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HOKKAIDO MILK BREAD

{ a recipe }

Hokkaido milk bread (or shokupan) is, to me, the stuff of legends -- a lofty, sky-high loaf with wispy, cloud-like innards, wondrously soft and fluffy. Its origins are unclear, but it is most often found in Japanese and other Asian bakeries. Rich, slightly sweet, and creamy, it's my favorite kind of bread. Here's how to make it.

what you'll need

6 tbsp water 2 tbsp bread flour (for the tangzhong) 1/4 cup whole milk 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 2 3/4 cups (about 350g) bread flour scant 1 tsp salt 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream 1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk or milk powder (optional) 1 egg 2 tbsp butter, divided and softened 1 more egg, plus a splash of milk (for the egg wash)

First, you'll need to make tangzhong -- a gluey, roux-like paste made from flour and water. It looks odd, but aids in forming gluten in the bread, yielding a softer, more tender crumb and a loaf that stays fresh longer.

whisk

6 tbsp water and 2 tbsp bread flour in a small saucepan until smooth.

Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring consistently, until mixture thickens. When lines form in the bottom of the pan, remove from heat immediately.

The tangzhong should look like this.

Next, warm your milk to 110 degrees and add the yeast. The mixture should foam.

meanwhile,

sift together the flour, salt, and sugar.

add

the tangzhong, one egg, cream, and condensed milk to the yeast mixture, and whisk gently to combine.

add the wet to the dry.

mix

then knead.

The dough will be sticky; sprinkle flour over your bands and the dough as necessary as you knead. One tablespoon should be enough. Knead for 4-5 min, or until the dough forms a semi-smooth ball.

add the butter

a tablespoon at a time, kneading after each addition.

only

add the next tablespoon of butter once the first has been fully incorporated.

and

get messy.

continue kneading

for 4-5 more minutes, until dough is silky and elastic.

(I knead bread backwards.)

Place the dough in a large bowl with plenty of room and cover. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator, until doubled. I prefer an overnight rise.

to shape the loaf

divide the dough into four equal pieces.

Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece into an oval, about 8 inches long and 5-6 inches wide.

Fold the oval into thirds widthwise, then flatten again.

Roll the strip up lengthwise, then place snugly into the loaf pan.

the second rise

Let the shaped loaf proof for another hour or so, until it has nearly doubled in size. When pressed, the dough should form an indentation that slowly bounces back, but remains visible. About 30 minutes into proofing, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Beat another egg with a splash of milk or water, and brush the egg wash over the proofed loaf.

Bake for about 30 minutes. The bread is ready when golden brown on top, and when the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Enjoy plain, or as milk toast -- thickly sliced, toasted, and smothered in butter and sweetened condensed milk. (My personal favorite.)

for the full recipe, visit http://food52.com/ or http://tworedbowls.com

thank you so much for reading!

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