Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in Blog, Bready or Not, side dish, yeast bread | Comments Off on Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

This recipe for Hokkaido-style milk bread rolls makes 8 delicious soft, airy, amazing rolls.

Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

I couldn’t help but be intrigued when I saw this recipe featured in a King Arthur Flour catalog. It relates to the cultural fusion that plays a major role in my latest book, Breath of Earth.

Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

See, yeast breads in Japan were a real life kind of steampunk innovation. European bakeries began to open in major Japanese cities in the 1800s, but they didn’t become more popular until later in the century when bakers began to fuse more Japanese flavors like adzuki paste into rolls. These kinds of sweet bread (kashi-pan) play a small yet vital role in my next book, Call of Fire.

Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

This particular roll isn’t sweet unless you add some jam on your own. These are more of a combination between a standard dinner roll and an egg-based bread like challah.

I usually don’t make breads that involve a pre-ferment stage, but I was pleased with how easy this was to make. I had the dough mix and rise in my bread machine, but you can mix this by whatever method you choose.

Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

This is modified from the recipe at King Arthur Flour. They note there that this can also be made in loaf form. I also have my own recipe for doing a full loaf of Japanese-style Milk Bread (Shokupan). This is my usual load bread that I make about twice a week.

I can tell you, my husband wouldn’t mind if I made these rolls a lot more frequently as well.

Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

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.
Course: Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: yeast bread
Author: Beth Cato


Tangzhong (starter)

  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 3 Tablespoons whole milk or half & half
  • 2 Tablespoons bread flour


  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tablespoons nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half & half
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter 4 Tablespoons, melted
  • 1 egg optional, or extra milk to use as a wash


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.


Bready or Not: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls