This recipe is adapted from Pao-Chun WU, a renown baker from Taiwan who won the title of master baker in the 2010's Coupe Du Monde de la Boulangerie international baking competition. The flavor is simple with a hint of fragrance from the milk. The texture is very soft and fluffy but still has a bite. This bread is great for sandwiches or just for snacking on by itself.
I've been making bread for 6 years, it's one of my favorite things to do in the winter, and even more so on a snowy day. I can't say I'm a expert, but I do have a lot of experience and insight from all these years of making different types of breads. I'm particularly experienced in Asian style breads like this one.
Start with cold ingredients and knead until dough passes windowpane test
In order to get the best flavor and texture for this bread, our goal is to knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test, yet without ever allowing it to warm up (ideally never going above 82°F). If the dough ever gets too warm, the resulting bread will have a worse flavor and a rougher texture and will be more prone to getting stale. In order to pass the windowpane test, the dough needs lots of kneading for the gluten to develop. Kneading generates heat, so it's very important to use very cold liquid to start. During the summer time, I will even put my milk and water in the freezer for 30 minutes before incorporating them.
Another thing to note is that the temperature of the dough rises faster after butter is added. So, I usually hold off on incorporating the butter until the dough has been worked to a point where it can be pulled to more than two inches without breaking. The windowpane test I've been mentioning is a test to see whether or not your dough can be stretched and pulled into a nearly see through membrane. If your dough can do this, then it passes the test and is good to go!
For my equipment, I switched my KitchenAid pro 600 to Bosch Universal Plus two years ago as it performs a lot better for kneading dough, and I really like it so far. Using this more powerful mixer, I prepare the dough by starting on the lowest speed setting for 3 minutes before adding in butter and kneading for another 7 minutes. Finally, I finish off the dough by switching to the second speed setting for just 1 minute. The exact amount of time and speed settings needed will depend on your machine.
Try the Autolyse method
If your standing mixer is not powerful enough or your room temperature is higher than 80°F, I highly recommend trying the Autolyse method. This method simply consists of allowing the dough to rest for 30 minutes before adding salt and butter. Depending on the room temperature, you can cover and leave the dough in the mixer on the counter or put it in the fridge.
Rising the dough
The best temperature for rising is between 82°F to 90°F. For the second rise, the temperature needs to be a bit higher than that that of the first rise. If the room temperature is too low, you could either let the dough rise for longer, or you can put it in a oven with a tray of hot water. Another way is to turn on the oven for few minutes until it's warm but not too hot before putting the dough in to rise. Make sure the baking racks inside is not hot before putting in the dough.
After the first rise the dough should become almost double in size. At this point, we will divide the dough before shaping. It's very important to divide it by cutting instead of by pulling it apart, since cutting the dough will keep the gluten from being damaged. I usually form the pieces of dough into balls by tucking the edges of the dough under itself before letting it rest.
For making a loaf bread like this, we need to roll the dough out into an oval shape and then roll it up into a log. After that, we'll need to let the dough rest for 15 minutes before rotating the dough 90 degrees rolling it out, then rolling it back up into a log again.
My 3 year old always asks me for some dough to play with when I make bread.
The second rise usually takes from 1 to 1.5 hours. When the dough rises to fill 80% of the pan, we are ready to preheat the oven and bake the bread!
This bread can be stored in room temperature for 3 days and still be soft and tasty. We usually finish it within 3 days because it's irresistible. If you need to keep this bread for over 3 days, though, it stores well in the freezer.
Hope the tips above can help you succeed in making bread. Welcome to leave a comment if you still have any questions.
Milk Bread Loaf
- 400 g bread flour, 3 cup + 2 tbsp
- 35 g sugar, 3 tbsp
- 4 g instant yeast, 1 1⁄4 tsp
- 180 g cold water, 3⁄4 cup + 2 tbsp
- 90 g cold milk, 1⁄3 cup + 1tbsp
- 7 g sea salt (use half if using table salt), 1 tsp
- 20 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 small cubes, 1 1⁄2 tbsp
- Mix bread flour, sugar, yeast, water and milk in a stand mixer, kneading with low speed until the dough is formed.
- Cover the mixing bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Add salt and continue to knead the dough until you can pull and stretch the dough for 2 inches without breaking.
- Add butter cubes and knead until the dough passes the windowpane test. (This step takes me about 6 minutes, with 5 minutes on low speed and 1 minute on medium speed. The actual time it takes you depends on your mixer.)
- Form the dough into a ball (it will be a bit sticky) and put it in a lightly greased bowl. cover, and let it rise in a warm place (between 82°F to 90°F) for 1 hour until it's almost double in size.
- Transfer the dough onto a working surface and cut it into 3 even pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a dish towel or greased plastic wrap, allowing them to rest for 15 minutes.
- Roll the dough out to a oval shape and then roll it up to a log, do the same for the other two, cover and let it rest for another 15 minutes.
- For each log, rotate the dough 90 degrees before rolling them out again into long rectangles and rolling each rectangle back up into a cinnamon roll type of shape.
- Grease a 10 x 5 loaf pan and coat with a thin layer of flour. Put the rolled up dough into the pan, cover and let it rise in a warm place until it's 80% full (this takes about 1-1.5 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and adjust the rack to the second slot from the bottom.
- Spray the dough with some water and put it in the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. Loosely cover with a piece of foil after baking for 15 minutes to prevent the bread color from turning too dark.
- Remove bread from the oven and drop the pan on the counter top (from around two inches up) once to help prevent it from shrinking, then transfer the bread on a cooling rack right away.