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Milk Bread

This Asian milk bread recipe is a triumph. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that for months, we’ve searched, tested, and failed time and time again to nail down a perfect recipe for soft, buttery, fluffy milk bread. Until that is, when we finally did it!

Milk bread is an Asian style of soft, buttery, and slightly sweet bread. There are variations in Japan (where it’s known as shokupan) as well as China. In Chinese bakeries, you’ll find milk bread in various forms: loaves, sliced, pull-apart buns, and as the basis for a wide variety of Hong Kong Style bakery buns.

If you’ve ever had a baked Chinese BBQ Pork Bun (Char Siu Bao), Pineapple Bun, or Hot Dog Bun, you know what we’re talking about. Milk bread is light, incredibly fluffy, and tears apart in melt-in-your-mouth strands.

Milk bread dough is an enriched dough, which means it has dairy (milk, cream, and/or butter), eggs, oil, and/or sugar added to it. It is softer and richer than regular breads, which are made with primarily flour, water, salt, and yeast.


1 cup warm whole milk (110-115°F)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

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In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Stir gently until the yeast is dissolved and let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt to the yeast mixture, and stir until well combined.
Stir in the butter until it is well incorporated. Gradually add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Punch down the dough to release any air pockets and knead it briefly on a lightly floured surface.
Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the dough rise again for 30-40 minutes.
Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

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