What combines light bread, fluffy bread, sweet bread, and soft bread altogether? It is non other than this snow-white loaves of Hokkaido milk bread that are easily pulled apart with bread dough so soft it almost melts in your mouth after a few chews.
Using the sponge dough method, this easy Japanese milk bread recipe produces Hokkaido milk bread that’s topped with generous cheese as a savory finish to this simple homemade bread.
A few weeks ago, I attended a bread-baking class to learn how to bake bread using the famous Sponge Dough method. One of the breads taught in the class was Hokkaido Milk Bread. A few weeks later, I began to try out baking the breads I had learned in the class. I adapted the original Hokkaido Milk Bread recipe and added some grated cheese as the topping.
My whole house smelt divine when the breads were being baked in the oven. What’s better is they taste heavenly in the mouth, not to mention the lovely chewing process that makes you feel some kinda way. Since then, this milk cheese bread has been in huge demand from my family. Friends and neighbors love the Hokkaido Bread With Cheese Topping as well, when I send some over for them to try.
HOKKAIDO MILK BREAD
scroll ⬇️ to get the detailed and printable recipe
What is Hokkaido Milk Bread?
Hokkaido Milk Bread, also known as Shokupan, is a type of Japanese Milk Bread that is well known for its subtle milky flavor, softness, and fluffiness. Sokupan translates to ‘eating bread’ because it can be eaten every day as a simple, white bread. Hokkaido milk bread originates from Hokkaido, Japan, as this bread was first made with milk from Hokkaido, which is known for its high-quality milk and dairy products.
The taste and texture of the Hokkaido Milk Bread is really appetizing as it’s not too dense and very light on the palate, hence it won’t overpower your tastebuds or make you super full. A perfect appetizer or dessert after a meal or even as a tea-time bread to accompany your tea break. As someone who doesn’t like super dense bread, I really enjoy how light this milk white bread is, alongside the yeasty cheddar cheese crust. This is a great recipe for you if you love Japanese bread.
Sponge Dough Method
In this fluffy Japanese milk bread recipe, I used a baking technique called the sponge dough method or sponge and dough method. In French, it is known as levain-levure which is highly similar to the sourdough baking method; however, the sponge is made from all fresh ingredients prior to being used in the final dough.
What is Sponge Dough And How To Make It?
Well, the sponge dough method is an indirect pre-fermented bread baking process, and it is a two-step process. The sponge dough is a sponge ferment that is constituted of specific measurements of bread flour, water at room temperature and compressed yeast that is shortly mixed just to incorporate them together.
STEP 1: MAKE THE SPONGE
The liquid, all or part of the yeast, and about half of the total quantity of flour are mixed together to form the sponge dough (also known as the starter dough). This makes a thick batter that will be left to ferment until it is doubled in bulk.
STEP 2: MAKE THE DOUGH
After the sponge has doubled in size, deflate the air out of it, and it is then add the rest of the ingredients to create the total formula. Proceed with the recipe for making the bread.
This method produces bread with unique flavor and aroma, a soft crumb, and an improved shelf-life. For this reason, this method is commonly used in pan bread, buns, and other bread varieties. It is popular in Asian countries, North America, and Central Europe.
Benefits of the Sponge Dough Method
- More extensible dough
- Activation of the yeast
- Facilitation of dough formation
- Imparting superior aroma and flavor
- Generating silk-like, soft, and regular crumb textures
- More forgiving of processing delays
- Lower dough mixing times
- Lower dough temperatures, so less use of ice or glycol
A pre-ferment and a longer fermentation in the bread-making process contains several benefits: there is more time for yeast action on the starch and proteins in the dough; this, in turn, improves the shelf life of the baked bread, and it creates greater complexities of flavor.
Sponge Dough Method vs Tangzhong (water roux) method
If you have been browsing for milk bread recipes, then you may probably come across many recipes using the tangzhong method to make their Hokkaido milk bread. Though both methods use a special technique by having a starter dough to get a softer texture, the main difference is the method of making the starter dough is different in both methods.
For the sponge dough method, a pre-fermented starter dough is used, but in tangzhong milk bread, the starter dough uses cooked starch from flour. The level of difficulty is almost similar, with similar benefits. However, as there are already many new recipes for these Hokkaido milk loaves of bread using a tangzhong starter, I wanted to introduce this sponge dough method I learned just so there are more options for you to choose from. But fear not as this is an easy recipe as I have step photos and instructions to guide you along the way.
Ingredients in this Hokkaido Milk Bread Recipe
- Bread Flour: it has a higher protein content for more gluten development which is necessary for the original recipe of milk bread
- Dry Yeast: Yeast will use up glucose in the sugar to undergo respiration that releases carbon dioxide to let the dough rise
- Bread Flour
- Fine Sugar
- Instant Yeast (dry)
- Milk Powder
- Fresh Milk (chilled)
- Fresh Cream (chilled) / Non Dairy Whipping Cream
- Large Egg
- Egg (for egg wash)
- Grated Cheddar Cheese
Here are some tips to take note of when you are making this bread loaf for the first time to achieve the perfect smooth dough that will yield a soft texture in your Hokkaido milk bread.
- When making the starter dough or sponge, remember to prepare it at least 10 hours in advance.
- A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment may be used if you do not have a bread machine. Mix all the dry ingredients at low speed, then slowly add in wet ingredients (butter being the last one to add) until they are well combined. Knead it with medium speed until the dough cleans itself from the side of the bowl. The dough should be smooth, elastic, and non-sticky. You may do a windowpane test to check if the gluten is well-developed.
- The dough should pass the windowpane test for proper gluten development.
- Do not add salt directly in contact with the instant dry yeast.
- Lightly grease your hand and roller pin if you have sticky dough during shaping.
- Remember to be gentle when shaping your dough so you don’t tear it, as this will cause irregularities in your bread texture. Also, remember to divide your dough into equal portions of dough ball so you get equal pieces of bread.
What is a windowpane test?
The windowpane test is done at the end of kneading. to check if the dough has developed enough gluten. This is important as it means the dough has been sufficiently kneaded and can be left to proof or rise.
How do you perform this test?
To perform the windowpane test, you need to pinch off a little bit of the dough. Using your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger from each hand, proceed to stretch the dough as much as you can and angle it toward a window. If the dough stretches smoothly out into a thin membrane where sunlight can filter through with no holes in the dough, then the dough is ready for its first rise.
However, if your dough is not smooth and elastic and breaks easily hence unable to form the thin membrane, then your dough has failed this windowpane test. This means your dough needs to be kneaded even more.
Properly made Hokkaido milk bread is easily pulled apart to reveal a soft, light, and fluffy interior. The best results are achieved when the crumbs of this Asian bread are smooth without many holes and irregularities, and the bread is slightly elastic and stretchy. This means that there has been proper gluten development and that you have shaped your bread well.
Besides learning the Sponge dough technique and baking a few types of healthy bread, we laughed, we took pictures, we joked, and we simply had so much fun in the baking class. Thank you, my baking buddies and my baking master. These are the photos I shared on my Instagram.
If you have tried this Hokkaido Milk Bread recipe and loved it, I have more recipes in my recipe section for you to master. But if you are looking for other of my famous recipes, then you can always try my Japanese Cheesecake, Matcha Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake, and for those who want to indulge without guilt — Low Carb Cheesecake and Burnt Cheesecake, both are keto desserts perfect for those who are in a keto or low carb diet.
- 200 gram Bread Flour
- 130 ml Water
- 1/2 tsp Instant Dry Yeast
- 350 gram Bread Flour
- 100 gram Fine Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Instant Dry Yeast
- 25 gram Milk Powder
- 110 ml Fresh Milk (chilled)
- 80 gram Fresh Cream (chilled) / Non Dairy Whipping Cream
- 1 Large Egg
- 40 gram Butter
- 1 Egg (for egg-wash)
- 250 gram Grated Cheddar Cheese
Recipe Adapted From Chef Alan Ooi
- Mix Sponge Dough ingredients and lightly knead to form a dough. Cover and leave to ferment for 10 hours (maximum 24 hours) or overnight inside the fridge. Bring it out from fridge and leave it at room temperature 1 hour before using it. (Picture 2)
- Put second dough ingredients (except butter) into a bread maker machine. Set the machine to Dough function to start the mixing and kneading process. When the ingredients are about to combine, add butter. (Picture 4, 5)
- Add Sponge dough into the machine when the second dough is formed. Continue to knead to combine both dough until the kneading process ends. Let the final dough sit inside the machine to continue it’s proofing process for 50 to 60 minutes or until doubled in size. (Picture 6, 7, 8)
- Divide the dough into 8 portions, cover and let rest at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes. Roll out and stretch the dough into long pieces with a rolling pin, then roll back into a cylinder. Roll and stretch the dough into a rope with both hands. Braid the ropes, pinching the ends and tuck them under to seal. Place the braids on a greased baking sheet. Space them at least 4″ apart. Cover them and leave them to rise for 50 minutes or until they are doubled in size. (Picture 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
- Heat up the oven to 180 degrees C.
- Lightly beat 1 egg to make egg-wash and brush on the dough. Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top. (Picture 14, 15)
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until nice and golden.
- Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Part 1: Sponge Dough / Starter Dough
*prepare 10 hours in advance
- Picture 1
Dissolve dry yeast in the water. Put Bread Flour in a clean bowl, slowly add in yeast water to combine.
- Picture 2
Lightly knead to form a dough. Close the lid. Leave it in the fridge for at least 9 hours, the maximum is 24 hours.
Bring it out and leave it at room temperature 1 hour prior using it to prepare the Hokkaido bread dough.
Part 2: Hokkaido Bread Dough / Final Dough
- Picture 3
Gather all the ingredients as listed above.
- Picture 4
Put the dry ingredients into the bowl, then add wet ingredients (except butter) onto them.
- Picture 5
Set the bread maker machine to dough function to start the kneading process. When the ingredients are about to combine, add butter.
If you are using a stand mixer to knead, change to the dough hook and mix the ingredients in slow speed until they form a dough. Change to medium speed to knead.
- Picture 6
Add sponge dough as soon as the second dough is formed, continue with the kneading.
- Picture 7
The final dough should look smooth, elastic and non-sticky.
- Picture 8
Leave it to proof in the bread maker machine for 50 to 60 minutes, or until it doubled its size.
- Picture 9
Punch down the dough and equally divide the dough into 8 parts.
Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Picture 10
Roll out the dough into a long piece with the rolling pin.
- Picture 11
Rollback into a cylinder. Roll and stretch the dough into a rope with both hands.
- Picture 12
Braid the ropes, pinching the ends and tuck them under to seal.
- Picture 13
Place the braids on a greased baking sheet. Space them apart.
Cover them and leave them to rise for 50 minutes or until they are doubled in size.
- Picture 14
Brush a coat of egg wash on the surface.
- Picture 15
Sprinkles grated cheddar cheese on top.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until nice and golden.
Remove from the oven and transfer onto a wire rack. Let cool completely.
Best serve while the bread is still fresh.
- You may use a stand mixer with dough hook if you do not have a bread maker machine. Mix all the dry ingredients in low speed then slowly add in wet ingredients (butter being the last one to add) until they are well combine. Knead it with medium speed until the dough cleans itself from the side of the bowl. The dough should be smooth, elastic and non-sticky. You may do a windowpane test to check if the gluten is well developed.
- Do not add salt directly in contact with the instant dry yeast.
- Lightly grease your hand and roller pin if your dough is a bit sticky during shaping.