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breaking one of the Hokkaido milk bread rolls in half

Fluffy Hokkaido Milk Bread Rolls

  • Author: Emma
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 7 rolls 1x


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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)

  1. Lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan and a piece of plastic wrap to cover the bread later.
  2. 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.
  3. Divide the dough into seven equal pieces, using a kitchen scale for accuracy.
  4. 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.
  5. About 10 minutes before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 350 F.

Baking the Milk Bread (35 minutes + cooling)

  1. 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.
  2. 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

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