ml)
- 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon bread flour (25g)
For the Dough
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (118 ml)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (57g)
- 2 2/3 cups bread flour (320g)
- 3 teaspoons fast-action yeast (10g)
- 2 teaspoons salt (10g)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (37g)
- 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 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 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 Milk Bread (35 minutes + cooling)
- 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 rolls cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Cook the tangzhong 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 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.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Japanese
Keywords: tangzhong, japanese milk bread
This recipe was originally published on October 5, 2018.