Soft, Fluffy, and Buttery Milk Bread is The Best!
I bake a lot of breads. It may be my favorite thing to bake. The entire process is so deeply satisfying, I can’t think of anything else I cook that gives me the same degree of pleasure. And there are so many different kinds that I’m constantly learning something new.
When it comes to soft and fluffy breads, milk bread is at the top of the list for me. I still remember the very first time I made it years ago and being astounded at it’s deliciousness. After making many different recipes, I’ve combined the best elements from several and have arrived at what I think is the best I’ve ever tasted. Mine is a little lighter than any others I’ve encountered, but it’s packed with milk and butter which are the 2 key ingredients.
It’s the use of tangzhong that makes milk bread so special. Tangzhong is a technique that originated in Japan, which amounts to nothing more than cooking a simple mixture of flour and milk until it’s thickened, left to cool, and then added to the dough. Cooking the flour and milk pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches which increases its ability to retain liquid. This is why milk bread is so soft and tastes fresh for days.
After mixing the dough ingredients in either a stand mixer or a bread dough mixer, it’s left to rise for about an hour. It will at least double in bulk.
My recipe makes either 2 loaves or 2 pans of rolls. I made one of each in order to show you the outcomes of both. After gently deflating the dough and dividing it in half, if you’re making the loaf, you then divide the dough into thirds, roll it out into ovals, fold over the edges and roll it up into a nice compact roll, which is placed into a loaf pan. Continue with the other 2 pieces of dough and the loaf is then left to rise.
If you’re making rolls, you divide the dough into 8 pieces, pinch the edges together and roll them in to balls which are then placed in an 8 inch cake pan and left to rise.
The dough is very easy to work with. Only a little flour is needed on the counter to prevent sticking. The dough has plenty of butter in it which keeps it beautifully supple.
Right before the risen loaf and rolls go into the oven, they’re brushed with an egg wash and you can add toppings if you wish. I chose coarsely ground black pepper for the rolls and left the loaf plain. As you can see in the photo they rise easily and really pop when they hit the oven. To be certain they’re done, I use an instant read thermometer to be certain the centers have reached 190°.
I brush the tops with melted butter when they come out of the oven, remove them from the pans after 10 minutes and let them cool on a rack. But I’ve never been able to resist eating a roll before it’s thoroughly cooled. They’re out of this world when they’re warm. I heat up the leftover rolls at 325° for 3 or 4 minutes because I love them warm. But the loaf is lovely when it’s simply sliced at room temperature and it goes without saying that it makes beautiful toast.
If you’ve shied away from bread baking, this is the perfect place to start because it’s straightforward, not at all fussy, and the end result is out of this world delicious.