What I Did During Snowzilla, Part III: Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

It's hard for me to resist a Japanese bakery. I often have the opportunity to pop into one when I visit my parents in Los Angeles or travel to Northern California. Japanese bakeries are usually self-serve -- you get a cafeteria tray and a set of tongs to pick out what you want -- and offer a dazzling variety of breads and pastries with creative fillings and flavors, both sweet and savory. The packaged loaves of bread at Japanese bakeries are distinctive -- perfectly square, ends trimmed off, and about half the length of a loaf of American supermarket sandwich bread.

I decided to use some of my Snowzilla downtime to make Japanese Milk Bread Rolls. Milk bread is soft, fluffy, enriched bread that is made with a cooked roux-like starter called tangzhong. I've had it in the aforementioned square loaf form, but never shaped as a pull apart dinner roll. And I had no idea that it was easy to make at home -- the technique is not difficult and the ingredients are all items that I keep on hand.

To make the starter, you cook water, milk, and bread flour until the mixture thickens. You let it cool down to room temperature and then add it to the remaining ingredients: more bread flour, baker's special dry milk, sugar, salt, instant yeast, milk, egg, and melted butter. My dough was a little sticky, so I added an extra two tablespoons of flour. You knead the dough until smooth, let it rise, and divide it into portions for individual rolls. The recipe says to form eight rolls and bake them in a round pan, but I decided to make nine rolls and bake them in a square pan. You shape the rolls, place them in the pan, let them rise again, brush them with milk, and bake.
It took 27 minutes in the oven for my rolls to reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Tom and I tasted the rolls warm and they were mind blowingly good. These are the softest, lightest, most ethereal rolls I've ever tasted, much less baked myself. They were like little clouds. Pure perfection. And they made some kick ass sandwiches.
I gave away some of the rolls to our neighbors, who also raved about them. Tom has been asking for more milk rolls since. I have to admit that I still find myself thinking about more milk rolls, too. This is definitely going to become my go-to dinner roll recipe from now on. And I'm not waiting for another snowstorm to make them again!

Recipe: "Japanese Milk Bread Rolls" from King Arthur Flour.

Previous Posts:


Louise said…
Do these taste anything like King's Hawaiian? They certainly look nice and I know you loved them.
Actually, because they are slightly sweet, they did remind me a little of a King's Hawaiian. But honestly, they were better!
Louise said…
That's great. I'll have to try these soon. It's nice that it doesn't require a special shopping trip.
Sally said…
thanks for the recommendation - I made these for Thanksgiving and they were outstanding. What size pan did you use? I used 8x8 and my rolls were kind of squished -
So glad you made these and liked them! I used an 8-inch square pan as well.