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 Asian bakery milk bread. Until this past weekend, that is, when we finally did it.
There are many milk bread recipes on the net, and many of them are quite complicated. No matter how closely I followed many of these recipes, on other food blogs and Chinese recipe sites alike, I was never satisfied with their outcomes. Often, they wouldn’t come out anything like the picture! This futile search went on for about a year. Shameful, I know.
So where did this milk bread recipe come from? All along, it turned out that my friend Lindsay had the perfect recipe. Not only is this the absolutely closest recipe I’ve tried to the real deal Asian milk bread you find in Chinese grocery stores and Chinatown bakery shops, it’s actually remarkably easy.
You just have to put everything in the mixer to make the dough, proof for 60 minutes, knead the dough again, shape it, proof, and bake. No fancy ingredients or complicated steps. The final product, as you can see from our photos, is fluffy, soft, slightly sweet, and golden. What’s not to love about it?
My cousin told me that she’d been making this bread for years: two loaves a week. I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask her sooner. Ah well, all the stars eventually aligned, and I am now dizzy with happiness. Now that this search is over, I am going to start on the next recipe on my ever-growing list. But before I do, I am eager to share this super easy milk bread recipe with you so you can enjoy the fruits of my (mostly unnecessary) labor.
Just so you know, you can use a bread maker to make the dough for this recipe, but I’d recommend that you proof the dough separately, because bread maker’s proofing setting is too hot for this bread.
- I used 1% milk since that’s what I had on hand, but you can use 2% or regular.
- You’ll want to make the whole recipe which yields two loaves because one loaf will disappear in no time.
- 2/3 cup (158 ml) heavy cream (at room temperature)
- 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon (total 250 ml) milk (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup (75 grams) sugar
- 1/2 cup (about 70 grams) cake flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
- 3 1/2 cups (about 500 grams) bread flour, tap measuring cup to avoid air pockets
- 1 tablespoon (11 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) salt
- Egg wash: whisk together 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water
- Simple syrup (optional): 2 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the ingredients in the following order: heavy cream, milk, egg, sugar, cake flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt. Use the dough hook attachment, and turn on the mixer to “stir.” Let it go for 15 minutes, occasionally stopping the mixer to push the dough together. If you’re in a humid climate and the dough is too sticky, feel free to add a little more bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together. If you don’t have a mixer and would like to knead by hand, extend the kneading time by at least 5-10 minutes.
After 15 minutes of mixing, the dough is ready for proofing. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place in a warm spot for 1 hour. I proofed the dough in my oven (I had the oven on rapid proof for 5 minutes, turned the oven off, and then closed the oven door). The dough will grow to 1.5X its original size.
In the meantime, grease two baking vessels on all sides with butter. I used a standard loaf pan and a 9-inch round cake pan.
After the hour of proofing, put the dough back in the mixer and stir for another 5 minutes to get rid of air bubbles. Dump the dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut it in half. I made a loaf with one half of the dough by cutting it into 3 pieces and placing them in the loaf pan.
With the other half of the dough, I cut it into eight equal pieces and rolled them with my hands into 8-inch long pieces. Then I folded each “rope” in half and twisted it 3-4 times.
Then, I twisted the entire piece in on itself to make a knot. There’s no strictly right or wrong way to achieve the knot. Just make sure that the dough gets twisted in on itself and the you’re not pulling ends through the knot. It’s should be round in shape with nothing poking out when you’re done.
Once shaped, let the dough proof for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the risen dough with egg wash. Bake the loaves for 23-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and brush the buns with sugar water to give them a really great shine, sweetness, and color.