Japanese milk bread is the fluffiest and softest bread loaf ever. It’s great on it’s own, with some butter, or a little condensed milk.
Bread is my weakness. Crusty French baguettes, chewy Italian ciabatta, and this oh so fluffy and heavenly Japanese milk bread.
Ever since my high school days, there have always been diets and fads telling me to stay away from breads. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, it’s just that I don’t want to deny myself something so tasty.
I could give up chocolate, espresso, and maybe even whiskey, but refraining from breads…that might be a real tough one.
Japanese Milk Bread
For most of my childhood, my mom would only purchase two types of bread: Filipino pan de sal and Japanese milk bread.
I grew up eating bread with a slather of salted butter, maybe a piece of hard cheese, or a giant spoonful of sweetened condensed milk (the best!).
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to favor more heartier breads, but to this day, I still cannot enter an Asian bakery without buying a loaf of milk bread.
And that got me thinking…what if I had to move to an area that didn’t have my favorite breads? What would I do?
Naturally, the answer is simple. Learn to make all my favorite breads starting with this Japanese milk bread. (Up next, pineapple buns/melon pans!)
How to make Hokkaido Milk Bread:
Even if you’ve never made bread before (or you’ve been intimidated to try), this will be the bread that will change your mind.
Japanese milk bread (also known as Hokkaido milk bread) is known for it’s distinct slightly sweet flavor and soft interior.
The secret to this fluffy milk bread is it’s use of a starter (water roux). A simple mixture of flour, water, and milk creates this paste that helps to produce the fluffiest bread ever.
Even four days after baking the bread, the loaf will remain soft and springy like the first day.
Combining all the ingredients for the dough is fairly simple and straight forward. Once you’ve let the dough rest and rise for an hour, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into four equal parts.
Keep the cut dough under plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out or forming an unwanted skin. Roll the dough into balls. Working with one ball at a time, flatten or roll out dough to a length of about 8 inches and width of 5 inches.
Fold in about 1-inch on both sides of the dough. Starting from the end closest to you, roll the dough into a log. Repeat with remaining dough.
Place the logs seam-side down in a buttered and parchment lined loaf pan.
Cover loaf pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 30-45 minutes until dough has doubled in volume.
Lightly brush the top of the dough with heavy cream. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until the top of the bread is a nice golden brown and the internal temperature of the bread is at least 190 degrees F.
If the bread top colors too fast, place a foil tent over it to prevent it from burning.
Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 5 minutes before unmolding, then allow the loaf to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Once cool, go ahead and slice yourself a piece!
Japanese Milk Bread
- 3 Tbsp (25 g) bread flour or all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water
- 2 ½ cups (325 g) bread flour
- ¼ cup (60 g) granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (7 g) active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon non-fat dry milk powder, optional*
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked, room temperature
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk, room temperature
- ¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter, softened
- heavy cream, as needed for brushing
- Starter: Stir together flour, milk, and water in a microwave safe cup. Mixture will be slightly lumpy. Microwave for 20 seconds. (NOTE: this cooking time refers to a 1100 W microwave.) *See notes for directions cooking starter stovetop.
- Remove from microwave and stir mixture together. Mixture will have thickened. Stir and break up any large clumps of flour. Then, return to microwave and heat for another 20 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir together. Heat for another 15 seconds until mixture is smooth and has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes. *If needed, return to microwave for another 10 seconds and mix again.
- Transfer mixture to a cool clean bowl. Let mixture sit for 15 minutes to allow to cool before adding to remaining down ingredients.
- Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together bread flour, sugar, yeast, milk powder and salt. Attach dough hook to mixer. Add in cooled starter mixture, egg, and milk. Knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Scape down bowl to ensure thorough mixing.
- Add softened butter and continue to knead on low speed for 5 minutes until butter is integrated into dough. Increase speed to medium and knead for another 5 minutes until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour, or until dough is doubled in volume.
- Line a 9 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Grease and set aside. Transfer dough to a lightly floured working surface. Divide dough into four equal parts and roll into balls. Cover dough with plastic wrap as you work to prevent it from drying out or forming a skin.
- Working with one ball of dough at a time, flatten or roll out dough to a length of about 8-inches and 5-inches wide. Fold in about 1-inch of the sides. Starting from the end closest to you, roll the dough into a log. Place log seam-side down in prepared loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough balls. Cover loaf pan with plastic wrap and let sit for 30-45 minutes until dough has doubled in volume.
- Lightly brush the top of the dough with heavy cream. Bake dough in a 350° F oven for 35-40 minutes until the top of the bread is golden brown and internal temperature of bread is at least 190 degrees F.
- Let cool in loaf pan for 5 minutes. Unmold bread from loaf pan and allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Once cool, slice bread accordingly.
- Milk powder provides additional flavor. It is optional and can be omitted.
- RECIPE SLIGHTLY ADAPTED FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Stovetop Starter:Double the amounts listed in the starter ingredients for stovetop. It is difficult to cook a very small amount in a pot.
- In a medium pot, whisk together bread flour, milk, and water. Set over medium heat and stir often, making sure to stir the bottom edges of the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes until mixture has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, allowing wrap to lay directly on top of starter mixture. Cool to room temperature. Use 1/2 cup of starter in the recipe. Discard remaining starter.
What do with this Japanese milk bread?
This milk bread tastes great on it’s own. I mentioned that I enjoy milk bread with butter or condensed milk, but my MOST favorite way to eat milk bread… is this cinnamon sugar milk toast.
Reader Questions and Reviews
Absolutely stunning pics, love! Seems like the Japanese have quite the tasty food – sushi, miso, this… :) I want to visit Japan so bad!
Thanks so much Leigha! I studied in Japan during my last semester of undergrad. If you ever get the chance to visit Japan, you’ll absolutely fall in love!
I have a seriously addiction to bread as well so this is right up my alley. Perfection!
Yay! Fellow bread addict! :)
This bread looks delicious Maryanne. I have been getting more confident making things with yeast so I will definitely be trying this one!
Awesome! Can’t wait for you to give it a try! I’m crossing my fingers you end up loving making breads :)
Omgness that last picture really got me!!!! This looks sooo good and fluffayyyy! and although I’ve been a teenzy bit better with my cravings, bread has always been one of my enemies (in the best way of course) :D
Thanks Ellie! Bread is just SO hard to say no to ;)
That cinnamon sugar toast looks awsome and so does the original! French toast with this would be divine! :)
YESSSS! French toast milk bread would be out of this world!
Can I double the recipe for the milk white bread as well as the milk wheat bread?
I am in love. I’ve tried to make bread so many times and it turns out like bricks every. single. time. If I kept all of them, there would probably be enough to build a sizable house for a dog.
After finals (and getting my stand mixer fixed), I will definitely try this recipe!!! (Or any other ones in this series because I have a love for asian breads)
lol, a bread dog house?! Don’t give up, Anne! Sometimes it’s just the temperature of the water that messes with the yeast. Hope you come back and try out my breads! I have a lot coming :)
I can never get bread out of my diet either, it’s just too tasty! Although you are better than me because I definitely couldn’t get chocolate out of it ;) This bread looks so tasty!
Thanks so much Shelby! :)
You’re making me real sad that I can’t eat a slice of this. Actually, I think this is the kind of bread worth getting a headache over – so I’ll take two slices covered in sweetened condensed milk please!
(Also – I’m pretty sure this is the bread that modeled for the emoji bread artist).
Thanks a lot for the recipe, Maryanne. The bread is so soft and fluffy and it tasted just the same as those that I used to buy from the bakeries shop here. Will continue following your blog. Hope you will come up with more great recipes soon. :)
You are welcome, Zoey! Thanks for trying out the recipe. I’m so glad you liked it! :)
This recipe is awesome. I made this bread yesterday and filled it with taro puree which resulted in GREATNESS!!!
Will whole wheat flour produce the same softness?
Thank you very much for sharing.
YUM! Taro! I can only imagine how good it tasted!
I haven’t tested this recipe with whole wheat flour so I’m not sure. You would have to increase the amount of milk and butter because whole wheat flour tends to soak up more moisture. If you give it a try, please let me know!
Hi! How will the recipe change if I want to use it in a bread maker?
Hi Bevlyn! Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience using a bread maker.
Do you have any directions for making this bread into rolls? It is fantastic, but I thought rolls might look nicer for Thanksgiving presentation.
Your site is absolutely fabulous and I can’t wait to try more of your goodies!
Hi Karen! I’ve never made this bread into rolls. You can try using the directions from my Filipino Bread Rolls (http://www.thelittleepicurean.com/2015/08/pandesal-filipino-bread-rolls.html). Thanks so much for stopping by. I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I love this recipe! I’ve made it several times and it’s always delicious. Even toast feels like a treat now! I do have one question – I find I’m not getting as much of a rise as I expect. Should I be proofing the yeast, or adding it dry to the other dry ingredients? The loaves I’ve made without salt seem to do better, so I’m concerned that adding the yeast in with the salt and flour is killing it. I appreciate any suggestions, but I’ll keep making it either way!
Hi Laura! That’s great to hear! Thanks for trying out the recipe!
Salt does slightly inhibit the growth of the yeast, however just minimally. Is your yeast past it’s expiration date? Perhaps the ingredients are too cold, or the temperature of the room is too cold. Also over proofing can deflate the yeast. You could also activate and start the yeast in warm milk, before you add the the starter and egg.
I love making this bread. Once, instead of making 4 balls, I made 8 small ones. Using a round springform cake pan, rolled the balls into logs, then put 7 of them around the walls and 1 in the middle. They made the best dinner rolls ever!
Thanks for trying out the recipe! I’ll definitely need to try making smaller rolls.
Thanks for your recipe. I made this today. It is very fluffy and soft. It is definitely a keeper.
I grew up in Japan and I love this recipe!!! I followed your recipe and it came out great. This bread reminds me of my childhood. The only thing I wanted to ask is my dough was very wet and sticky. i had a hard time to put the dough together (but this bread is seriously tasty!). I ended up with adding more flour… Currently, I live in Hawaii and it’s humid here. Do you think I should use less milk or add flour?
Hi Akiko! Thanks for trying out the recipe. I’m glad you liked it! Humidity can definitely affect the bread. I suggest adding a little more flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time until it’s easy to work with. It’s better to have the bread on the wet/moist side, rather than over-floured and dry. I hope that helps!
I made two loaves today. FABULOUSLY delicious and so easy!
That’s wonderful! Thanks for trying out the recipe!
I made it, delicious
Made this today. Absolutely addictively fabulous! After posting pictures on Facebook, I had multiple requests to mail care packages of bread!
Will be making quite often!!
That’s wonderful to hear! I’m glad you liked the recipe!
Hi! I’m also in Germany and so wonder: what is the German equivalent of “bread flour”? Could you perhaps recommend a brand or where I could probably find some? Many thanks!
I use King Arthur Bread Flour. It’s available for purchase online and they offer international shipping. Bread flour is often labeled as “high protein flour.” I hope that help!
My wife is Japanese and she gave my first batch of bread a thumbs up–She usually buys this bread from a Japanese bakery across town. Nice soft fluffy texture. Next time going to see if I can get my bread machine to do some of the work.
That’s awesome! Thanks for trying out the recipe. I have no experience using a bread machine. I hope it works out! :)
Made this today with my kids. Quite the fluffiest and tastiest bread we’ve baked. Thank you for the post! ?
That’s wonderful to hear! Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for trying out the recipe!
I made this as well as your pan de sal recipe. What joy! They’re delicious and my husband and I love them. I have for the last three weeks been baking our own bread. Thank you for so generously sharing.
Thank you thank you for this recipe!! I’ve always wanted to make this ever since I tried it on a trip to Japan. But being from the only country that doesn’t use the metric system, it was really hard to find one I can try without running out to buy a scale.
Hi there! I’ve previously made your Melon-pan and now I want to attempt this too! Thank you so much for the easy to use (and British measurements =P) instructions.
Question: Are there alternatives to brushing with cream? We don’t really use cream so we’d be wasting a lot after brushing…
Thanks for trying out the recipes!
Instead of cream, you could brush the tops with milk. It may not brown as much, but it’s better than nothing!
Thank you so much for posting this Japanese Milk Bread recipe! It looks amazing and hope to try making it soon. I don’t have a stand mixer (yet), so any ideas how to make bread without one? Should I knead by hand for 5 minutes?
You can mix the dough by hand without a stand mixer. It will take a bit of patience. Knead the dough by hand until it is soft and smooth. That can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
When I knead by hand, how should I do this part? Should I knead first, then add butter and knead again? Or should I add the butter before the first knead? Thank you! “Knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Scape down bowl to ensure thorough mixing. Add softened butter and continue to knead on low speed for 5 minutes until butter is integrated into dough.”
Hello! I tried this recipe out, but it came out with the consistency of cake – what am I getting wrong? I have been using plain flour – adding baking soda and salt – it is rising well – i just doesn’t have a bread texture at all.
Why did you add baking soda? Baking soda will affect the yeast.
I quite enjoy milk bread and have used other recipes on occasion. This time around I thought I’d try yours and I must say that it is without a doubt the best. A friend and I are starting a bread and jam table at the farmers market. This recipe will undoubtedly be our best seller. Much appreciate your sharing it. Bon appetite mademoiselle.
Hi,I am from Sri Lanka. I too have a super recipe but the buns I make dries within a day unlike the bakery buns.So I think this would work. I don’t have bread flour. Is it ok to use plain wheat flour, and milk made with full cream milk powder. Please help me madam. Need your Advice
I suggest using bread flour due to it’s protein contain. I would not use whole wheat flour because that will dry out the recipe. Whole wheat flour requires more moisture in the dough.
I have only tested this recipe using non-fat milk powder.
Can you explain why you make twice the starter than what is required?
If you try to make a starter with just the right amount for one loaf, it’s a bit difficult to mix together. I make double the amount simply for the sake of easier mixing, but also because I tend to make more than one loaf of bread at a time.
What a forgiving recipe. This is the 2nd time I’ve made it in a week. I made a mistake today and put the dough to rise on a warm spot on my stove. Too warm – it rose way too much and actually caked on the bottom. Separating it into balls was nuts because it was so goopy. Didn’t matter. Bread came out just as fabulous as the first time. Thank you.
I’ve just been struggling with this recipe as it produced a very wet dough and I just realized why, I was only meant to use half the starter that was prepared in the beginning. I think it would be an improvement on the way the recipe is written of this information was added in the section about the starter and not just at the very end.
I found it wet too. But the note about the starter at the end (using half) is preceding by a note saying double the quantity is making on the hob, so it’s the same amount. I did find it wet and had to add quite a bit of flour, so it’s a bit of a mystery. Some people have found the same, others not by the looks of it. I’ve cross referenced with other recipes for this and found the quantities to be similar.
I found this recipe to be very wet, but knowing how dough is suppose to look, I continued to add bread flour until it came off the sides of the bowl. After that, it was very easy to control and they came out perfectly. Now we still have to do the taste test, but I am confident they are perfect. I wish I could attach my picture.
Thank You for this recipe.
I think so
Made this again yesterday at the request of my daughter-in-law for her birthday. Such a forgiving recipe! I had added the butter with the other ingredients by mistake. So, I only ran it in the mixer for a total of ten minutes. It still turned out perfectly. Thank you thank you thank you.
I just made this bread (my first time making bread, by the way!) and it turned out amazingly!! It’s so soft and fluffy, with just a hint of sweetness. I can see myself eating it with some butter or jam (or fruit with whipped cream) on it! I am not a novice baker, but I am a novice bread maker and I found it easy to make and the recipe was easy to follow. I can definitely recommend it! :)
Hello Maryanne， I didn’t read the recipe correctly and made a full portion of the roux. Do you know if it’s possible to chill the roux for use the next day etc? I m trying a gluten free version of the bread and that bread flour is quite pricey… so not trying to waste anything.
Love your recipes by the way. Thank you for sharing.
I baked this for a bread competition at my workplace and won first place! I followed the directions and used the same ingredients listed. A few notes and tips that might be helpful to other bakers: it took me about six hours total, from prep to taking the bread out of the oven. I would give yourself at least 20 minutes for the starter to cool before adding it to your dry ingredients. I put the dough in the oven to rise; I did not turn the oven on but I did put a cake pan with three cups of boiling water on the bottom rack to keep the oven humid. The dough rose well during the first and second rise. Lastly, it is easiest to slice the loaf between the “logs,” and then for small pieces, slics with the grain (for me, lengthwise), depending on what you plan to do with it. Great recipe that’s easy to follow with exceptional results.
Japanese milk bread is the best! So simple and delicious. I’ll have to make a version of this recipe soon!
I like to cook this in the morning. Bread is my hobby. Very delicious and nutritious
PRICE OF JAPANESE MILK BREAD AND IF YOUR COMPANY IS AVAILABLE FOR DELIVERY?
Look yummy! One of my favorite Japanese Milk Bread, nice to see your recipe, easy to follow, will cook this for family this weekend. Thanks you!
Can I substitute buttermilk for the regular whole milk in the recipe?
Yes, you can use buttermilk in place of whole milk in the dough. It will slightly alter the acidity of the dough and slightly change the flavor of the baked bread.
Under current situation, I can’t find whole milk. Will 1% milk work? Also I only have all purpose or wheat flour. Can I use either one? Thanks for sharing your recipe.
1% milk will work. Whole milk provides richer flavor and the extra fat adds more moisture. All-purpose flour will work in place of bread flour. Bread flour has more protein, but in a pinch, all-purpose will be fine. Do not use wheat flour. Wheat flour requires more liquid. I hope that helps. Happy baking!
Can you pls. help me? can I use APF instead of bread flour? I do not have any bread flour stock here because of covid-19.
What are the adjustments in flour or water?
Yes, you can sub in APF instead of bread flour. The resulting bread will be slightly different in texture, but still very similar. No adjustments in amounts of flour or water needed.
On average bread flour has 11-13% protein content vs APF has 9-12% protein.
I’d like to cold ferment it overnight in the fridge once it’s shaped in the pan. Do you think that will work?
I think you should have said at when making the starter that it was for 2 loaves. I have followed the recipe in logical order, measured out half a cup of starter and then got confused when it doesn’t mention adding the rest. I then Added the starter along with the butter and its very sticky and confusing as you can imagine…. only to find out now its been rising for 1 hour that it makes 2 loaves!
Now I’ll have to try to save it and add another lot of all the ingredients and make 2 loaves which i didnt need
Can i use ordinary flour instead of bread flour?also i dont have active dry yeast..thanks
Bread flour will yield best results. Yeast is vital to the recipe. Yeast cannot be omitted or substituted.
Hi! I only have instant yeast on hand. Can I use it instead of the active dry kind? :)
Yes, you can use instant yeast. No need to rehydrate the yeast with the liquid. Simply add the yeast with the flour and dry ingredients.
Love this recipe. I’ve made its 3 times now and finally got it right! First 2 times were just as good except once the dough was too wet and the other time it was too dry!
I’ve made them into loafs as well as rolls and wrapped little cocktail sausages in them and even Nutella. It always comes out tasting fantastic and it keeps really well in a bread tin. It was still soft and fluffy after 5 days!
This is now my go-to bread recipe! Thanks Maryanne!
Yay! Third time’s the charm! I bet they’re delicious with Nutella! Thanks for trying the recipe :)
Made 2 loaves today — amazing!! So soft and fluffy. How do you store your loaves once they’ve cooled?
That’s great to hear! Thanks for trying out the recipe. I store the cooled bread in an airtight container at room temperature. If I make multiple loaves, once cooled, I tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in a zip-top bag to store in the freezer.
Hello, I noticed that you do not have a video for your Japanese milk bread recipe. Would it be possible for me to make the video? I have experience and has mastered this recipe and many others.
Hi! Can I store the starter mix that I didn’t use for another time, or will it go bad? Thanks! :)
Yes, you can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. After that it will start to separate.
Where can I buy the loaf pan you used to make this bread?
It’s a pullman loaf pan with cover. I purchased mine at Williams Sonoma. It’s also available at Sur la Table or Amazon.
Hello! I was wondering about the active dry yeast listed in the recipe… Will it still activate using room temperature milk? I’ve never tried the tangzhong method and I wanted this recipe to be the first ^^”.
I was also curious about the type of yeast used. I noticed that it is added directly to the dry ingredients… but isn’t that usually done with instant yeast? And wouldn’t it still need to be activated with a warm liquid? I’m still slightly new to bread making hehe please let me know.
If you have new active dry yeast there is no need to proof it first. However, if you don’t know how old your yeast is- yes, you can activate it in warm liquid first to ensure it is still alive.
Hello. I tried to make it today, but the dough is really soft & sticky, does it mean to be like that?
Looks great! The recipe is quite simple and easy to prepare, added to the menu for this weekend. Hope to enjoy the best Japanese Milk Bread with my family. Thanks and have a nice day!
Hi Maryanne can I substitute the egg to whipped cream? Thanks before !
The egg in the dough recipe cannot be substituted with cream.
Thank you so much for adapting this milk bread recipe, it is much simpler and easier for home bakers. I have not baking bread for a long time because of the fear of carbs. But deep in my heart I always loved soft fluffy bread, it reminds me of my childhood… I can’t say enough thanks for this recipe because I looked at several including the NYT cooking, too many steps and too much time consuming.
To all the home bakers, this is a very forgiven recipe/bread, if the starter roux is for 2 loafs isn’t convenient for you, half it, using a microwave safe bowl, measure 22.5 g bread flour (2 and 3/4 TBSP), plus 60ml (2 oz) of milk and water each, microwave it in 10 seconds increments, stir after each 10 seconds, depending on the power of the microwave, took me 30-35 seconds. My loaf came out beautifully first time even with me eye balling how much the roux to put in and my dough was wet and sticky after mix. But it came out delicious and my husband couldn’t stop eating it. The whole family declared it is the bread for the household! I made it twice in one weekend!
Thank you for trying out the recipe! I recently learned about microwaving the starter roux. It’s a great tip!
Taught my g-daughter this recipe to teach her how to read a recipe and cook it. Came out delicious.
That’s awesome! Thank you for trying the recipe!
Your recipe is quite similar to the way I bake for my family’s breakfast. Sometimes, I add chocochip or matcha powder
Your bread looks so light and fluffy! I tried the recipe and my bread came out more crumbly and dense. Any idea where I went wrong? Would love to try again!
I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you. Did you use cups or weight measurements?
I have electric bread makes! I want to make Japanese milk soft bread tasty! I have been trying but haven’t found good results! Can you help?
Hi! Sorry, I don’t have any experience using electric bread machines.
I loved making this and it is very nice, but I found I had to add more flour as the dough was too wet. I think I must have easily added another 50g. I used strong white bread flour. I just can’t see how the dough would have come away from the bowl without more flour. Did anyone else have this issue? Is it better to have it a bit wet? I see someone in Hawaii thought it might be humidity and while there’s a lot of rain in the UK, I can’t see that being the cause ! (:-) Thank you though, I will make it again, but a tip on the flour and why it’s only 325 would be good to know.
Starter quantity – is it 25g flour, 60 milk and 60 water for 1 loaf using 325g flour etc? Or should I half the starter? I made this today, found it too wet, added more flour. There are people who think it should be halved, but I don’t see how that can be as you say on the hob to use double the quantity, and then just use half. Did I use the right amount? 25/60/60 for 325? Or should I use 12/30/30? Thank you!
Hi! I LOVE this recipe so much and really admire your work. Would it be possible to fold chocolate chips into the dough? If so, how? Thanks!