There is a lovely Japanese Patiserrie in Frankfurt called Iimori, and after tasting how heavenly soft their Shokupan was, I’ve been desperate to make it ever since. I’ve been patiently waiting for weeks to get to making it on Puff the Bakery pastry course I’m currently working through, and finally, my time has come.
Milk bread, known as Shokupan in Japan, is a Japanese bread dough that can be formed into loaves or buns and is so soft and pillowy that it can be squished right down so it’s almost flat before bouncing back again. The ingredients are similar to an enriched dough like I used when making babka, but the extra softness comes from a special technique called tangzhong: a roux that pre-cooks some of the flour, giving it a gelatinous texture. This means it can absorb more water meaning it has a bit more bounce and structure than normal dough and could stay fresher for longer too.
I love baking with Puff, as the videos help me check every step of the way if I’m doing it right. This was essential with this dough as it was a bit unpredictable! I’ve made very high hydration doughs by hand such as ciabatta before, but for some reason, I couldn’t get a grip on the milk bread dough. I used the slap and fold method – slapping the dough on the counter from a height and then quickly folding it over. This was great fun but meant I had dough splattered all over the kitchen by the end – it’s not fun cleaning dough off your kettle!
The shaping was a bit of a struggle, and I’m not sure where I went wrong as mine looked a lot more difficult to manage than the teacher’s. Despite all my grumbling, I did actually end up with some decent looking mini loaves, and four burger buns.
I was hesitant to squish it at first, worried I’d end up with flat burger buns, but I was also super curious to see if it would bounce back, which thankfully it did with aplomb!
It tasted great, bordering the fine line between savoury and sweet: it was as delicious as a burger bun as it was in the cinnamon swirls I made the next day with half of the dough. The loaf is perfect as simple sandwich bread, but I also have it mind for some fancy French/Spanish toast at the weekend. I’ll certainly be making this again, it’s a lot of effort but it’s so versatile that it makes it all worthwhile.