Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Japanese Milk bread (with water roux)

Ever since I realized how much Anjalie enjoys milk bread, I have been looking for Asian style milk bread recipes. During my childhood I remember sweet milk breads and buns from bakeries as well as "Milka" brand sweet milk bread. They had this "heavenly" sweet taste (sweeter than buns we get here) and a fluffy cloud like texture. While growing up "bread/bun butter and jam" as we used to call it were a treat which we only got on special occasions and trips. Typically, "bread" meant flat breads like rotis, chappatis and naans back home. I still remember looking at those drool-inducing milk-buns filled with fresh butter and mixed fruit jams lined up neatly in the display of local "Iyengar" bakeries. I desperately wanted to relive this part for myself and also wanted to see if Anjalie would fancy it as much as I did. That is when I came across the recipes for Japanese Milk bread from

I used Mika's website (the first link) to understand about the water roux/Tangzhong method, it's preparation and weight, flour-liquid ratios etc. But I wanted a bread recipe that I can easily translate to bread machine recipe for later on at least. I found the Vivian's website (the second one) to be better for that. Also I wanted to avoid using the egg since it will yield a bread with rich crumbs. My childhood bread had light fluffy crumbs as opposed to the rich crumb texture of egg breads.

Since, this is my first try at the Japanese Milk bread, I wanted to shape and handle the dough myself so that I can feel and understand the texture better. It will also allow me to determine the liquid-flour ratio better. The liquid-flour ratio can be affected by many things, including, flour brand/quality, humidity, temperature etc. So I always start with least amount of water and add 2 tbsps at a time until I feel that the dough is stretchy but not sticky. I then mark the amount of liquid and flour used and keep it for using in the bread machine in the future. While kneading the dough last night for the Japanese Milk bread following Vivian's method, I found that I needed 130 ml of milk instead of 110 ml given by Vivian. Other than that slight change (probably due to difference in flour quality) the bread turned out perfect and exactly how I remembered my "Indian milk bread" used to be whenever we bought them fresh from the bakery. Now that I know the liquid-flour quantities, I will be using the bread machine from now on instead of hand shaping. Although, I enjoyed the hand shaping and Anjalie thought that the bread looked fabulous, I am usually short of time during weekdays and can't afford to stay up until 2 am every night! So having a bread machine with timer is a fantastic way to wake up to the smell of fresh bread for breakfast.

Here is the recipe and my results from last night and the bread has been shaped just like shown in Mika's website (the first link). Like I said, I will just set the bread machine to bake through the whole thing from next time.

“Tangzhong” or “water roux,” is a mixture of water and bread flour that is heated until it forms a paste. According to Mika, "When the water and flour first combine, the flour absorbs the liquid (hydration).  Once heat is applied, the flour particles swell many times their original size and burst, releasing starch into the liquid.  At that point, the mixture has gelatinized into a thick slimy goo.  The gelatinized flour can then be used as a dough enhancer to improve the moisture and texture in the final bread loaf – which also seems to prolong the freshness.  Japanese bread doesn’t get stale and hard (like a French Baguette) within a day of baking – it stays soft and fluffy for several days (if your bread even lasts that long)"...

For the water roux, just enough to make 1 small loaf, you will need:
25 g (about half of 1/3 cup) of white bread flour
125 ml (1/2 cup water)

Mix both water and flour in a sauce pan thoroughly without lumps.

Heat the mixture up in medium heat, all the while whisking until the mixture thickens leaving lines where you pass the whisk. Remove from heat immediately when the lines appear and allow it to cool to room temperature.

 For the bread dough, you will need:
Water roux starter from above
130ml warm water/milk (more or less); I used full fat milk
55g sugar
5g salt
350g bread flour
7g milk powder
6g yeast
30g unsalted butter

In a bowl, dilute the water roux starter in 130 ml water/milk without forming lumps. Then pour inside bread machine pan together with sugar and salt. Add bread flour next covering the liquids well. Place butter and milk powder on the corners of the pan. Make a shallow indentation in the middle and place the yeast (without touching the water).

If using the bread machine to bake all the way through,
then set to basic/normal setting with medium crust and remove after baking cycle. If hand kneading then set to dough cycle and press start. The bread machine usually beeps after the first raise time. Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface, punch out the air and cut them into 4 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece one by one into a fairly rectangular shape.
 With each piece, fold all corners to make the sides even.

 Turn over and roll out a rectangular shape.

Roll from one end to form a swiss roll. Repeat for the rest of the pieces.

Place the rolls into a well greased loaf pan.

Cover with cling wrap/damp towel and let them raise for 45 mins to 1 hr.

 Bake at 160 degrees Celsius (fan assisted) for 30-35 mins.

  When thumped on the bottom the bread should sound hollow. If not pop it back in the oven for another 10 mins. If the top of the bread turns brown too much too fast, cover with the kitchen foil and place it in the oven. If using electric oven be sure to place the bread to bake in the middle rack to avoid burning on one side.

End result: A nice shape that got a,
"wow, Mummy" from Anjalie

Soft fluffy and sweet bread with a delicate milky flavor.
It is sure to be a big hit with children due to the sweet taste. It was perfect with peanut butter and jam or with just butter and jam for Anjalie :)  Enjoy!

Tip: When baking using a bread machine the usual complaint is that the crust is too crispy (much like french bread). For milk bread a softer crust is always better. To get softer crust (much like what we get in the grocery store) brush the crust on all sides with milk when the bread is still warm.

Sending this one out to FAVORITE RECIPES: NON INDIAN FOOD hosted by Sheelu Agarwal


  1. Very informative! I can see your perfect loaf especially the last picture. Glad your family like it. Thanks for the mentioned.
    By the way my blog is having Giveaway. Do drop by and leave comments. Good luck!

  2. I've used the water roux method before and it makes very soft bread

    1. Thanks! I just tried a normal white loaf today with the water roux method and it indeed gave a very soft fluffy bread. I have book marked you chocolate walnut cake recipe and will try it and let you know how it turns out soon. Thanks again for visiting and taking time to leave a comment.

  3. Thanks Jayanthi Linking favorite recipes- non-indian food. this japanese milk bread . I love homemade bread. glad to find you. You have a nice blog. I am your newest follower.

  4. chubby chubby loaves!Looking great, Jay... just the way I wanted, but couldn't as halved the ingredients :(

    I should be visiting your blog regularly not to miss out such recipes I love!!!


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