Milk Bread

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Milk bread is popular in Japan and is a moist and rich loaf which is very good for sandwiches, etc.  Milk bread is different from standard western breads because it starts with a cooked starch paste, which allows the loaf to have a higher hydration while still being manageable.  I recently saw an article in Serious Eats claiming to be the ultimate milk bread, the product of years of testing, so I needed to try it (with a few adaptations).  What was most unusual about this recipe is that the flour used to make the paste is a sweet rice flour (mine came from Bob’s Red Mill) rather than wheat flour.  This will make one 9 x 5 inch loaf and will take about 7 hours (not including a potential overnight rise in the refrigerator.)

For the paste

70 g. sweet rice flour

3 Tbs. (38 g.) sugar

209 g. (7 fl.oz.) whole milk, brought to a boil

3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

For the dough

3 Tbs. cold whole milk

1 large egg yolk

280 g. bread flour

2 tsp. (6 g.) Diamond Crysal kosher salt (or equivalent weight in Morton kosher salt)

¾ tsp. yeast

Cooking spray

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

Start by mixing the sweet rice flour and sugar together in a medium microwaveable bowl.  Add boiling milk and rapidly whisk until the mixture develops a pudding-like consistency.  If it does not thicken enough, microwave the bowl briefly and keep whisking.  Repeat as needed.

When the paste has reached the right consistency, scatter the top with the unsalted butter cubes, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for an hour, by which time the paste temperature should have fallen to 80 degrees F or less.

To make the dough, mix the cold milk and egg yolk into the paste until well combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flour, salt and yeast with a dough whisk.  Add the paste and mix with the whisk to form a uniform mixture, scrapping down the sides as necessary.  Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 8 minutes to form a smooth dough.

Grease a doubling container with cooking spray.  Put the dough in the doubling container, cover it, and allow it to ferment in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Grease a 9 x 5 inch bread loaf pan with cooking spray.  Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, press and roll each piece into 9 x 5 inch rectangle.  Starting at one of the short ends, roll each piece into a 5-inch wide log.  Space the three logs evenly in the loaf pan, seam side down.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof at warm room temperature until the top of the loaf is about ½ inch below the top of the pan, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, with a rack in the middle of the oven.

Bake the loaf until it is well browned and has an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees F, about 50-60 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven to a cooling rack and brush the top with the tablespoon of butter.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool on the rack for at least an hour before slicing.


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