Hokkaido Milk Bread Recipe

Hokkaido Milk Bread: A New Twist on the Classic Recipe

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Updated on February 11, 2024

Have you ever wanted to visit Japan and eat traditional Japanese food? So, we’re bringing Japan to you with this Hokkaido Milk Bread recipe. It’s a fluffy, cloud-like bread you’ll be addicted to from the first mouthful.

This delicious gem hails from Japan, boasting an airy texture achieved through what’s known as a tangzhong base, a rather intriguing little method involving just water and flour. 

Join us on this culinary adventure post as we delve into the tantalising secrets behind creating your perfect batch of Hokkaido milk bread!

What is Hokkaido Milk Bread?

A photo of Hokkaido Milk Bread loaf with slices surrounded by fresh ingredients, detailed eyes, skin textures, different faces, hair styles, and outfits, on a wooden board.

Hokkaido milk bread is a Japanese-style bread known for its light, fluffy texture and sweet, milky flavour. It is a popular ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes, and it can be made at home with just a few simple ingredients.

Made with a tangzhong starter, it has a feathery loaf that is easy to pull apart, with a cottony texture that stays fresh for days.

Origin of the Hokkaido Milk Bread

The exact origins of Hokkaido milk bread, also known as shokupan, are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in Hokkaido, Japan, in the early 1900s. 

Some sources trace the bread’s origins to a bakery in Sapporo, Hokkaido, experimenting with different bread recipes in the early 20th century. 

Other sources suggest that the bread was inspired by Western-style bread introduced to Japan during the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century.


Hokkaido milk bread is characterised by its soft, fluffy texture, sweet, milky flavour, and slightly browned crust. The bread is made with a tangzhong, a pre-cooked mixture of flour and water that helps create the bread’s signature texture.

The Tangzhong Method

One of the key features of Hokkaido milk bread is its use of the tangzhong method. The tangzhong method is a Japanese technique for making bread that involves pre-cooking a portion of the flour and liquid in the recipe to create a paste-like mixture called tangzhong. 

At the heart of this culinary marvel is the tangzhong method—a roux made from water and flour heated together to 65°C (149°F). This technique partially cooks the flour, allowing it to absorb more water. In essence, tangzhong increases the dough’s hydration without making it too wet to handle, leading to a higher moisture content in the final loaf. This gelatinization of starch in the flour contributes significantly to the bread’s tender crumb and longevity, preventing it from drying out too quickly.

This paste is then incorporated into the rest of the dough, resulting in incredibly soft, moist, and fluffy bread.

The tangzhong method is believed to have originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the early 20th century. It quickly gained popularity in Japan and is now known for its distinctive characteristics:

  • Soft and fluffy texture: The tangzhong method helps to gelatinise the starches in the flour, which makes the bread incredibly soft and fluffy.
  • Moist and long-lasting freshness: The pre-cooked flour and liquid in the tangzhong help to retain moisture in the bread, keeping it fresh for longer.
  • Enriched flavour: The tangzhong method adds a slightly sweet and milky flavour to the bread.

Each ingredient in Hokkaido milk bread plays a pivotal role:

  • Flour: Provides the structure through gluten formation. The protein content in bread flour is ideal for achieving a strong, elastic dough capable of trapping the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, leading to a light and airy loaf.
  • Milk: Adds flavor, richness, and tenderizes the bread by weakening the gluten network. The fat content in milk enriches the dough, contributing to a softer crumb and a more golden crust.
  • Sugar: Besides adding sweetness, sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it helps the bread retain moisture, contributing to its soft texture. It also feeds the yeast, encouraging fermentation and rise.
  • Yeast: The key leavening agent, yeast ferments the sugars present in the dough, producing carbon dioxide gas, which inflates the gluten network, causing the bread to rise.
  • Butter: Adds richness, flavor, and tenderness to the crumb by coating the flour proteins, which inhibits gluten formation, resulting in a softer texture.

Advanced Baking Techniques

Mastering Hokkaido milk bread requires not just an understanding of ingredients but also the proficiency in advanced baking techniques that leverage these components to their full potential.

  • Kneading: Effective kneading is crucial for developing gluten, which gives the bread its structure and chew. The windowpane test—a method where a small piece of dough is stretched out to see if it can form a thin, translucent membrane without tearing—is a reliable indicator of adequate gluten development. Achieving this stage ensures the dough is strong enough to trap gases during fermentation, contributing to the bread’s rise and airy texture.
  • Proofing Environment: The environment in which the dough proofs can greatly affect the final product. Ideal proofing conditions involve a warm, humid environment, typically around 75-78°F (24-26°C) with high humidity to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out. These conditions encourage yeast activity, allowing for a consistent and effective rise. Home bakers can create a conducive proofing environment in an oven with a pan of hot water placed at the bottom, or simply by covering the dough with a damp cloth in a warm area.

Understanding and applying these scientific principles and advanced techniques can elevate your Hokkaido milk bread from good to exceptional. By controlling the interactions of ingredients and the environmental conditions of your kitchen, you unlock the full potential of each component, resulting in a loaf that’s not just delicious, but a testament to the art and science of baking.

How to Make Hokkaido Milk Bread

A freshly baked Hokkaido Milk Bread loaf on a wooden cutting board.

Hokkaido milk bread is relatively easy to make at home. Just know that the Hokkaido milk bread can be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating in a warm oven.

The following is the easiest recipe to help you have a piece of Japan at home:


For the tangzhong:

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60g) bread flour

For the bread:

  • 1 cup (240ml) lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (6g) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1g) salt
  • 3 1/2 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened


Making the tangzhong:

  • In a small saucepan, whisk together the water and bread flour.
  • Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and forms a paste.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Proofing the yeast:

  • Whisk together the lukewarm milk, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Let it stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

Making the dough:

  • Add the tangzhong, flour, eggs, and butter to the bowl and stir until a dough forms.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

First rise:

  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Shaping the bread:

  • Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
  • Shape each piece into a round roll.

Second rise:

  • Place the rolls in a 9×13-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes until the rolls are puffy.

Baking the bread:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cooling the bread:

  • Let the rolls cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tips for Perfecting the Hokkaido Milk Bread

Making the bread is pretty easy; however, there are a few tips to consider that will help you perfect the bread. Here are a few helpful tips. 

  • To make the best Hokkaido Milk Bread, learning to knead is key. 
  • It’s important to get the dough to a windowpane stage. This means it’s smooth and can stretch thin without tearing. 
  • Don’t skip pre-cooking some of your ingredients! That’s a part of making the tangzhong that gives our bread its softness.
  • You can switch things up with different fillings and toppings for fun variations on this tasty recipe.
  • For a sweeter bread, you can add more sugar to the dough.
  • For richer bread, you can use whole milk instead of skim milk.
  • For a more flavorful bread, you can add a tablespoon of honey or molasses to the dough.
  • You can add food colouring to the dough for a more colourful bread.

How To Eat Hokkaido Milk Bread

There are endless ways to enjoy Hokkaido Milk Bread, and it all depends on your taste buds. 

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Savour it plain:

Hokkaido milk bread is so soft and fluffy that it’s simply delightful to eat on its own. Enjoy the subtle sweetness and delicate texture without any toppings or accompaniments.

Slather it with butter: 

A classic pairing for Hokkaido milk bread is a generous spread of soft, unsalted butter. The butter’s richness complements the bread’s subtle sweetness, creating a harmonious blend of flavours.

Indulge in a grilled cheese sandwich: 

Elevate your grilled cheese experience with Hokkaido milk bread. The thick slices of bread will hold up perfectly to your favourite cheese fillings, resulting in a gooey, cheesy, and perfectly grilled sandwich.

Pair it with jam or preserves: 

The delicate sweetness of Hokkaido milk bread pairs beautifully with various jams and preserves. Try strawberry jam, raspberry jam, or even a spoonful of honey for a delightful treat.

Transform it into French toast: 

Elevate your breakfast with Hokkaido milk bread and French toast. The thick slices will soak up the egg and milk mixture, resulting in a rich, custardy, and fluffy French toast experience.

Create a croque monsieur: 

Embrace French cuisine with a croque monsieur using Hokkaido milk bread. Layer ham, cheese, and béchamel sauce between two slices of bread, and bake until golden brown and bubbly.

Make sweet toast roll-ups: 

For a fun and playful treat, spread Nutella or your favourite peanut butter on slices of Hokkaido milk bread, roll them up, and slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Use it for bread pudding: 

Hokkaido milk bread’s soft and fluffy texture makes it ideal for bread pudding. Cube the bread, soak it in a custard mixture and bake until golden brown and custardy.

Enjoy it with fruit and honey: 

For a refreshing and healthy snack, top slices of Hokkaido milk bread with fresh berries, sliced bananas, or your favourite fruits, and drizzle with a touch of honey.

Create unique sandwiches: 

Experiment with different sandwich fillings using Hokkaido milk bread. Try a classic BLT, a tuna salad sandwich, or a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.

A Culinary Journey to Japan’s Fluffy Treasure

Making Hokkaido milk bread at home is fun and easy. The soft, fluffy loaf will make your taste buds happy. You can use it in many dishes or eat it on its own. Try this recipe to have a piece of Japan in your kitchen!


What is Hokkaido milk bread?

Hokkaido milk bread is a soft and fluffy Japanese-style white bread that is made with an enriched dough containing milk, butter, sugar, and yeast.

How long does it take to make Hokkaido milk bread?

The total time to make Hokkaido milk bread can vary, but typically it takes around 3-4 hours from start to finish, including rising and baking time.

Can I use a bread machine to make Hokkaido milk bread?

Yes, you can use a bread machine to knead the dough for Hokkaido milk bread. However, the shaping and final rise may need to be done by hand before baking in the oven.

Can I substitute any ingredients in the Hokkaido milk bread recipe?

While it’s best to follow the recipe as closely as possible for optimal results, you may be able to make substitutions based on dietary restrictions or preferences. However, this could affect the texture and taste of the finished loaf.

How should I store leftover Hokkaido milk bread?

To keep your leftover Hokkaido milk bread fresh, store it in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. You can also freeze slices individually wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in freezer bags for longer storage.

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