This recipe, modified from King Arthur Flour, produces 8 airy and delicious Hokkaido-style milk bread rolls. It uses a fermented starter called a tangzhong that is mixed into the bread dough.
To make the tangzhong:
Combine the starter ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat. Whisk until no lumps remain and continue to beat until it's thick and the whisk leaves no lines across the bottom of the pan; this takes 3 to 5 minutes. Pour it into a cup and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
To make the dough:
Combine the remaining dough ingredients and add the tangzhong. Continue to knead by hand, mixer, or bread machine until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Add more milk or flour if necessary to achieve the right texture.
Shape the dough into a ball and set it in a lightly greased covered bowl for about 60 to 90 minutes. It should be puffy, not necessarily doubled in size.
Prepare a small cake pan by lining the bottom with a cut round of parchment paper. Use nonstick spray on the base of the pan so the parchment stays in place, then spray the top of the paper and the sides of the pan.
Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place them in the pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and let the rolls rest for 30 minutes to an hour; keep an eye on them in case they rise fast!
Preheat the oven at 350-degrees. Gently brush the rolls with milk or an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water).
Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are golden brown on top. To check for doneness, use a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll to see if it is at least 190°F. If the rolls must cook longer, cover them with foil if they are very brown.
Remove rolls from the oven. Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
OM NOM NOM!