Hokkaido Milk Bread Rolls

Author: Marthinus Strydom
Category: Bread
Serves/Qty: 8
Marthinus Strydom

Also referred to as Hokkaido milk bread, these rolls are incredibly soft and airy thanks to a simple technique involving a roux "starter," known as tangzhong. Also known as Shokupan, and Pai Bao.

The Story

Hokkaido Milk Bread, Japanese Milky Loaf, Asian Milk Bread, Shokupan, and Pai Bao are only some of the names for a very soft bread made with a tangzhong. The milk bread name is also applied to breads made with a large amount of heavy cream as the liquid.

Did you ever wonder where panko bread crumbs come from, since loaf and hearth breads aren’t part of Japanese culture? Surprisingly, about half of the Japanese people eat toast for breakfast. In the 20th century, milk bread was created in Japan with a Chinese technique used in making buns.

Tang zhong (also known as a 'water roux') is a method used in breadmaking to create soft and fluffy bread which was originated by the Japanese. However, it was popularised throughout south-east Asia in the 1990s by a Chinese woman called Yvonne Chen who wrote a book called The 65° Bread Doctor. Using this method also allows bread to stay fresh for longer without needing to use artificial preservatives.

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Adjust Quanities

298 g unbleached bread flour or oranic bread flour
11 g dry milk or nonfat dry milk
50 g sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp instant yeast
113 g whole milk
1 large egg
57 g melted unsalted butter
Tangzhong (starter)
43 g water
43 g whole milk
14 g unbleached bread flour or oranic bread flour


  1. To make the tangzhong: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and whisk until no lumps remain.
  2. Place the saucepan over low heat, and cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until thick and the whisk leaves lines on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the tangzhong to a small mixing bowl or measuring cup and let it cool to room temperature.
  4. To make the dough: Combine the tangzhong with the remaining dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
  6. Gently deflate the dough, divide it into 8 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.
  7. Place the rolls into a lightly greased round bun pan. Cover the pan, and let the rolls rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy. 
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for 28 to 32 minutes, until golden brown on top.
  9. Remove the rolls from the oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

japan hokkaido tangzhong shokupan pai bao bread rolls baking