shokupan (japanese milk bread)
adapted from Dreams of Dashi
makes 2 loaves
You’re welcome to make both the tangzhong and the bread dough with either water or milk; I’ve found it really doesn’t make too much of a difference. Regardless of which liquid you use, make sure you don’t leave out the dry milk powder!
for the tangzhong:
- 5 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) bread flour
- 1 cup (8 ounces) milk or water
for the bread:
- 5 ½ cups (23 ⅜ ounces) bread flour
- ¼ cup (1 ¾ ounce) granulated sugar
- Scant ¼ cup (1 ounce) dry milk
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (one packet) instant yeast
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) milk or water
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
make the tangzhong:
In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk (or water) and the bread flour. Set over medium heat, and continue to whisk until the mixture bubbles, thickens, and forms a paste. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, you should be able to scrape the bottom of the pan and the mixture won’t run to fill the space you scraped. If you didn’t cook it enough, just set it over medium heat again and simmer for a few more minutes.
make the bread:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, dry milk, salt, and yeast until combined. Make a well in the center and add the cooled tangzhong, milk (or water), and eggs. Mix on low speed (or with a big spoon) to combine, then increase to medium speed and knead for 5 minutes (or knead on the counter for five minutes). Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, to the dough, and knead until incorporated. Then, knead for another 5-10 minutes (by machine or hand) until the dough is smooth, elastic, and only slightly tacky.
Form the dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, and proof, covered, for about one hour, until the dough is doubled in size. This make take a bit longer in a cold kitchen and be a bit faster in a warm one.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces, form each piece into a ball, and proof, covered, for about 20 minutes. Grease two 8½” x 4½” loaf pans and set aside.
Once proofed, prepare a lightly floured surface and, one ball of dough at a time, roll the dough into a long ellipse. Fold the dough like you would an envelope, then turn the dough 90 degrees and roll out again into another ellipse. (The width you’re going for is about equal to or a little less than the width of the pan you’re using.) Pinch the ends of the dough to form a roll and place the dough, pinched side down, on one side of the loaf pan, with the visible rolled edges facing the long side of the pan. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough, putting two pieces of dough in each pan.
Cover the loaves and proof for 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough has filled out the bottom pan and is peeking over the top. Midway through the final proofing, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the two loaves in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, turning the pans midway through. Once done, the tops should be golden brown and the loaves should register at least 200 degrees F with a thermometer.
Let the loaves cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove the loaves from their pans and let cool to room temperature before slicing.
These loaves keep at room temperature, stored however you like to store your bread, for five days or so, and they freeze remarkably well. When I make this recipe, I usually keep one loaf out and put the other in the freezer after it cools to enjoy in the future.