This soft & fluffy Japanese Milk Bread (Shokupan) is a tender loaf that stays soft for days. The bread is baked in a Pullman loafpan to attain its signature square-faced shape.
What is shokupan?
Japanese shokupan is similar to the French "pain de mie" which is basically white sandwich bread.
Shokupan means "eating/food bread," where shoku = "eating/food" and pan = "bread" in Japanese.
Shokupan is used in various sandwiches such as Japanese Egg Sandwich (tamago sando).
It is a fluffy, white bread (sometimes referred to as Hokkaido Milk Bread) with a soft, pillowy texture that you find in many Asian bakeries.
This light texture is attained by cooking a roux of flour and milk or water, known as tangzhong or yudane.
What is tangzhong?
Tangzhong (Chinese) is a cooked paste of flour, milk and/or water, which is added into the bread dough.
Usually, tangzhong has a larger ratio of liquid to flour, and is cooked over heat (to evaporate that liquid).
What is yudane?
Yudane is Japanese term for a very similar method of scalding flour with boiling hot water, before adding it into the bread dough.
Typically yudane has a 1:1 flour to water ratio.
How are they used?
Both methods of making tangzhong and yudane essentially cook or scald the flour with hot water/milk to essentially gelatinize the starches, allowing them to absorb more liquid.
When more liquid is absorbed, the resulting bread retains more moisture, and thus remains softer for a longer period of time.
This recipe uses a hybrid combination of tangzhong and yudane, mainly by reducing the amount of liquid, resulting in a shorter period of cooking time to create the flour roux.
Why you'll love this recipe
This Japanese Milk Bread recipe yields a soft, cottony light bread that is versatile in sweet or savoury applications.
The addition of tangzhong and the egg keeps the bread super soft and cottony.
Easy to make: It only requires a few ingredients, and you'll have fresh bread in a few hours.
Delicious: This bread has a delicate, fine, even crumb and is tender at room temperature for days.
Versatile: Use it in Matcha Strawberry Fruit Sando, Tamago Sando (Japanese Egg Sandwich), Vietnamese French Toast, or Pork Katsu Sandos.
For this particular Japanese Milk Bread, in order to attain it's square shape, you'll need a special loaf pan.
It's a Pullman loaf pan, or Pullman pan, which is essentially a loaf pan with a lid.
When the bread bakes, the lid helps keep the dough from expanding outwardly and controls its shape.
If you don't have the pan, you can use a regular loaf pan.
Just note that it will not have that even square shape on all 4 sides.
Note: The dimensions of the Pullman loaf pan I used was: 21.3 x 12.2 x 11.4 cm // 8.4 x 4.8 x 4.5 inches.
Ingredients you'll need
For shokupan, you'll need:
- bread flour or all-purpose flour: I've tried both and all-purpose works fine; just be sure to knead well enough
- granulated sugar: adds sweetness to the milk bread
- sea salt: balances out the sweetness
- large egg: helps with the structure of the bread and keeps it soft
- active dry yeast: leavens the bread; you can also use instant yeast (about ¼ of the amount)
- whole milk: adds moisture to the bread, and keeps it soft; you can use any milk you like or milk powder
- butter: unsalted, cut into pieces, at room temperature; adds additional richness
Many recipes don't call for egg in milk bread, but I really like the addition of egg as it gives the bread structure and softness, as in my Vietnamese Banh Mi Baguettes.
How to make shokupan
Make the tangzhong
In a small saucepan, combine milk, water and flour together.
Over medium-low heat, stir until the mixture becomes a thick paste. (Note: it will thicken up quickly).
Remove tangzhong from the pot and transfer to a stand mixer bowl. Let cool.
Make the dough
To a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook, add in the flour, sugar, salt and egg.
In a small bowl, combine warmed milk and yeast. Stir to activate the yeast and set aside for a few minutes. Once bubbly, add the yeast mixture into the stand mixer bowl.
Turn on the mixer and knead until the dough comes together. It may appear dry at first, but will come together.
Once the dough is smooth, add in the butter in small pieces while the mixer is running.
Wait until each piece is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next piece.
Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes in the mixer.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap/cloth. Place in a warm location and let it double in size, about 60-90 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
Deflate the dough and divide into 3 equal portions.
With a rolling pin, flatten out and roll each piece of dough into a rectangle or long oval shape about 2.5" wide and 6-7" long.
Coil the dough up like a snail and pinch the seams closed.
Place the dough seam-side down in the loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Slide the lid on the loaf pan on and place in a warm location to rise again.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Once the loaf has almost risen to the top of the pan, bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200F.
Remove from oven, and let the milk bread completely cool on a wire rack before slicing.
How to store & reheat
Store the cooled milk bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, since it contains no preservatives.
You also can store it in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Alternatively, you can slice and freeze the bread (in a freezer-safe container) for up to 3 months.
Reheat frozen sliced shokupan by microwaving it for 20-30 seconds, until warm and soft.
You can also toast the milk bread from frozen in a toaster oven, until warm and toasted.
How to use milk bread
You can use shokupan milk bread as a regular sandwich bread.
Trim off the crusts and fill with some fresh fruit and cream to make a Fruit Sando.
Toast the bread and enjoy Kaya Pandan Coconut Jam or Matcha Milk Jam/Green Tea Milk Spread on it.
Slice the bread and dip in egg for Hong Kong French toast or make a Japanese Egg Sandwich (tamago sando).
Expert tips & FAQs
What does shokupan taste like?
Shokupan has a lightly sweet, milky taste, with a soft texture that almost melts in the mouth.
How to tell if the bread is fully proofed
To check when the dough is done proofing (rising), make a small indentation in the dough. If the dough:
- bounces back quickly, then it needs a little more time.
- fills back in slowly, it’s ready for the oven.
- indentation stays, it might be over proofed. Get it into the oven right away.
For this loaf, I find that when the dough reaches the top the pan, then it's ready for the oven.
Can I make a flavoured bread?
Sure, try making a Matcha Shokupan, or Ube Marble Bread.
Can I slice the bread while it is warm?
It's important for the bread to cool completely before slicing, as the texture needs to set first.
Slicing the bread while it is warm lets the steam release too quickly, resulting in a drier bread.
Allowing the bread to cool naturally actually flavors the bread.
Starch retrogradation occurs when the bread is cooling, which means that the bread is setting its correct structure.
Cutting into the bread too early will result in a gummy, sticky texture, which is undesirable.
Other delicious bread recipes you may like
Be sure to check out these recipes:
Matcha Shokupan (Japanese Milk Bread)
Vietnamese Coffee French Toast
Let me know if you try out this Japanese Milk Bread recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Soft & Cottony Japanese Milk Bread (Shokupan)
- Pullman loaf pan (with lid): 21.3 x 12.2 x 11.4 cm // 8.4 x 4.8 x 4.5 inches
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 20 ml water
- 20 ml whole milk
- 15 g bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 265 g bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 30 g granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 6 g active dry yeast
- 113 ml whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 20 g unsalted butter cut into pieces, room temperature
For key visual process photos, refer to the body of the blog post.
Make the tangzhong:
- In a small saucepan, combine milk, water and flour together.
- Over medium-low heat, stir until the mixture becomes a thick paste. (Note: it will thicken up quickly).
- Remove tangzhong from the pot and transfer to a stand mixer bowl. Let cool.
Make the dough:
- To a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook, add in the flour, sugar, salt and egg.
- In a small bowl, combine warmed milk and yeast. Stir to activate the yeast and set aside for a few minutes. Once bubbly, add the yeast mixture into the stand mixer bowl.
- Turn on the mixer and knead until the dough comes together. It may appear dry at first, but will come together.
- Once the dough is smooth, add in the butter in small pieces while the mixer is running.
- Wait until each piece is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next piece.
- Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes in the mixer.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap/cloth. Place in a warm location and let it double in size, about 60-90 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
- Deflate the dough and divide into 3 equal portions.
- Flatten out and roll each piece of dough into a long oval or rectangle shape about 2.5" wide and 6-7" long.
- Coil the dough up like a snail and pinch the seams closed.
- Place the dough seam-side down in the loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Slide the lid on the loaf pan on and place in a warm location to rise again.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C.
- Once the loaf has almost risen to the top of the pan, bake at 350°F/177°C for 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200°F/93°C.
- Let the milk bread cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.
Raymund | angsarap.net
Thanks for the tips, I think I am now confident to make something like this at home, I am not sure if it will be as perfect looking as yours
Ben | Havocinthekitchen
I've always wanted to make Japanese Milk Bread - unsuccessfully, though. It looks so fluffy and light, just like a cloud! Thank you for such detailed explanation; I may attempt it, as soon as I get the proper pan.