If you have a few hours on your hands and a desire to have the softest most delectable bread imaginable, you’ve come to the right place. This milk bread recipe takes a little elbow grease, but it’s absolutely a labor of love. As in you’ll LOVE this freaking bread.
The Secret Behind SOFT Bread
The secret behind the softness of milk bread is tangzhong! Tangzhong is a heated mixture of water and flour. This creates a paste of already gelatinized starch that when added to bread dough, allows it to hold on to much more moisture than normal. This allows the bread to bake up super moist and soft!
Be warned, this is a STICKY dough
The addition of tangzhong means that this dough is sticky. I’ll be frank, it will seem impossible to work with at the beginning, but restrain yourself from adding any additional flour. It will come together with enough kneading. You just have to trust the process. A bench scraper will be your best friend in this endeavor.
Rolling pictures (for reference)
Supremely Soft Milk Bread (No Stand Mixer)
3 tbsp bread flour
¾ cup water
- Bread Dough
2 ½ cups bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp active dry or instant yeast
1/2 cup warm milk
3 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
- Egg Wash
splash of milk
- In a small pot mix together 3 tbsp bread flour and half a cup of water. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until mixture has thickened into a thick paste. Set aside and let cool completely.
- Create a yeast mixture but whisking together warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine 2 ½ cups bread flour, yeast mixture*, egg, salt, and tangzhong. Mix together until a sticky dough forms. Cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Lay the dough out onto a clean flat and knead for 15-20 minutes, until it becomes a smooth and stretchy dough.
- Add the butter to the middle of the dough. Fold it over the butter and knead until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth again. Place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let proof for an hour in a warm area.
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Cut the dough into three even pieces. Roll each piece into a long rectangle about 4 inches wide. Starting from one of the short sides, roll up the dough towards the other side. Place each piece side by side in a lightly greased 9×5 inch loaf pan, with the spiral sides of the dough facing out towards the long sides of the pan. Let the dough proof in the baking pan at room temperature for 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together egg and milk for the egg wash. After the 40 minutes of proofing, brush the egg wash on top of the bread. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
- Once golden on the top, remove bread from the oven and cool it in the pan until safe enough to handle. Remove from the pan and let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
- *Add yeast to the flour if using instant. Add yeast to warm milk and let bloom for 5 minutes if using active dry.