Japanese Milk Bread Dinner Rolls

Soft, billowy, beautiful dinner rolls are always welcome for a special occasion, and especially during Thanksgiving & Christmas. Here’s a recipe that takes the dinner roll to the next level – these are rolls that will make you and your guests sit up and take notice.

Japanese Dinner Rolls
Japanese Dinner Rolls

Oh, and don’t even think about using anything but butter on these, unless, perhaps, you’d like a bit of jam! Japanese Milk Bread Dinner Rolls deserve butter and nothing less. No spreads, margarines or oleos on these, please! I feel like I shouldn’t even be mentioning those products on the same post as this wonderful bread!

What makes these rolls so special is a Japanese bread making technique called Tangzhong – a bit of the flour is cooked with the milk into a kind of roux or pudding like mixture. Then everything is dumped together and mixed and that mixture includes an added milk boost with some dried milk.

The result is fluffy, light and gorgeously flavored and textured rolls. They’re almost ethereal. If you’re a follower, you might remember the Kindred Milk Bread I made awhile back using the Tangzhong technique. That bread’s delish, too, but much richer than these lighter rolls. What can I say, I love both breads! 🙂

Japanese Dinner Rolls
Japanese Dinner Rolls

With all the sugar and yeast in this recipe, they’re quick to make, rise and bake so this isn’t an all day project. I made these once the night before and refrigerated them overnight to bake the next day. They really weren’t as light and this dough took forever to come to room temp, so I really wouldn’t recommend doing so. I didn’t save any time and didn’t like them quite as much.

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur flour, and if you’re a baker, you know how reliable they are. I did have a bit of difficulty at first, though, with the instructions. When I make bread, I’m used to adding flour until the bread forms kind of a “ball” in the mixer when it’s properly kneaded. This bread is almost like a batter, and should be that moist. You’ll want it to hold some shape, but don’t expect a firm ball that’s springy.

And of course, I have a few tips: When you bring home flour, or any products with flour in them, freeze for three days or refrigerate for 30 to prevent infestations. For the best pricing, buy yeast in jars and keep in the fridge or the freezer, and look for all these baking items on sale around any Holiday. They’ll be at the lowest around Christmas and Easter.

Japanese Dinner Rolls
Japanese Dinner Rolls

Japanese Milk Bread Dinner Rolls

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The “roux” or Tangzhong

  • 6 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour or Organic Bread Flour

Combine milk and flour in a small saucepan and whisk together. Place over medium heat and whisk until the mixture thickens and “clean” trails are left behind as it;s whisked.

Remove from heat and cool. Mixture will cool faster if removed from the hot pan; it’s just as easy to transfer it to the mixing bowl to cool it.

The Bread:

  • 2 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons non-fat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted and cooled butter

To make the dough: Combine the tangzhong with the rest of the dough ingredients, then mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Don’t expect this to form a ball, it will be more like a batter that holds some shape and will be rather sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest in a lightly greased covered bowl for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, divide it into 8 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball by pulling the edges under and crimping or pinching together on the bottom. Place the dough on a very lightly floured counter and cupping it on either side with hands, use pinkies to pull the dough down and in as you gently turn it, tightening up the rolls.

Place the rolls into a lightly greased 9 to 10″ pan, a spring form works well. Cover the pan, and let the rolls rest for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy and smoothly risen.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the rolls with milk or egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water), and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown on top; a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the middle roll should read at least 190°F.

Remove the rolls from the oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 8 large rolls.

Note: To make a loaf: After the dough’s initial rise, divide it into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle, then fold the short ends in towards one another like a letter. Flatten the folded pieces into rectangles again and, starting with a short end, roll them each into a log. Place the logs in a row of four — seam side down and side by side — in a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Cover the loaf and allow it to rest/rise for 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy. Brush the loaf with milk or egg wash and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190°F. Remove the loaf from the oven, and cool it on a rack.

_______________________________________________

I’m going to be sharing these marvelous rolls this week on our very own Throwback Thursday as well as Saucy Saturdays and Fiesta Friday! Fiesta Friday is hosted this week by Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

I was thrilled to see these lovely rolls featured on Fiesta Friday!

48 thoughts on “Japanese Milk Bread Dinner Rolls”

        1. I did when I was young, and I’m going to be baking a bit more because I just got some sourdough starter going. 🙂 I’m a little excited about it, but at the same time sourdough is a little bit of a responsibility! We’ll see how I do on it, lol!

            1. That’s the problem, it’s not just once, lol! You have to keep feeding it every week and taking some out – it can be dried and frozen if you’re not going to use it, but I’ve never done that.

  1. HI Mollie! These rolls are so beautiful!! (and I’m sure delicious!). and thanks for the extra tips– that’s the kind of things you need to know to really make a recipe work! I’m so fond of bread– Hope I can make these soon!! I have everything but the dried milk. thanks!

    1. Thanks, Rhonda! I’ve used dry milk before for bread but it has been years and year. I finally found it near the condensed milk in the baking aisle. I remember when I was growing up people used to mix it with regular milk to save a little money, but it sure didn’t seem too cheep to me! I guess it’s not longer a much used, every day item…

      1. Yep, muy mom went through a powdered milk phase for us. Part of the post WWII food technology boom. But we never loved it. I’ll let you know how I do with the rolls. They really are beautiful! Have you launched into Christmas baking?? I’m going to try to copy some chocolate hazelnut cookies we had at a coffee shop up with SF this morning . It may be a big flop! we’ll see… Take care blog-buddy!! xo

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