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Light and Airy Japanese Milk Bread Rolls

Have you ever baked with a tangzhong? No, it’s not some crazy kitchen tool; it’s actually a unique type of bread starter which acts as the base of these Japanese milk bread rolls. 

Japanese milk bread rolls in cake pan

Feather-light rolls that are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Photos via CakeSpy

The tangzhong starter is like a roux, lightly cooked and cooled before being incorporated in the dough. It adds a unique flavor and a reliably tender, fluffy finished texture to these light-as-air rolls, which are truly unlike anything you’ve tasted before!

These absorbent rolls are ideal for pairing with a Thanksgiving meal, but they’re also the perfect base for sandwiches or burgers all year round. Should you find yourself with days-old leftovers, they make for a killer French toast or delicious batch of bread pudding.

Japanese milk bread rolls

Makes 8 large rolls

Adapted from King Arthur Flour 


For the tangzhong starter

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

For the dough

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled 

For the egg wash

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk 

Step 1:

First, make the starter. Combine all of the starter ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and lump-free.

Step 2:

Roux thickened with whisk

Over low heat, cook the starter mixture, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick and the whisk shows lines on the bottom of the pan. This only took about a minute for me, but go by the visual rather than the timing. Transfer the mixture to a vessel where it can cool to room temperature. 

Step 3:

Milk bread dough rising in bowl

In a large bowl, combine the room temperature starter and the remaining ingredients. Knead, either by hand using a rubber dough scraper, or with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic (3-5 minutes with a mixer, 5-7 minutes by hand).

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until very puffy in appearance (though it may not quite double in size). 

Step 4:

Rolls divided into portions in cake panDeflate the dough, and divide into 8 equal portions. Shape each piece into a ball, and place in a lightly greased cake pan. 

Step 5:

Risen rolls in cake pan

Cover the pan, and let the rolls proof for about an hour, or until they are puffy and fill out the baking pan. Preheat your oven to 350 F. 

Step 6:

Baked milk bread rolls in pan
Brush the rolls with the egg wash, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden in appearance; to be sure of doneness, you can insert an instant-read thermometer in one of the rolls; it should register about 190 F. 

Step 7:

Japanese milk bread rolls

Remove the rolls from the oven, and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy warm! 

Love these light-as-air rolls? You’ll adore our easy recipe for Hawaiian rolls, and chances are you’ll also love our similarly light Japanese cotton-soft cake recipe!

Have you ever made a Japanese-style bread? 



This is seriously delicious bread. The KA website also has instruction to make this a loaf. Makes the absolute best BLT you’ve ever had. Stays nice and soft and fresh for days..if you don’t gobble it up first!


Carla – I would love to know how to make this into a loaf but don’t know what the KA website you talk about refers to. Help please? Or anyone from Craftsy if you can?


Annie: right below the recipe title there is a link to the recipe I adapted it from. You should be able to find it there.


King Arthur Flour website they have many great recipes. Just add the www. and .com
Happy Baking


King Arthur Website I would assume.


I would like to see Craftsy include nutritional information with its recipes. At least for the classes we buy! Calories and carbohydrates would be appreciated at the minimal.


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