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Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

These rolls come out so fluffy and sweet.

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Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

There’s never been a roll I didn’t like, but sometimes you want one that’s fluffy and light in a way that few recipes can live up to. But, we found a new way of making rolls that comes from Japan and all the roll connoisseurs out there need to try this one.

making Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

These rolls turn out soft and lovely with a cloud-like interior and an ever-so-slightly sweet taste. Milk bread recipes are very popular in Japan, where delicate bread is a specialty. This fluffy texture is not only fun to eat, but also holds up well and retains it’s texture even when smooshed (like say applying cold butter or making a little jam sandwich).

Unlike many other roll recipes, this one doesn’t require a starter, but does require active dry yeast and a fair bit of rising time.

making making Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

To get the best result condensed milk and whole milk is used in this recipe. The combination gives the bread that hint of sweetness. There’s milk in the dough, but it also is brushed on top so that the rolls bake in it.

making Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

To start with you’ll heat up the whole milk for 30 seconds in the microwave. This gets mixed with a pinch of sugar and packet of dry active yeast. Basically the whole milk replaces what is water in many bread recipes.

After that bubbles up combine the yeast with the other ingredients and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Then you’ll need to knead the dough. It’s easiest if you use a stand mixer with dough hook on medium-high speed for 8-12 minutes. You can do this by hand but it will take a lot longer.

You’re looking for the dough to pass the windowpane test after being kneaded, which is when the gluten has been developed enough that you can stretch the dough thin and see light through it (without it tearing) when placed in front of a light or window. If the dough breaks when you try this it must be kneaded longer. It’s worth it in the end to get the right texture.

Next you give the dough 1 hour to rise. At this point you divide the dough into 9 equal parts and fold them down onto themselves in a ball shape. Enhance that shape by placing the dough balls on the countertop and gently rolling them with the palm of your hand.

Place the rolls close together in a 9×9″ pan and let them rise a final time for 35-45 minutes. Then bake until golden brown on top, about 25-30 minutes. The final result is light, fluffy, chewy, and sweet in equal parts. These rolls are perfect with butter and jam, but they also make a great side dish for the holidays. We could easily see doubling this recipe for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. After all, it’s not a feast without some rolls.

Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Yield(s): Makes 9 rolls

3h prep time

25m cook time

2h inactive

Rated 4.8 out of 5
Rated by 5 reviewers

Allergens: Gluten

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  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for topping
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  1. Add milk to a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add yeast along with a pinch of sugar. Allow yeast to activate, about 5 minutes. You will see bubbles appear on the surface.
  2. Add bread flour, sugar, salt, sweetened condensed milk, butter and egg to a medium bowl. Mix until dough forms then cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. After the dough rests, use a dough hook on your kitchen mixer to mix the dough on a medium-high speed for 8-12 minutes, until dough is smooth.
  4. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rise for about one hour until it doubles in size.
  5. Line a 9x9’’ pan with parchment paper. Punch air out of dough and then divide dough into 9 separate and even pieces. Shape dough into round balls one at a time, being sure to tuck dough into itself at the bottom for each roll. Then roll around on a surface to create the ball shape. Place each dough ball onto the parchment paper in the pan, spaced evenly.
  6. Preheat oven 350˚. Cover dough and allow to rise for 35-45 minutes or until the size has doubled once more.
  7. Once the dough has risen, brush with a layer of whole milk onto the top.
  8. Back 20-25 minutes until the top of the rolls are golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.

Recipe adapted from Omnivores Cookbook.