This sandwich bread recipe is the Japanese sandwich bread shokupan, also known as the Hokkaido milk bread. It uses an Asian tangzhong method and produces the softest, most light and airy slice bread you will ever make.
In a saucepan, combine water and flour with a whisk until no lumps.
Add the milk and combine well again.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook this mixture for 2 to 3 minutes. Keep stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
At first, the mixture will take a while to thicken, but then it does get thicker quickly. So, keep a close eye and take it off just when it reaches almost paste consistency, similar to a pudding (see video).
Take it off the heat and transfer into a bowl or plate (this will prevent it from cooking further).
Cover and let cool completely. Make sure the plastic touches the surface of the tangzhong to prevent a skin.
Add salt to the flour. Combine well and set aside.
In a bowl of an electric mixer - add the warm milk (no warmer than 110 F) and the yeast. Combine well with a whisk.
Then, add the sugar, milk powder, egg, and cooled tangzhong.
Add the flour and turn the mixer on medium-high speed.
Once all the flour has been incorporated - knead for 3 minutes on medium speed.
Then, gradually add the butter, one tablespoon at a time.
Once all the butter has been incorporated - knead for 3 minutes more.
The dough should now be smooth and shiny, but still fairly soft and sticky.
Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Make a ball.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl.
Cover with a clean kitchen cloth or plastic wrap.
Let rise in a warm place for 60 to 90 minutes until double in volume (this dough can be kept in the fridge overnight for up to 12 hours).
Shape the loaf
Once the dough has doubled, transfer the dough to a lightly dusted surface.
Punch the dough - remove all the air.
Roll the dough into a cylinder and divide the dough into 4 portions.
Weigh the portions to ensure they are similar in size. Mine was about 200 to 215 grams each.
Shape each portion into a tight roll. To do this correctly, flatten the dough on an unfloured surface. Fold the top and two sides in. Then roll towards you into a sausage shape.
Proof and bake
Place the shaped portions in a 9 x 4 loaf pan.
Cover and let proof for 45 minutes to an hour until almost double in size.
Preheat the oven at 180 C / 356 F.
Egg wash - beat an egg with 2 tbsp water. Then, brush the buns with the egg wash.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
If the tops are getting too dark, tent them with an aluminum foil.
Let cool on the countertop for 10 minutes then remove from the pan.
Tips for making this Japanese Milk Bread (Hokkaido milk bread)
Cook the tangzhong on medium to low speed so the flour has a chance to absorb the liquid - if you cook on high heat the liquid will evaporate.
Also, you need to stir the tangzhong continuously but not vigorously. Why? we want to avoid gluten formation.
The tangzhong must be a paste consistency and it gets thicker as it cools so remove it earlier rather than later. If it gets too thick and lumpy it will be difficult to incorporate in the dough.
Cool the tangzhong to room temperature before you add it to the dough. But do not place it in the fridge to avoid lumps.
Add salt to the flour, not the yeast mixture. Salt can kill the yeast.
Knead the dough for the time mentioned in the recipe. Using a timer works great to under or over-knead the dough.
Bread flour works best for this bead making it soft and chewy. Having said that, I have used all-purpose flour and it works just as well.
Overnight Buns - The dough can be prepared a day in advance. Proof them for an hour on the counter then punch down and let the dough rest in the fridge overnight. Overnight proofing is a great way to add flavor to the bagels. The next day, let the dough come to room temperature before you shape and bake them.
Storing Burger Buns - Burger bun do freeze beautifully. Cool the baked buns then place them in a freezer-safe storage bag. These can be frozen for up to a month.
Kneading the dough - If possible use an electric mixer because the dough is soft and sticky.
Bread machine - buns can be easily made in a bread machine. Pour all ingredients in the pan set to dough or manual. Start and let the dough run its cycle for about 9 to 10 minutes - continue with the recipe as shown above.