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Milk, Chai & Honey | Japanese Milk Bread

Mornings & the smell of homemade bread freshly out of the oven,
gleefully made with milk & butter & eggs & sugar.
so beautifully decadent & fragrant.
there’s a softness & fluffiness that this style of bread has that enchants you & beguiles you,
& a butteriness lightness that charms you.
the recipe below is for a 9×5″ loaf,
but you can go rogue like i did & fold the dough into different shapes,
& cheekily stuff flavours like fresh ricotta & homegrown basil inside.
this milk bread may take a little longer,
& require a little more care,
but it’s definitely worth the extra love after you’ve had a bite of its pillowy goodness!

Ingredients

For the tangzhong starter (Makes a double batch, i.e. 1 cup)
 cup/45 g bread flour
½ cup/120 ml whole milk
½ cup/120 ml water

For the dough
2 ½ cups/325 g bread flour
¼ cup/60 g sugar
2 tsp/7 g active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp/4 g salt
1 egg
½ cup/120 ml warm whole milk (plus extra for brushing on the unbaked loaf)
4 tbsp/60 g unsalted butter (cut into pieces & softened at room temperature)

Method

1. For the starter: Whisk flour, milk & water together until smooth. In a pot, simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thickened but still pourable, about 10 minutes (it will thicken more as it cools). When it’s ready, the spoon will leave tracks on the bottom of the pot. Scrape into a measuring cup & lightly cover the surface with plastic wrap. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, yeast & salt. Mix until just evenly combined.
3. Add egg, milk & ½ cup starter (save the rest for future use). Turn the mixer on low & knead for 5 minutes.
4. Add soft butter & knead another 10-12 minutes (it will take a few minutes for the butter to be incorporated), until the dough is smooth, springy & a little tacky.
5. Lightly grease the inside of a bowl. Lift dough out of mixer bowl, shape into a ball & place in prepared bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (40-60 minutes).
6. Punch the dough down & scoop out onto a flat surface. Using a bench scraper or a large knife, cut dough in half. Lightly form each half into a ball, cover again & let rise 15 minutes. Generously grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.
7. Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll out one dough ball into a thick oval. (By this time, the dough should be moist & no longer sticky.) First, roll away from your body, then pull in, until the oval is about 12″ long & 6″ across.
8. Fold the top 3″ of the oval down, then fold the bottom 3″ of the oval up, making a rough square. Starting from the right edge of the square, roll up the dough into a fat log, pick it up & smooth the top with your hands. Place the log in the pan, seam side down & crosswise, nestling it near one end of the pan. Repeat with the other dough ball, placing it near the other end of the pan.
9. Cover & let rest for 30-40 minutes more, until the risen dough is peeking over the edge of the pan & the dough logs are meeting in the center. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 175˚C/350˚F.
10. Brush the tops of the dough logs with milk & bake on the bottom shelf of the oven until golden brown & puffed, 35-40 minutes.
11. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour, to let the crust soften & keep the crumb lofty. (If cut too soon, the air bubbles trapped in the bread will deflate.)

Yields 1 9×5″ loaf

Milk, Chai & Honey | Japanese Milk Bread
Milk, Chai & Honey | Japanese Milk BreadMilk, Chai & Honey | Japanese Milk Bread
Milk, Chai & Honey | Japanese Milk Bread

“One, two, three, four
Tell me that you love me more
Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for”
— Feist, 1234

 

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