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

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

About: I'm just your ordinary next door neighbor who just so happens to spend free time at the golf course, in her kitchen, traveling around the world, among many other activities. Mood: Excited to post new Instruc...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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! 

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44 Comments

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

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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 :)

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

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.

1 reply

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

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

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

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!

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.

thanks for the recipe!!?

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.

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

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.

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.

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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

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.

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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

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.

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