Japanese milk bread is one of the softest, fluffiest delicious breads you'll ever eat. Like most, if not all, Japanese treats - it's delicate, but so versatile and flavorful. You can eat it as-is, or add brown sugar and cinnamon, or your favorite jelly, to make it more of a dessert. If you prefer savory, toast it with some butter and garlic for amazing garlic bread. It takes a while to make, so do ahead. Most of the time is for rising, so not too labor intensive.
Here's how to make it:
For the Starter (this makes enough for 2 loaves, cut in half if you only want one)
1/2 cup whole milk (I used oat milk and it was great, if you prefer non-dairy)
1/3 cup bread flour
1/2 cup water
For the Dough
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 1/4 TSP (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 TSP fine sea/kosher salt
1/2 cup warm whole milk (or oat milk), plus a little extra to brush on later
4 TBS unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a little to butter the bowl/pan
Make the starter: whisk the milk, water and flour in a small heavy pot or saucepan (not over heat yet).
Place on your stove and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened (you want it thick but pourable), about 6-8 minutes.
Pour into a measuring cup and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Set it aside to cool to room temperature.
Make the dough: Using a stand mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Mix with a dough hook for a few seconds, until combined. If you don't have a stand mixer use a large bowl and mix with a whisk.
Add the egg, milk and 1/2 the starter (about 1/2 cup). Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer or your hands to knead the dough.
Add the softened butter and knead for another 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and just a bit tacky.
Lightly butter the inside of a large plastic or glass bowl. Using your hands, gently remove the dough from the mixing bowl, shape into a ball and place in the buttered bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. If you aren't in a warm environment, you can turn on your oven to the lowest heat (about 175° F), turn off the heat and put your dough (glass bowl preferred here) without the towel into the oven and let rise until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down with your hand and place onto a very lightly floured smooth surface (I recommend a silicone mat).
Cut the dough in half, then form each half into a ball, then cover with the kitchen towel (or do the oven method) and let rise about 15 minutes.
Generously butter a 9x5 loaf pan.
Using a rolling pin, gently roll out one of the dough balls into a thick oval shape. You may need to flour your rolling pin.
Roll the dough to about 12" long by 6" wide, still in an oval shape. Fold the top 3" of the oval down then fold the bottom 3" of the oval up, making a rough square.
Starting from the right edge of the square, roll the dough into a fat log. If you want to add cinnamon sugar, jelly, or your favorite filling, do this before you roll the dough into a log.
Smooth the top of the dough log with your hands and place into the buttered pan, seam side down. You'll want to put it on the left side of the pan, flush to the side. Repeat with the other dough ball and place on the right side of the pan, again flush to the side.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest another 30-40 minutes, until the dough is just above the top of the pan. Use the oven method if necessary.
Pre-heat your oven to 350° F.
Brush the top of the dough logs with milk and place into the oven on the bottom shelf.
Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place onto a cooling rack to cool completely before you slice it, at least one hour.
Serve with butter or eat plain, and enjoy!
Did you make it? Share pics in the comments!