Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong

Japanese soft milk bread made in Hokkaido style

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Hokkaido Milk Bread

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… – M.F.K. Fisher, from The Art of Eating

I think when MFK fisher said that she was thinking about the Hokkaido bread made with the Tangzong method.  Well may be not really, but a girl can hope, especially when these were the exact feelings I had when baking this bread.

The amazing tangzhong or water-roux method was introduced to the rest of the world by Yvonne Chen who wrote the book “Bread Doctor” in which she reveals her “secret” for increasing moisture in bread, and keeping it fresh as well as soft for long. The reveal was so successful that shortly after her publication was released, the baking and blogging community went berserk and could not stop talking about it.

 Tangzong Method bread

Hokkaido Bread is a soft Asian milk bread which has probably gotten its name from the high quality of milk produced in Hokkaido, Japan. Some people also say that since the bread is so pure and white it resembles the pristineness of Hokkaido. Known for its soft cottony/ pillowy texture, it is a very popular bread in South Asian bakeries across the world. It is also known as Asian Sweet Bread and Hong Kong Pai Bo.

The Hokkaido Mild Bread owes its texture and height to the use of an interesting ingredient called Tangzhong. Basically, the Tangzhong method involves cooking 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux.

At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and create a “leavening” action. When the Tangzhong is added into other ingredients of a bread dough, it produces light, tender and fluffier bread.

Easter Bunny Bread


Since this is a very versatile dough, you can make into a plain loaf, or dinner rolls,  stuff  the rolls with sweet or savory fillings or make animal shapes.  Since it is spring and Easter is just around the corner, I decided to shape a few like bunnies for my neighbor’s very adorable two year old.  It is quite another story that the said 2 year old thought they were toys and did not want to eat them.   I am not sure if shaping them was such a good idea 😉

This is our Bread #3 with the We Knead To Bake”  started by Aparna .  Here is where all other beautiful Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong  made by the group will be shared.  This recipe is adapted from Kirbies Cravings.

Sending this bread to the fabulous YeastSpotting


Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzong


For The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux)

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk

For The Dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 2 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk and a little more if needed
  • 1/8 cup cream 25% fat
  • 1/3 cup tangzhong use HALF of the tangzhong from above
  • 25 gm unsalted butter cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature


The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux):

  1. Whisk together lightly the flour, water and milk in a saucepan until smooth and there are no lumps. Place the saucepan on the stove, and over medium heat, let the roux cook till it starts thickening. Keep stirring/ whisking constantly so no lumps form and the roux is smooth.
  2. If you have a thermometer, cook the roux/ tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If like me, you don’t have a thermometer, then watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.
  3. Let the roux/ tangzhong cool completely and rest for about 2 to 3 hours at least. It will have the consistency of a soft and creamy crème patisserie. If not using immediately, transfer the roux to a bowl and cover using plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for about a day.

Bread Dough:

  1. Put the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in the stand mixer bowl and stir a couple of times to mix. In another small bowl mix the milk, cream and Tangzhong till smooth and add to the mixer bowl.
  2. Run on slow speed until the dough comes together. Now add the butter and process till you have a smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky.
  3. The dough will start out sticky but kneading will make it smooth. If the dough feels firm and not soft to touch, add a couple of tsps of milk till it becomes soft and elastic. When the dough is done, you should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away. When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning it so it is well coated. Cover with a towel, and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or till almost double in volume.
  5. Place the dough on your working surface. You don’t need flour to work or shape this dough. This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9” by 5” tin), 2 small loaves (6” by 4” tins) or 1 small loaf (6” by 4”) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins). Depending on what you are making, divide your dough. If you are making 1 loaf, divide your dough in 3 equal pieces. If you are making two smaller loaves, divide your dough into 6 equal pieces.
  6. Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape, about 1/8” thick. Take one end of the dough from the shorter side of the oval and fold it to the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold.
  7. Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. Roll the rectangle from one short edge to the other, pinching the edges to seal well. Do this with each of the three larger pieces and place them, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
  8. Carefully brush the tops of the rolls and the loaf with milk (or cream) and bake them at 170C (325F) for about 20 to 30 minutes till they are done (if you tap them they’ll sound hollow) and beautifully browned on top.
  9. Let them cool in the tins for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack till slightly warm or cool.

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