April 15, 2021

Shokupan - Japanese Milk Bread

I believe, Shokupan is traditionally used by the Japanese to make very, very, soft, spongy sandwiches. That is not to my taste. I personally like to cut this bread into thick slices and throw it into the toaster. The result is a very crisp slice of bread with a very soft buttery, milky inside.

Besides being the best toast bread recipe I know, Shokupan is probably one of the most simple to make bread you can imagine. Its preparation does not require any kind of baker’s voodoo as a sourdough loaf does…

Tangzhong (Pre-Dough):

The preparation of the Tangzhong is maybe the weirdest step when making the Shokupan. Get a non-stick pan and mix

  • 40g strong bread flour
  • 200g milk

Put the pan on your stove and slowly bring to a simmer. The starch will quickly coagulate and you get a white gluey substance. Put the stuff into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and let it cool down.

From what I understand about bread chemistry, the Tangzhong fulfills two purposes. a) it disrupts the gluten structure of the bread, as the already coagulated starch cannot form gluten strands. This gives the bread a very soft texture. b) the Tangzhong binds a lot of water which is also good if you want fluffy bread.

Main Dough:

Add the following stuff to your Tangzhong:

  • 580g strong bread flour
  • 40g of sugar (the original recipe calls for 60g, which is too sweet for my taste)
  • 12g salt
  • 10g active dry yeast
  • 260g milk
  • 1 egg

Let the stand mixer do its magic… You want a soft, slightly sticky dough. Next, add

  • 50g of warm (not melted) butter

and again, let the machine run. The dough will split but come together again after 3 or so minutes.

Ferment, Proof & Bake

Let the dough ferment until doubled in size. This can take one hour or more.

Originally, the Shokupan is processed in a very particular way which gives the final bread a unique nice look, see above. I streamlined the remaining preparation a bit as speed > great looks =)

Generously butter a cake pan, yes - the same thing you’d use for a large sponge cake.

Deflate the puffed-up dough, form a rectangle as wide as your cake pan, tightly roll up the dough, put it into the cake pan. Cover with a damp tea towel.

Let the bread proof for about 30 minutes. Its volume should have gained about 50%.

Brush gently with egg wash. Bake for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 190°C. Put a heat-proof pan with water into the oven for extra soft crumb.

Shokubuns

An alternative use case of this recipe is burger buns. Just form buns, let them proof until 50% larger, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for about 18 - 22 minutes until golden brown.

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