I set out to create the best sandwich bread and discovered how to make a perfectly fluffy white bread recipe. I use the Japanese milk bread technique called Tangzhong. It's super simple, takes only a few hours, and creates a soft sandwich bread that you'll love.
This bread will blow your mind. It's completely soft like a cloud and tastes amazing. It's got one extra step (making a milk and flour jelly on the stove, called a tangzhong) and is still super fast and easy.
A homemade bread recipe that's super soft
This is my favorite fluffy white bread recipe. It is seriously the perfect sandwich bread, both soft and flavorful. I even use this method of bread making in my luxuriously soft and fluffy cinnamon roll recipe.
I find most homemade loaves delicious, yet dense, or overly sweet or they have a course crumb. A coarse crumb doesn't mean it's not soft, just that the texture is more coarse or heavy, say, compared to Wonder Bread.
My love for this soft and fluffy white bread doesn't negate my fond memories of classic homemade loaves mom would make. The sliced white sandwich bread made day in and day out in our homes is still fantastic. Just different!
The texture of the bread is a genius mix between a classic homemade loaf of bread, a soft store-bought white bread, and buttery brioche.
In some circles, it's called milk bread and it's light, moist, and pillowy soft all at the same time. It's like the white bread and rolls you get from Chinese and other Asian style bakeries. You find flavors of milk, eggs, and butter, with a classic homemade-bread-sweetness that makes it a great sandwich loaf.
Japanese sandwich bread (milk bread)
Milk bread goes by many different names and as far as we know really originated in China as Shokupan or Hokkaido. In Korea it is called Uyu Sikppang.
This soft, airy, cloud-like bread is commonly referred to as Japanese milk bread and is popular in the bakeries of many Asian countries including Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. You can even find this style of bread at bakery chains like Paris Baguette with is a Korean franchise!
Asian style milk bread is different than American homemade sandwich bread. It's a bit closer in texture to Wonder Bread but has an amazing homemade flavor. It doesn't crumble or tear the same as American style bread. And, it's what panko bread crumbs are made of!
Cooks across Asia were introduced to making this bread at home in 2007 with a book called 65ºC Bread Doctor, by Yvonne Chen. It's been covered in many American baking books since then and online outlets like King Arthur Flour have great recipes.
How to make homemade bread light and fluffy:
This fluffy white bread recipe is different than a homemade country loaf of white bread because of a special flour and milk roux called Tangzhong. It gets mixed and cooked before being added to the pretty standard bread recipe.
Sounds simple and sort of odd, but it works wonders. Miracles even! The tangzhong method is most often used in China to make buns with a soft, fluffy texture. I've enjoyed these in Chinatown here in New York! They are often filled with savory or sweet coconut fillings and brushed with a heavy egg wash before baking so the top is glossy and dark.
Tangzhong starter: a technique for softer yeast bread
The tangzhong method is flour, milk, and sometimes water mixed together and heated to create a roux. It's actually quite pudding-like in texture and forms a gel.
This gel is added to the bread dough and the science is that the already moisturized flour or pre-gelatinized starches can absorb more water.
The flour will absorb two times as much hot milk as it does the warm water or milk you'd usually use in yeast dough. This roux holds moisture in the loaves of bread as well as helps create a fine crumb and texture. The tangzhong post on King Arthur explains it so well.
Benefits of tangzhong:
- The bread may rise higher, because of more liquid creating more internal steam.
- The bread will be moister and will stay soft and fresh longer because of the moisture the loaves retain.
Tangzhong starter is technically supposed to be a pourable consistency with 1 part flour to 5 parts liquid (1:5 ratio in volume) while some other recipes use 1 part dry to 3 part liquid ratio. My recipe is more of a 1:3 ratio. Roughly 1 tablespoon flour to 2 ½ tablespoons milk. This makes the roux thicker but it works like a charm.
How to make soft sandwich bread
Simple steps and tips for making the perfect soft, Tangzhong milk bread loaves. See the recipe for process shots and detailed instructions.
- Make the Tangzhong starter first so it can cool.
- Mix the flour and milk together in a saucepan and cook, whisking constantly until it is just starting to thicken like pudding. I really like this whisk.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let cool or place in the fridge.
- Mis en place, or assemble all the bread ingredients and make sure they are warm or close to room temperature.
- Mix the dough and let the mixer knead it for about 12 minutes. This creates the gluten strands.
- Proof or let rise in a greased bowl, covered, until doubled in size.
- I heat my oven to 100ºF, then turn it off to create a warm space for my dough. It should be a warm, but draft-free space.
- Divide dough in half and form loaves. I like to weigh the dough so my halves are equal. This food scale is awesome.
- Form loaves however you'd like. I prefer the structure of loaves folded like classic Japanese milk bread. Follow the how-to pictures in the recipe.
- You can also make 3 smaller loaves if you'd like!
- Let the loaves proof or rise a second time in a warm, draft-free area. Not quite doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven during this second rise. Use an oven thermometer to achieve the perfect temperature.
- Bake loaves until dark golden brown and cooked through. Let cool in pans for a couple of minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.
Is weighing my ingredients necessary?
While not everyone will have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend getting one. I like this scale. Weighing the ingredients guarantees accuracy and will result in loaves just like mine. If you do not weigh the flour you will most likely add too much flour and the bread will be a little more dense. It will still taste great, but you won't have the same texture as the tested loaves.
Can I use different sized pans?
You can use any bread pan you like. The old standard is 9-by-5-inches and makes two gorgeous large loaves. If you're using 8 ½ - by - 4 ½ - inch loaf pans I suggest using 3 pans and dividing the dough equally between them.
More easy bread recipes:
Finnish Cardamom Bread - a classic Pulla bread recipe
Soft and Sweet Cornbread - the ultimate cornbread recipe
Orange Nut Swirled Bread - use this recipe or frozen bread dough
Whole Wheat Walnut Pumpkin Bread - a seasonal favorite
Soft Sandwich Bread - A Fluffy White Bread Recipe
- 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1⅓ cups whole milk (350 ml) warm
- 6 cups all-purpose flour (720 g)
- ¼ cup sugar (50 g)
- 2 tsp fine salt
- 2 tbsp instant dry yeast (NOT active dry)
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (60 g)
For the Tangzhong:
- This needs to cool a bit before using, so plan for about 20 minutes.
- Whisk together the flour and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Stir until mixture is just barely paste consistency, like warm pudding. Remove from heat. Quickly transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool a bit (I put mine in the fridge).
For the Bread:
- When the Tangzhong starter is warm but not hot start the bread. In the bowl of a stand mixer or Bosch with the dough hook, mix together the warm milk, Tangzhong, sugar, yeast, salt, eggs and butter.
- With the mixer on low, add the 6 cups flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and let the mixer knead the dough on medium or medium-low speed for 12 minutes. The dough will be sticky and become more smooth as mixing happens. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically as needed, so everything mixes evenly.
- After 12 minutes the dough will be tacky but smooth and not as rough as at the beginning.
- Turn into a greased bowl, pull in the edges to make a ball then turn over so the round, oil-coated surface is on top. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise (I use a 100ºF warmed oven that has been turned off).
- Let dough rise until it is almost double in size and an indent stays when poked with a finger, instead of bouncing back, 30 to 45 minutes depending on how warm the environment is.
- Grease 2 9-by-5-inch loaf pans or 3, 8½-by-4½-inch standard loaf pans. Turn dough out on a pastry cloth or lightly floured surface. Divide in half weighing if desired. For 3 standard loaves, divide dough into thirds.
- Roll each piece into a rectangle about 15 inches in length (12 inches for smaller loaves), and 9 or 10 inches wide. Bring the two long ends together to meet in the middle.
- You can shape the dough as needed to maintain a rectangle.
- This technique is not necessary, but helps the loaf have an even gluten structure when baked. Don't use excess flour.
- Then roll up the center to create a loaf. Pinch the long edge together on the bottom of the loaf. Place in greased loaf pans.
- Lightly cover and let rise a second time until almost double in size, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how warm the environment is. When you poke in your finger it should stay and only push back slowly.
- While dough rises a second time, heat oven to 350ºF. Use an oven thermometer to check the accuracy of the oven temperature.
- When loaves are ready, bake until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. You can rotate pans halfway through cooking if your oven has hot spots. Let loaves cool in pans 1 or 2 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
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