Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong (Hong Kong Pai Bo)

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe I think I just had a foodgasm!

Yes, I’m one of those cheesy people who love to associate food with pleasure.

And why not?! Have I got the recipe to make the best fluffy bread ever! And it has an interesting technique too.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe Keep aside the fact that this bread has a funny name. I mean, it ain’t funny to the Asian folk who actually know WHY the bread is named so. But to me, it is. The name is just a bunch of noises. Apparently it’s a very popular bread in South Asian bakeries across the world. It is also known as Asian Sweet Bread and Hong Kong Pai Bo. Some people say this is a Japanese bread while others say it’s because the milk used in this bread is from Japan while some others have suggested its pure white color and the texture resemble the pristineness of Hokkaido!

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe But that’s not really our concern. There is a secret ingredient in this recipe – the TANGZHONG. It is what you get by cooking 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux. At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and create a “leavening” action.  When the Tangzhong is added into other ingredients of a bread dough, it produces light, tender and fluffier bread. This method of using Tangzhong is often seen in South Asian breads and was created by a Chinese woman, Yvonne Chen, who describes this method in her book which translates to “65 degrees Bread Doctor” .

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe
Look at how fluffy the texture is!

This is a very versatile dough. You can make into a plain loaf, or dinner rolls. You can fill the rolls with sweet or savory fillings. You can even shape the dough into knots, or cute little animals. In fact, this is the most reliable method to make soft and fluffy breads as far as I know (and I’ve only made this once, so that speaks volumes!). The bread can be kept for days and is still very soft and fluffy. Although, the dough is extremely sticky, due to the moisture added by tangzhong, so that it’s quite challenge to handle by hands. Yet, this time, I chose to let go of my mixer and did the (messy) job with my hands. So it works either ways.

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe You can of course still make bread sans the Tangzhong. But I can’t imagine why you’d do that, considering the fact that it is this Tangzhong that works miracles to give us the fluffy bread. All it takes is some planning. :)

HOKKAIDO MILK BREAD RECIPE

Part I: Making the Roux – TANGZHONG

You’ll need –

To a pan with high sides, add the flour, milk and water

Whisk them together until smooth and there are no lumps

Place the pan on the stove over low heat and stir continuously. Do not let lumps form

You’ll notice that within a minute or two, the mixture starts thickening.

If you have a thermometer, cook the Tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If like me, you don’t have a thermometer, then watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.

Don’t worry if the mixture is lumpy despite your constant whisking. Just take a spatula / flat spoon and beat the mixture well for a minute till it becomes smooth & creamy.

Cover the pan loosely & let it rest for 2-3 hours at least. . If not using immediately, transfer the roux to a bowl and cover using plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for about a day. Discard the tangzhong after that.

 

Part II: Making the DOUGH
Here’s what you’re gonna need to make the dough –

** NOTE: Since we’re using Tangzhong, the dough can get extremely sticky. So if you have a food processor or a mixer with a dough attachment, use that to do your kneading for you. But if not, you have to be patient and keep kneading the dough for 20-30 minutes until it becomes smooth & elastic. I used my hands this time!

To a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast.

Give them a good mix. (If using an electric mixer – pulse a couple of times)

In another bowl, add the TANGZHONG, milk and cream well.

Add this mixture to the flour mixture.

If doing it by hand, use a wooden spoon initially to mix the wet into the dry. Or run the mixer on slow speed until the dough comes together.

Add the softened butter.

Then start kneading the dough (stretch-pull back together) for at least 20-30 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic & no-longer-sticky dough. If using an electric mixer, switch to medium speed and process for 10-15 minutes until the dough feels smooth.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. Make sure the top of the dough is well oiled too (to prevent a skin from forming).

Cover with a kitchen cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Or until the dough is almost doubled up in volume.

 

Part 3: Making the Bread loaves

* There are a couple of different options to consider while making this bread. Traditionally, it is rolled and shaped like a loaf. However, you could do them this way to make dinner rolls (or PAV buns) or you could place them in muffin tins or you could really form the bread into any way to want.

* Another option to consider is the filling. It can be a savory or sweet filling or just plain bread. I decided to do 2 plain loaves and filled one with a coriander & mint pesto. It turned out delicious! You can also use chopped chocolate as a filling.

To shape the bread…. (This method makes 3 mini rolls that are combined to form one loaf. If you want to shape them like dinner rolls, check out this post. Or you could really shape the dough however you wish)

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces

Roll each part of the dough in a ball

Roll out the dough to form an Oval of around 1/8 inch thickness. Doesn’t have to be perfect.

From the shorter side closest to you, fold it to the middle (like closing an envelope)

Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold. Tuck the dough in so that there are no open sides.

Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. That is – roll along the longer side so that the longer side stretches even more. (see pic)

Do not press the dough too much. Just roll out gently stretching the dough on all sides to form a long rectangle. (again, doesn’t have to be a perfect rectangle.

 

Option 1: Plain loaf – no filling

From the shorter side closest to you, start rolling the dough to form a cigar / cylindrical shape.

Roll closely and pinch all sides to close any open side.

 

Option 2: Filling the loaf – sweet or savory filling

Follow the same step upto rolling out to form a rectangle part. Spread Pesto or any spread you want on the dough leaving 1 inch on all sides. If you want a chocolate filling, just add finely chopped chocolate or add a chocolate paste. The filling ideas are unlimited.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Once again, from the shorter side closest to you, roll to form a cylinder.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Press well to seal the edges.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

To a well oiled (greased) Bread Loaf pan, place the roll seam-side down leaving 1/2 an inch between each rolls.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Cover with a kitchen cloth & again let it rise for 45 minutes – 1 hour. The rolls would have plumped up significantly.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Brush the top with cream / milk / butter / egg wash
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Place in a 170 C degree preheated oven
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the bread is completely cooked  through.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Let the bread cool in the loaf tin for 5 minutes before unmolding.
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Serve warm!
Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

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Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong (Hong Kong Pai Bo)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 3 mini loaves
Ingredients
For the Tangzhong (Flour-Water-Milk Roux) - we will require only half of this quantity. You can either discard the other half OR halve the amount of ingredients to make only half of the Tangzhang
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup milk
For the Dough (if you want a sweeter bread, increase the amount of sugar. for this amount, you can a regular mildly sweet & salty bread)
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 TBsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 2 tsp instant dried yeast
  • ½ cup milk (and a little more if needed)
  • ⅛ cup cream (*optional - can use milk instead)
  • ⅓ cup Tangzhong (use HALF of the tangzhong from above)
  • 2 TBsp (25 gm) Butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)
Filling - Ideas (optional)
  • Any kind of Pesto
  • Dry Herbs
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Nutella or any chocolate spread
  • ***Do not use sauces or anything that'll make the bread soggy.
Baking Tools required
  • 9 X 5 inch baking pan
  • Oil for greasing the pan
Instructions
Part I: Making the Roux - TANGZHONG
  1. To a pan with high sides, add the flour, milk and water. Whisk them together until smooth and there are no lumps
  2. Place the pan on the stove over low heat and stir continuously. Do not let lumps form. You'll notice that within a minute or two, the mixture starts thickening.
  3. If you have a thermometer, cook the Tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If you don’t have a thermometer, then watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.
  4. Don't worry if the mixture is lumpy despite your constant whisking. Just take a spatula / flat spoon and beat the mixture well for a minute till it becomes smooth & creamy.
  5. Cover the pan loosely & let it rest for 2-3 hours at least. . If not using immediately, transfer the roux to a bowl and cover using plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for about a day. Discard the tangzhong after that.
Part II: Making the DOUGH
** NOTE: Since we're using Tangzhong, the dough can get extremely sticky. So if you have a food processor or a mixer with a dough attachment, use that to do your kneading for you. But if not, you have to be patient and keep kneading the dough for 20-30 minutes until it becomes smooth & elastic.
  1. To a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast. Give them a good mix. (If using an electric mixer - pulse a couple of times)
  2. In another bowl, add the TANGZHONG, milk and cream.
  3. Mix well until it is smooth. Add this mixture to the flour mixture.
  4. If doing it by hand, use a wooden spoon initially to mix the wet into the dry. Or run the mixer on slow speed until the dough comes together.
  5. Add the softened butter and mix well.
  6. Then switch to your hands and start kneading the dough (stretch-pull back together) for at least 20-30 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic & no-longer-sticky dough. If using an electric mixer, switch to medium speed and process for 10-15 minutes until the dough feels smooth.
  7. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl. Make sure the top of the dough is well oiled too (to prevent a skin from forming).
  8. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about 45 minutes - 1 hour. Or until the dough is almost doubled up in volume.
Part 3: Making the Bread loaves - notes
  1. * There are a couple of different options to consider while making this bread. Traditionally, it is rolled and shaped like a loaf. However, you could do them this way to make dinner rolls (or PAV buns) or you could place them in muffin tins or you could really form the bread into any way to want.
  2. * Another option to consider is the filling. It can be a savory or sweet filling or just plain bread. I decided to do 2 plain loaves and filled one with a coriander & mint pesto. It turned out delicious! You can also use chopped chocolate as a filling.
To shape the bread... (This method makes 3 mini rolls that are combined to form one loaf. You could shape the dough however you wish)
  1. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each part of the dough in a ball
  2. Roll out the dough to form an Oval of around ⅛ inch thickness. Doesn't have to be perfect.
  3. From the shorter side closest to you, fold it to the middle (like closing an envelope)
  4. Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold. Tuck the dough in so that there are no open sides.
  5. Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. That is - roll along the longer side so that the longer side stretches even more.
  6. Do not press the dough too much. Just roll out gently stretching the dough on all sides to form a long rectangle. (again, doesn't have to be a perfect rectangle.)
Option 1: Plain loaf - no filling
  1. From the shorter side closest to you, start rolling the dough to form a cigar / cylindrical shape.
  2. Roll closely and pinch all sides to seal edges
Option 2: Filling the loaf - sweet or savory filling
  1. Follow the same step upto rolling out to form a rectangle part.
  2. Spread Pesto or any spread you want on the dough leaving 1 inch on all sides. If you want a chocolate filling, just add finely chopped chocolate or add a chocolate paste. The filling ideas are unlimited.
  3. Once again, from the shorter side closest to you, roll to form a cylinder.
  4. Press well to seal the edges.
To Proceed
  1. To a well oiled (greased) Bread Loaf pan, place the roll seam-side down leaving ½ an inch between each rolls.
  2. Cover with a kitchen cloth & again let it rise for 45 minutes - 1 hour. The rolls would have plumped up significantly.
  3. Brush the top with cream / milk / butter / egg wash
  4. Place in a 170 C degree preheated oven Bake fr 35-40 minutes or until the bread is completely cooked through.
  5. Let the bread cool in the loaf tin for 5 minutes before unmolding. Slice & Serve warm!

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong recipe

Check out what my friends are baking this month.

5 thoughts on “Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong (Hong Kong Pai Bo)

  1. Hi Kavitha,

    I made this bread day before yesterday. I did not get instant yeast in any of the stores so went ahead with dry yeast. used the yeast after proofing. It did come out super soft but had a kind of yeast smell to it. Is it becos i used dry yeast.

    thanking you
    amruta

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