Introduction: Asian Sweet Bread (Hong Kong Pai Bao, Hokkaido Milk Bread)

Picture of Asian Sweet Bread (Hong Kong Pai Bao, Hokkaido Milk Bread)

I am so happy to share this recipe with you. Asian Sweet Bread is a staple in all Asian bakeries. The bread is soft and pillow-y and just melts in your mouth with a slight sweet flavor. The crust is perfectly brown and flaky. It's gorgeous to look at...and delicious to eat. A perfect snack on any occasion and it can hold its own next to any store bought rolls or loaves. 

This recipe is close to my heart as well. I have always gotten some sweet treat when going to Asian bakeries. I always came home with all kinds of bread...all of which derived from this simple recipe. 

Asian Sweet Bread (otherwise called Hong Kong Pai Bao or Hokkaido Milk Bread) is a staple in Asian bakeries and it should definitely be a staple in your household :) Delicious, fluffy, soft and everything bread should be. 

Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
For this delicious sweet bread:
  • 5 cups bread flour (all purpose flour will also work: the kneading time will need to be increased though)
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast (this is usually two packages of yeast)
  • 6 tbsp butter (cut the butter into small pieces and make sure it is softened at room temperature)
  • 1 serving of  tangzhong: this is a separate recipe and you will use all the tangzhong made with the recipe

For the tangzhong:

1/3 cup of bread flour (all purpose will work as well)
1 cup of water

Step 2: Making the Tangzhong

Picture of Making the Tangzhong

These are some simple steps to make the tangzhong:

Mix the 1/3 cup of flour and water together. Whisk until the flour is completely dissolved there are no lumps. 

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Stir the mixture constantly as the mixture heats up. Cook the tangzhong until the mixture thickens. You should be able to draw "lines" in the mixture and the indent should remain for a little bit (it will be noticeable). It is the best to use a thermometer. The mixture should be perfect at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).

Once the mixture is just right, take it off the stove and step aside. 

Step 3: Combine and Kneading

Picture of Combine and Kneading

Combine the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add in all wet ingredients (milk, eggs and the tangzhong).

Use the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer. Begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together. Then add in the butter and continue mixing/kneading. 

Keep kneading until it is a smooth dough. It shouldn't be too sticky and have some elasticity. It took me around 30 minutes to mix the dough in the mixture. I would also knead for a little bit by hand. I added some more flour to keep the dough from being too sticky. 

You can knead the dough by hand totally, but it can be very, very, very tiring :)

Step 4: Creating the Form

Picture of Creating the Form

Knead the dough into a ball shape. Take a large bowl and grease with oil.  Place dough into the greased bowl and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

After proofing, move the dough to a clean surface and split up the dough into four equal portions. Knead  and form this dough into balls. Cover the book with the wet towel again and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

To form the shape shown in the picture below (with helps create the fluffiness of the layers): 

Taking the rolling pin and roll each portion of the dough into an oval shape. Then take one end of the oval dough and fold it to the middle of the oval. The other end should then be folded to meet top of the other end of the dough (as seen in the picture below).

Now in order to further create the fluffiness of the layers, flip dough over with the folds facing down. Flatten the dough with rolling pin and flip it over again. 

Finally, it's time to roll the dough in the shapes shown below. 

Step 5: Alternative Shapes

Picture of Alternative Shapes

Place the dough into a greased pan. 

Throughout this entire process, you can have fun with it! I formed my dough into rolls, a regular loaf, and even a funky small combination of rolls, as shown int the second picture. 

Step 6: Proofing the Rolls in the Pan

Picture of Proofing the Rolls in the Pan

Now it's time to place each of the rolls into the bread pan. After, put a wet towel over the rolls and let them rise until they are double the size, which is about 50 minutes. 

Before baking the final proofed break, beat an egg until thoroughly combined. Brush the egg mixture on top of the bread in order to create the beautiful brown shiny finish after baking.

Finally, bake the bread at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes.

Step 7: Finish!

Picture of Finish!

You finally accomplished making Asian Sweet Bread (otherwise known as Hong Kong Pai Bao or Hokkaido Milk Bread). Don't they look great?!

They have the perfect texture on the inside, with a perfect combination of fluffiness in the center and the shiny, beautiful crust. I love making the rolls and peeling back all the different layers in the bread. 

This recipe is versatile, so you can use the dough to create different shapes and forms. You can even try making bread with different fillings! 

Try out this recipe to create the perfect loaf or the perfect roll! :) If you do, be sure to drop a comment below and tell me how it turned out!

Happy baking! 


Pandalicious made it! (author)2017-02-28

Turned out great! Made it for the second time today, doubled it w/ a cup & a 1/3 of sugar. Was a little doughy at firt so put it in for an additional 10 minutes, was great after that :)

Cookiemed (author)2017-01-16

Easy and delicious. Stuffed one loaf pan with brandy soaked apricots and golden raisins.

PrithiR made it! (author)2016-12-23

This is the very first time I have ever attempted to make a bread. It turned out well. Thanks a lot for the recipe ?

EricW181 (author)2016-10-21

Well, I'm living here in China and I tried it today. So far everything is good but it's about 1/3 too much dough for the bread pan. I cooked it in a cast iron bread pan at 325 +/- 10F for 30 mins. Checked it and the top is pretty brown but other than that it's perfect :)

LeeWendyLoy (author)2016-07-10

Hi there
I have hand knead the dough
My bread came out quite dry and a little hard. Is there any suggestions i can do to improve. Thanks

BelldandyM made it! (author)2015-11-13

Wow! This was awesome! Everyone who I gave a piece of bread to raved about how good it tastes. I am making this again. I think I'll try stuffing them with char siu and make bbq baked buns.

jen7714 (author)BelldandyM2016-07-07

Ooo nice idea! Definitely let me know how that goes.

mmmelroy made it! (author)2016-04-07

SOOO GOOD!!! will be making this again.

jen7714 (author)mmmelroy2016-07-07

Great pictures! Thanks for trying out the recipe!

Indshreya (author)2016-05-23

Thank you for the recipe. The bread is soft and yummy . Stopped buying bread from the market we bake it. I have tried many variations like put raisins, dried fruits all turned out well. It's my family favorite. Thank you.

jen7714 (author)Indshreya2016-07-07

Oh great! That's so good to hear :) Glad the family liked it.

mmmelroy made it! (author)2016-06-15

and we made it AGAIN!!! this time, we all swear it taste better... probably us just thinking about it ever since polishing off the last loaf's

jen7714 (author)mmmelroy2016-07-07

They look awesome!! Thanks for the pic!

EllysT (author)2016-06-09

I dont have mixer to mix the dough. I used to make bread by hand. I had tried to make bread with tangzong but haven't gotten the sofr texturw i wanted. My question is how long will i need to knead the dough by hand? Thank you

Coleen GreenS (author)2016-04-13

what temp to bake and for how long

craftyincobalt (author)2016-01-10

Thank you for sharing your recipe. I will definitely be baking this bread.

tweet999 (author)2015-11-12

This is a great recipe! Tastes exactly like the bread you get at Asian bakeries. The bread also stays soft for several days. Love it!

JayaJ2 (author)2015-11-07

Thanks so much for this recipe... Our whole family can't abide any sweetness in bread, so I made it without the sugar, and put some milk powder in for the lactose... so the yeast would be happier. This was really nice, and I left it overnight in the fridge to rise with kefir instead of milk, for sourness.

Perfect! Thank you again.

LaiPing (author)2015-11-07

thanks for the recipe!!?

YogiM1 (author)2015-09-26

I made this tonight, and I must say thank you so much for the great recipe. The loaf is so light and fluffy. I have a question, though. Has anyone tried making it without the egg? Would the outcome of the bread still be light and fluffy? Any comments most welcome.

PeterA17 made it! (author)2015-07-23

This is simply and an awesome tasting melt in your mouth sweet bread. I
added more sugar, as a result from my experience in the first bake as I wanted it sweeter. I
think it tastes better with All Purpose Flour, rather than bread flour,
and you get a better texture.

angie.hawker (author)2015-06-18

I made this bread many time and like it. However, the texture of my bread is as silky as the my friend made.

thaophan made it! (author)2015-04-13

Thank you very much for the recipe. I made 2 loaves + 12 ham & cheese buns + little leftover for my daughter to roll a pretzel. I hand-kneaded. The result is still amazing.

thaophan (author)thaophan2015-04-21

Used half recipe, added a few drops of pandan essence and sweetened coconut flakes.

mmorsit (author)2015-03-14

Made this today. Eating one as I typed this. I halved
the recipe, substitute the flour with wholemeal, and the result is fantastic! Definitely
a keeper. I made 2 cheese buns, 6 small nutella rolls and 6 plain buns. And I don’t
use the mixer at all. Knead with hands all the way but it was quite easy, not
even that sticky. Thank you!Going to add more sugar in other batches.

azngel (author)2015-03-08

Made this EXACTLY according to recipe and it came out fantastic! Only problem I ran into was that the recipe made too much dough for one 9x5 loaf pan so I could only fit 3 sections into the pan. I think 3/4 amount of dough is enough for the loaf pan.

wombleswife (author)2015-02-22

Just made these this Sunday, used a sourdough starter instead of yeast and they worked out fab! Bit of a tang from the sourdough but also really sweet. These buns are something I will bake again and again, thanks for the recipe xx

charleyyaipen made it! (author)2015-01-12

Cut the recipe in half and it worked out. I can't get enough of them. I think it need more sugar though but other than that, it was awesome! First time making bread! Success!

kirkjhayes (author)2015-01-02

Awesome! My first attempt at bread making on my own. I cut the recipe in half and I used 50/50 bread flour & whole wheat flour.

imeldaliliana made it! (author)2014-12-30

Thank you for sharing this recipe. The texture is very soft and moist but only need more sugar

ChayChayTruong made it! (author)2014-12-06

Made this today! I cut the recipe in half and made 8 good sized buns. I added red bean paste into 4 of the buns, turned out perfect. I made the other 4 buns into Bo Lo buns, but I would double the sugar to achieve the sweetness for Bo Lo buns next time. Overall, the bread was soft and fluffy, will definitely make this again!

tofubroccoli (author)2014-11-29

Finally found a fluffy bread recipe for my red bean paste!!!! Loved this! I hand kneaded for 45 minutes and added about a cup of flour slowly when I was kneading. Will definitely be saving this recipe

hazelnutlatte made it! (author)2014-11-17

Thanks for the recipe! It was a great success! My 1st time making bread!

KristyW (author)2014-10-27

It has taken me 3 years to find a dinner roll recipe that matched what my mind thought it should be..This one is the one! Thank you.

peggy.tang.54 (author)2014-09-05

hi, I don't have breadflour available, can I use bleach all purpose flour, will it turn out nice and fluffy, and can I let the dough stay overnight and bake in the morning ? will the dough turn sour ? thanks

ALibrarian (author)2014-01-24

Thank you for this recipe! I tried it for the first time today. I have a Chinese New Year celebration tomorrow and I wasn't sure what to bring so I simply put down "Dinner Rolls". Well, these are perfect and they taste great! Thank you again!

jen7714 (author)ALibrarian2014-08-25

Awesome! Sounds perfect for the occassion!

nida139 made it! (author)2014-04-30

hi , I used your recipe for this bread . I used only half of each ingredients. And it came out perfect. .only It was a little less sweet. Otherwise it was perfect. Thanks for the recipe.

jen7714 (author)nida1392014-08-25

You're so welcome! Thanks for the pictures!

evuong1 made it! (author)2014-05-01

I tried with some adjustment. I used Bread Flour, and make ~550 grams of flour in total (including the tangzhong). I do not use egg wash, and instead I use melted butter to brush the buns, this makes the bun more moisture and tender...

jen7714 (author)evuong12014-08-25

Nice! They turned out great!

mmala1 (author)2014-05-01

Hi I made the bread last nite let it proof and baked this morning. It turned out soo good thank you so much for sharing this delicious recipe my parents couldnt stop eating it ;)

jen7714 (author)mmala12014-08-25

Thank you so much for the nice comment!

bconnerly (author)2014-06-19

Hi. So your ingredients list says "instant yeast" but your pictures show "Active Dry Yeast"

I used active dry yeast and followed your directions but now I'm thinking I should have activated it first because my bread is not rising..

sharonfpires (author)2014-01-17

hi i tried out this recipe - it was fantastic , i used the overnight proving method and the buns were wiped off the table at breakfast ...... thanks for the same

eevigus (author)2013-12-25

Made this recipe. The most perfect, light bread ever. Easy and fast compared to some yeast breads. Made small rolled loaves like ones to go in pan but put them on a baking sheet and some in large muffin tin baked them just 20 minutes. They were beautiful
, better than the best I have tasted at Chinese bakery.

jen7714 (author)eevigus2013-12-30

Thank you so much! I love hearing how my recipe works out for others. Glad you enjoyed it!

oil_baron (author)2013-12-24

I've been baking bread for ten years now and this is one of the best recipes I have come across. The bread is so fluffy I can hardly believe it. THANK YOU!!!!

jen7714 (author)oil_baron2013-12-30

I am so grateful for the amazing comment! Happy you enjoyed it!

jlee166 (author)2013-11-14

if i dont want this bread to be sweet, can i take out the sugar from this recipe? i know its defeats the purpose of this recipe, but is it possible?

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